Cam Newton has done nothing but live up to being the number one overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. In his first three seasons, Newton has thrown for 11,299 yards, completed 60% of his passes,rushed for 2,032 yards, accounted for 92 touchdowns(64 passing + 28 rushing). After going 6-10 as a rookie in 2011 and 7-9 in 2012, putting up record breaking numbers individually, but not having success as far as wins and losses. His decision making( 30 turnovers in 32 games, along with his leadership, was heavily questioned after his first two years at the helm.
In 2013, Newton became a better leader, teammate, and player. His leadership abilities were clearly on display when the Panthers started out the season 1-3 through four games. In his prior two seasons, he would have sulked, shown horrible body language on the sidelines, and shown that he was defeated during post game press conferences. But instead, Newton rallied the troops, and lead them to a 11-1 record in their last twelve games, the NFC South title, a first round bye, and a home playoff game.
While Newton posted career lows in in pass attempts and passing yards, he became a smarter, more accurate, and efficient quarterback. He posted career highs in completion percentage(61.7%), touchdown passes(24), and Touchdown to Interception ratio(1.84 to 1). His fourteen total turnovers was a career low, Newton really valued the football, making sound decisions, and not making a habit of giving it to the other team.
When evaluating quarterbacks on tape, I hold a lot of weight in how they perform versus the blitz, and on third downs. You can go back in history, the great QB’s make the opposition pay for sending the blitz, and they are very efficient on third downs, keeping the chains and the clock moving. Last season, Cam Newton made tremendous strides as a passer versus the blitz and on third down situations, let’s compare his 2013 numbers versus 2012:
3rd downs: 69-112 61.6% 893 yards 6 TD 4 INT 89.6 Passer Rating 49 carries 295 yards 1 TD
Versus the Blitz: 105-177 59% 1,281 yards 12 TD 6 INT 90.1 Passer Rating
3rd downs: 62-123 50.4 % 890 yards 7 TD 4 INT 79.7 Passer Rating 39 carries 263 yards 3 TD
Versus the Blitz: 81-155 52.3% 1,112 yards 9 TD 4 INT 84.1 Passer Rating
When watching Newton’s All-22 tape, his understanding of the offense, and grasp of NFL defenses has clearly gotten better from 2012 to 2013, and as you see, the numbers relay the same message. He’s more accurate, precise, decisive, and throwing the football with better timing and anticipation. His maturation as a passer to go along with his ability to extend plays with his legs or get first downs running the ball, makes him a lethal weapon that gives defensive coordinators fits.
Newton benefited from having a balanced offense, 483 rushes to 473 passes, along with one of the NFL’s best defenses. He understood with having an elite defense, and reliable running game, that he didn’t have to force throws, or make a play that wasn’t there to win games. But when the Panthers needed him to make clutch plays, he did. Newton lead the Panthers to four fourth quarter comeback wins in 2013.
The 2014 offseason for Newton has been very eventful, veteran wide receiver Steve Smith was released after thirteen seasons with the team. Not only did he lose Smith, but he also lost all four of his top receivers from 2013 via free agency. On top of that, Newton had surgery on his right ankle on March 19th to tighten up the ligaments, leaving him out of action until possibly mid-July. He will be ready for the start of training camp, but he’s missed OTA’s and mini-camp, leaving him without the ability to build a rapport with his new targets. Building chemistry with rookie first round draft pick Kelvin Benjamin, along with vets Jason Avant, Jericho Cotchery and tight end Ed Dickson is going to be essential.
Let’s not forget that Newton is in the last year of his rookie contract, and from reports, he wants no part of a contract with terms similar to Colin Kaepernick’s, which is basically a year to year deal with thirteen million dollars guaranteed. I don’t blame him, Newton’s been hit more then any other quarterback in the NFL over the last three seasons, he coming off of ankle surgery, and he’s a legit franchise quarterback. As of now, there hasn’t been any contract talks, but I imagine that they will start well before training camp starts. If I’m Newton, I don’t take a snap in the preseason without a new deal being done. I expect him to receive a contract similar to Kaepernick’s, but worded differently, and with more guaranteed money.
2014 is set to be huge for Cam Newton, he’s gotten better by the year, physically and mentally. Regardless of losing key players, and team leaders, it’s Newton’s team now and the Panther’s success depends greatly on how much better he gets and plays.
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