Carolina Panthers: 3 Ways Cam Newton's Weapons Made Him Better Than He Should Be
In fact, I believe he was snubbed by the fans and coaches selecting the 2012 NFL Pro Bowl rosters—though there is a good chance he will still make the team as an alternate assuming either Drew Brees or Aaron Rodgers takes his team to the Super Bowl.
However, Newton could not have had his great season without a lot of help from his teammates and coaches. They helped make the 2010 Heisman Trophy winner better than he should have been as a rookie quarterback.
Better—that is—than anyone expected or even hoped he would be in his first professional season.
(All player statistics in this article are through Week 16 of the 2011 NFL season)
Weapon #1: He Had Mighty Mouse on His Side
The diminutive receiver—he is listed as 5'9", 185 lbs—has returned to Steve Smith 2012 Pro Bowler" target="_self">Pro Bowl status in 2012, thanks in no small part to the play of Cam Newton.
However, it is Newton who should be thanking Smith (73 catches, 1,308 yards and six TDs) for his record-setting passing numbers this season.
Newton broke Peyton Manning's 13-year-old record for most single-season passing yards by a rookie in Week 16, and he is only 107 yards shy of becoming the first rookie quarterback to ever throw for 4,000 yards in a season.
However, Newton owes some kudos to Smitty for rising up to get at least a dozen or more catches and a couple hundred yards on passes, which would have been over the heads and out of reach for many 6'3" receivers in the league.
Weapon #2: Dynamic Duo at Tight End
Greg Olsen and Jeremy Shockey teamed up to form the greatest tight-end threat the Carolina Panthers have had since Wesley Walls last made the Pro Bowl in 2001.
Olsen (45 catches, 540 yards and five TDs) is Newton's No. 2 target and Shockey (34 catches, 437 yards, and four TDs) is not far behind.
Not only are the duo from "The U" a security blanket for Newton when no one is open downfield, but each averages over 12 yards per catch and helps move the chains nearly every time they touch the ball.
It has been more than a decade since the Panthers got 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns out of the tight end position, and there is a good chance they will do both this season.
Weapon #3: Double Trouble Made Triple Threat Possible
DeAngelo Williams (148 carries, 783 yards and seven TDs) and Jonathan Stewart (133 carries, 682 yards and three TDs), aka "Double Trouble," are two of the best NFL running backs you seldom hear about outside of the Carolinas.
In 2009, they each ran for over 1,000 yards as teammates and in 2011 they are leading the NFL's third best rushing attack (149.6 yards per game), while both averaging more than five yards per attempt.
Now that Newton (120 carries, 674 yards and 14 TD) has joined the backfield, he has turned Double Trouble into a triple-threat befitting the old Georgia Tech basketball moniker from the early 1990s, "Lethal Weapon 3," led by Dennis Scott, Kenny Anderson and Brian Oliver.
However, much of Newton's success in the run game has come via the run-option, in which Newton reads the defense before deciding to hand-off or toss the ball to one of his backs or keep it himself.
Newton's ability to run the football is undeniable, but paired with a couple of quality backs who could start just about anywhere in the NFL, he has become that much better.
The Playcaller: My Name Is Chud
The Carolina Panthers have one of the hottest young assistant coaches in the NFL in their offensive coordinator: Rob "Chud" Chudzinski.
Surely Cam Newton's play and the Panthers' resurrected offense from the despair of 2010—Carolina has the NFL's fifth-ranked scoring offense after scoring only 16 offensive touchdowns last season—are reasons Chud often rumored to be a head coaching candidate during the 2011-2012 offseason.
However, Chud's creative play-calling and his ability to get the most out of Newton's unique skill set so early in his career has the rookie quarterback on pace to pass for more than 4,000 yards and rush for more than 700 yards.
If Coach Fox were still in Charlotte, Derek Anderson would have likely started the season at QB before relinquishing the reigns to Newton and a Tim Tebow-like offensive playbook.
Thank goodness for Ron Rivera and Chud.
Cam's the Man
Despite the help he received from his teammates and coaches, Newton had a hell of a season, which not too many quarterbacks could have pulled off as a rookie.
Cam Newton's 2011 Statistics (Through Week 16)
Passing: 295-of-492, 3,893 yards, 20 TD, 16 INT
Rushing: 120 attempts, 674 yards, 14 TD, 5 FUM (two lost)
So, just how good was Cam Newton's rookie season?
Week 1: Newton set the first NFL record for most passing yards in a professional debut.
Week 2: He became the first quarterback to ever pass for over 400 yards in each of his first two professional starts.
Week 13: Newton rushed for three touchdowns to bring his then-season total to 13—eclipsing Steve Grogan's 35-year-old record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback.
Week 16: He broke Peyton Manning's 13-year-old record for most passing yards by a rookie and he ended the game with 3,893 passing yards for the season with one game to go. At 7.9 yards per attempt, he averages nearly a yard-and-a-half more than Manning did in 1998 with 6.5 yards each time he threw the ball.
Week 17: Newton will become the first rookie quarterback to pass for more than 4,000 yards in a single season.
After watching Jimmy Clausen struggle as the Panthers quarterback in 2010, Panthers fans have to believe that Newton helped himself out quite a bit, as well.
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