In his first season at the NFL level, after he was the first overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, Cam Newton set the bar pretty high. He was fantastic. Actually, he was better than fantastic. He was historic.
Newton dazzled in his first year with the Carolina Panthers, in more ways than one. He lit up the stat sheet, with over 4,000 passing yards on the season, breaking the rookie record for passing yards, set by Peyton Manning. He threw 21 touchdowns on the year, but did toss 17 interceptions.
But Newton didn’t just make his impact in the passing game. He emerged as a big time dual threat. Proving extremely tough to bring down, given his 6’5″, 245 frame, he rushed for over 700 yards and 14 scores. The question for Cam Newton heading into the new season is whether or not he’ll be able to do it again.
Were Newton’s stats in his first year, particularly through the air, somewhat inflated? Probably. Spending as much time as the Panthers did playing from behind, he was able to put the ball in the air a great deal and beef up those passing yards. But that doesn’t actually take away that much from what he did in 2011.
This was a Panthers team that improved greatly overall as the season went on, finishing 6-10 after a 2-14 campaign in 2010 that gave them the first pick.
There really isn’t any reason for Newton to regress this season. As 2011 wore on, his critics continued to wait on teams to figure him out, but that never happened. When you look at his status as a dual threat, it’s still going to be tough for anyone to stop him this season.
Newton is in his second year of the spread offense implemented by Rob Chudzinski, which he has so much success in last season. He’s had a year to familiarize himself with his teammates. He still has a strong running game behind him and some solid targets to throw the ball to.
Not only are the pieces there for Cam Newton to be able to build on his terrific 2011 campaign and continue to silence his critics, but this Panthers team is going to be a dangerous one in 2012. Just like Ryan Kalil said.