The sophomore slump for Carolina Panthers second-year quarterback Cam Newton was almost inevitable. Defensive coordinators around the NFL are beyond savvy when it comes to adjusting their defensive game plan in order to shut down a once fiery rookie.
Newton’s numbers are heading south of impressive and he is beginning to appear flustered in the pocket at times, making inaccurate throws that often result in turnovers.
Panthers head coach Ron Rivera provided the media with his thoughts about Newton on Monday, saying, “He [Newton] wants to make things happen so much. It’s all part of him developing as a football player.”
Its clear Newton is becoming more and more frustrated on the field. Defensive coordinators have adjusted to Newton and made changes to their game plans accordingly, making him a non-threat on Sundays. However, Newton’s issues are not limited, but they are different. He thrived under current Panthers offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski’s offense a year ago, but now things are growing bland.
Newton has thrown five interceptions through five games and his passer rating is in the tank (80.9), ranking 20th in the league. He can’t hit his targets and is only completing 58.8 percent of his throws. The most telling stat is the number of sacks Newton has endured through five games, 13. Newton’s numbers aren’t terrible, but they are far off from where they should be.
Newton didn’t forget how to play football overnight. His case is different from other quarterbacks that go through a sophomore slump. Newton’s struggles have more to do with the lack of proficiency from his play caller, in-turn allowing defenses to hold the Panthers down. Carolina’s offense has simply become too appealing for their opponents.
Newton is a pass first, run second quarterback. It’s his ability to make plays both in and outside of the pocket that make him so dangerous. Though, for some reason, the Panthers will run a delayed hand-off on a second and long situation with their back against their own end zone. The Panthers offense is defeating themselves and has grown to be becoming almost predictable for the other team, hence the 13 sacks Newton has tolerated and their inept ability to convert on third down.
If Carolina wants to get cute, then maybe they should try adding another running and passing threat in their backfield in certain situations. Maybe put wide receiver and former college quarterback Armanti Edwards in the backfield with Newton as a half back option, in order to give the offense a jolt and divert pressure off Newton on some downs. Stay away from the wildcat but have Edwards alongside Newton, giving the Panthers a duel passing/running threat on the field. They have to add something to their game plan in order to create manageable third downs, or a least something to keep the defense guessing a few times every game.
Carolina has weapons and they need to use them. They need to find a way to get Newton in a rhythm and get the ball down the field. The play calling is obviously holding Newton back. He can’t get comfortable, due in part to the predictability of their plays.
Newton will be fine going forward, but the Panthers need to start winning, especially in close games.
This bye week should be a time for Carolina to adjust their play calling in order to make their quarterback feel comfortable again. Bottom line is they should let Newton play.
Robert Kester, Carolina Panthers Columnist. Contact @robertkester1.