Cam Newton put the Carolina Panthers back on the NFL map so to speak in his rookie season in 2011. He set records in passing yards (4,051) and rushing yards (706) for a rookie quarterback. He rushed for a rookie record 14 touchdowns and also had 21 passing touchdowns. Newton appeared to be the young face of the league.
But then 2012 rolled along and other young quarterbacks dominated the league. Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck broke Newton’s rookie record for passing yards by throwing for 4,374 as he led the Colts to the playoffs a year after the squad finished with a mere two wins. Robert Griffin III broke Newton’s record for rushing yards by a rookie quarterback by dashing for 815 yards as he led the Washington Redskins to their first playoff berth since 2007.
Elsewhere, Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks tied Peyton Manning’s rookie record for touchdown passes with 27. He led the Seahawks to the NFC Divisional round before falling to the top seeded Atlanta Falcons. Second year quarterback Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers took over for the injured Alex Smith midway through the season and never relinquished the job due to his stellar play. He led the 49ers all the way to the Super Bowl before falling to the Baltimore Ravens.
The other two rookie quarterbacks, Ryan Tannehill of the Miami Dolphins and Brandon Weeden of the Cleveland Browns, had solid seasons as well, maintaining their starting jobs for the entirety of the season.
The league is clearly comprised of young talent, especially at the quarterback position. While Newton is certainly still a youngster, he is no longer the new kid on the block. Newton had a decent sophomore season, throwing for 19 touchdowns with 12 interceptions, but his season was overshadowed by the likes of Luck, Griffin III, Wilson and Kaepernick. Newton said on NFL Network that he is not jealous of the attention the other players got, but instead it motivated him to play better because it helped him realize how easily a player can be forgotten in this league.
“Am I envious? No. If anything it challenges me to get better and just remember about this league that if you’re not getting better, you’re getting forgotten. So for this whole off-season I’ve been challenging myself, one, to lose weight, two, to become not a stronger player but a smarter player.”
Newton believes the Panthers can win the talent studded NFC South. In order for the Panthers to win their first division title title since 2008, Newton must step up as a leader and have a sensational season under center.