Carolina Panthers second year quarterback Cam Newton is not the only sophomore struggling at the moment. His classmates in the draft of 2011 are as well. So far the Sophomore Jinx is alive and well in the NFL.
Besides Newton, Andy Dalton of the Cincinnati Bengals, Blaine Gabbert of the Jacksonville Jaguars and Jake Locker of the Tennessee Titans have had less than stellar campaigns. Much of their play has been overlooked as fans and media have focused on this year’s rookie class which includes Andrew Luck of the Indianapolis Colts and Washington Redskins phenom Robert Griffin III.
Dalton had a very successful season in 2011. He led the Bengals to a playoff birth in the tough AFC North. Having to face the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens twice he still guided the Bengals to a 9-7 record. Along the way, Dalton threw for 3,398 yards, 20 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. As the last of his class to be drafted Dalton was thought to be the steal of April.
Dalton got off to a good start in 2012. After losing on opening night to the Ravens he led Cincinnati to three straight wins. The Bengals were tied for first place with Baltimore before losing in week five to the Miami Dolphins. Cincinnati followed that defeat with losses to the Cleveland Browns and Steelers. In the last three games, Dalton has not played well. Against Pittsburgh he completed 14 out of 28 passes for 105 yards and one touchdown. The Bengals are now 3-4.
Gabbert was expected to struggle this season. Besides running back Maurice Jones-Drew he really has no threats to work with. The Jaguars offense is pedestrian at best and has contributed to the team’s 1-5 start. Gabbert’s 2012 statistics show 906 yards passing with six touchdowns and three interceptions.
Things got tougher for Gabbert when he suffered a shoulder injury Sunday against the Oakland Raiders. He missed the entire second half off that game and is questionable going into a week eight matchup with the Green Bay Packers.
Locker is sidelined with a shoulder injury suffered in week four against the Houston Texans. He was expected to start every game this season. In his brief period behind center, Locker threw for 781 yards and four touchdowns.
Including Newton, these four quarterbacks have a combined record of 6-17 in 2012. Dalton and the Bengals make up half the total of victories. Carolina, Jacksonville and Tennessee each have only one win. Christian Ponder of the Minnesota Vikings is the only second year quarterback with a winning record at 5-2.
Like Newton in Carolina, Dalton, Gabbert, and Locker are struggling. They are finding out that life in the NFL is not easy. It is not supposed to be.
Newton is not the only sophomore struggling. With the exception of Ponder, second year quarterbacks have hit a speed bump.