Is something wrong with Cam?

Is something wrong with Cam?
September 28
01:00 2017

The Carolina Panthers are off to a pretty good start in 2017, as far as their record is concerned.  One thing has seemed a little off through the first couple of games: the play of star quarterback Cam Newton.  That was even more evident after the loss to the Saints this past Sunday.

Newton has never been the most accurate passer throughout his career, only completing 60 percent of his passes in a season twice.  Sixty percent completion percentage is by all accounts the benchmark of an above average to elite quarterback.

Early on this season, he is hovering around that mark, but coming off of off-season shoulder surgery, Newton doesn’t seem quite himself yet.  He has missed open receivers time and time again so far this year along with not playing with the same swagger that he has been known for.  He is also throwing for an all-time low in yards per game at 199.5 so far through two games.

Newton missed most of the off-season workouts due to the surgery.  Couple that with the fact he only threw two passes in the preseason and one could assume that’s the reason for the slow start to the season.  

I personally think that it’s not only the surgery and lack of throwing in the off-season but the multitude of hits Newton has taken over the years.  By the end of 2016 Newton, had been hit nearly 900 times rushing and throwing in his career, far more than any other quarterback during the same time frame.  He also leads all quarterbacks in rushing attempts since he entered the league.

All of those hits take a toll on a player regardless of his superior size of 6 feet, 5 inches and 250 pounds.  Most often he is bigger than many of the defenders who are trying to tackle him, which may give him a sense of invulnerability.  That style of play will definitely shorten his career and could lead to further injuries.

For comparison, even during his MVP year of 2015, Newton only completed 59.8 percent of his passes.  But he had a total of 45 touchdowns (35 passing and 10 rushing) with only 10 interceptions.  Last season we saw a precipitous dip in production as compared to the year before.  In 2016 Newton accounted for 24 touchdowns (19 passing and 5 rushing).

Newton is one of the most exciting players in the league but changing his style of play is a must rather than a choice at this point. As he approaches the age of 30, taking better care of his body and not taking as many hits should be the top priority.

Many other running quarterbacks in the past have changed their style to avoid getting hit so many times along with extending their careers.  Some examples are John Elway, Steve Young, Randall Cunningham and Donovan McNabb.  All realized the way to the Lombardi trophy was not running but instead developed into dynamic passers from the pocket.

It is still early in the season and it is not beyond the realm of possibility that Newton rebounds closer to the form he showed in 2015.  I argue that the quarterback we saw in 2016 is more like the quarterback he is.  2015 may be an aberration rather than the norm because we have never seen Newton play at that high level prior to that and have yet to see him get close to that since then.

I am not saying Newton is as pedestrian as he showed in 2016 and early on this year because you have to take into account the injuries that he has sustained during that span.  But I am questioning whether or not he can get close to what he showed in 2015 and change his style of play while being just as effective.  

Following the loss to the Saints, the Panthers have a tough next three weeks as they match up against the Patriots, Lions and Eagles, with the first two on the road.  Couple that with the loss of star tight end Greg Olsen and go to wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin and those games just became even more difficult.

After those three games, everyone should have a clear idea of how Newton and the offense of the Panthers will be for the year.  I expect Newton to round into form around week 5 or 6, which will give him plenty of time to shake off the rust.

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Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

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