In 2011 Newton set the league on fire by throwing for more yards than any rookie before with 4,051. He also accounted for 35 touchdowns combined while rushing and passing. The number one overall draft pick had proven to critics that he had the skills necessary to succeed in the NFL. Though Carolina did not make the playoffs the future looked bright as they finished 6-10.
After 5 weeks of the 2012 season, the Panthers stand at 1-4. They have lost three straight. The first was a humiliating 36-7 Thursday night game on national television to the defending world champion New York Giants. Carolina is currently last in the NFC South tied with the New Orleans Saints and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
There were many who thought that Newton would lead the Panthers to their fist playoff appearance since 2008. These people also thought that Newton would improve so much on his 2011 season that he would be in the running for league Most Valuable Player. They did not believe in the sophomore jinx or that it would affect Newton.
Whether it is the sophomore jinx or NFL defenses adjusting to him, Newton has not been able to produce victories. On opening day the Bucs held him to 10 points. The Giants held Carolina to 7. Sunday the Seahawks held the Panthers to 12 without giving them an offensive touchdown. Carolina did score 35 in their lone victory against the Saints and 28 in a loss to the Atlanta Falcons.
The big plays that Newton made last year have been few and far between. Teams have made him stay in the pocket and try to beat them with his arm. The Panthers are not running the ball as effectively as they did in 2011.
Newton has had his troubles. Against the Giants he threw three interceptions. In Atlanta he had a chance to salt the game away by getting one first down. While diving over the line to gain a yard, Newton fumbled. The ball was recovered by Carolina, but a yard behind the first down marker. The Panthers punted. The Falcons drove down field and kicked a game winning field goal.
This is the kind of season it has been for Newton. On Sunday he had to watch former North Carolina State star quarterback Russell Wilson return home with the Seahawks and beat him. For a man with his pride it had to sting Newton.
Carolina has a bye next week. Maybe it will give them and Newton time to work things out. With Atlanta at 5-0 the Panthers can pretty much forget about the division.
The goal for right now should be simply preparing to beat the Dallas Cowboys on October 21.
Maybe that would get Cam Newton back on track.