The young star of the Carolina Panthers, Cam Newton, has had his fair share of highs and lows during his first two seasons in the NFL, but the young player has the right tools to trend in the right direction. Newton is the projected starter for the future with Jimmy Clausen, Derek Anderson and Colby Cameron posing no threat to the third year player. The dual-threat quarterback can dismantle defenses with his speed rushing for 1,447 yards, and 22 rushing touchdowns in his two seasons in the league.
In his rookie season, Newton had 4,051 yards which was the NFL record for a rookie quarterback at the time until Andrew Luck broke it in 2012. Newton also produced 21 touchdowns and 17 interceptions in his rookie season, but saw a little decline, and a little better improvement in 2012 with 3,869 yards passing with 19 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions. Stats can be deceiving at times.
In 2012, the Panthers had plenty of opportunities to win games, but always came up short more times than not. Under head coach Ron Rivera, the team is 2-12 in games decided by seven points or less since the 2011 season. Newton, in the fourth quarter of his rookie season, threw five touchdowns and five interceptions, with a quarterback rating of 78.4.
In his second season, Newton improved those numbers a bit in the fourth quarter with five touchdowns and four interceptions, with a rating of 94.8. But when you are 2-12 in games decided by seven points or less, obviously the offense and the defense have played a role in letting the team down.
When a team has struggled like the Panthers have in recent years, as a player, you tend to look for anything to try to change the vibe in the locker room, and look for ways to improve yourself in any way possible.
So to improve Newton’s game, the third year player decided to lose 12 pounds since last season from 255 to 243 as he described the weight loss as motivation via espn.com. “It was just a personal goal that I set for myself. I’m not going to go into what it really meant because looking at my body from afar you really couldn’t tell,” Newton noted. “Being that I lost the weight, nobody really could tell, either…It’s just me challenging myself to have an edge going into the season.”
Newton has always been noted as a highly motivated, and emotional player. He doesn’t take losses easily, but sometimes that can be a good, and bad thing. With a young team like the Panthers, it’s important to have an edge to help keep the players focused.
But there are other times where if you show the same body language over and over in a negative fashion, it wears on the team. The team needs encouragement at times, especially from the face of the franchise, which Newton is. Panthers’ veteran wide receiver Steve Smith illustrated as such after the Panthers lost to the New York Giants in week three of the 2012 season, via profootballtalk.com. “I told him, ‘You can get some mental reps or you can sit on that bench and sulk.”
I expect Newton to improve on his game in the 2013 season. But at the same time, Smith isn’t getting any younger at wide receiver at 34 years old, and young receivers like Brandon Lafell and Louis Murphy have to step up even more to help lead the team in the direction of winning.
A 6-10 record in 2011 was viewed as a rebuilding year. The 7-9 record in 2012 was viewed as a team on the steady rise. In 2013, it is time for the team to produce or Rivera and Newton could be on the hot seat very soon. But I expect them to take the next step in the right direction.