Carolina Panthers: 4 Ways Cam Newton Can Build off Rookie Success

Hunter WrightContributor IIJanuary 12, 2012

Carolina Panthers: 4 Ways Cam Newton Can Build off Rookie Success

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    In his rookie season, Cam Newton shattered all doubts of his ability to compete in the NFL.

    He broke various records, including passing yards by a rookie and rushing touchdowns by a quarterback in a season. He has reignited a franchise and created a huge fanbase for a team that finished 6-10 this season.

    Newton's biggest adversary for the upcoming season will be himself. If he can conquer the sophomore slump, his future will be very bright as a Panther.

    There are four key ways Cam Newton can improve on his inaugural season. 

Cut Down on Interceptions

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    Turnovers are nothing unfamiliar to a rookie quarterback, but Cam Newton must improve his field vision and accuracy in order to rise to the next level.

    He threw 17 on the season, with key interceptions thrown against Green Bay, Atlanta and Detroit

    The big reason for these interceptions is the transition in mindset from collegiate to professional football. On most of these plays, Newton fell under pressure and tried to create yardage that just wasn't there.

    He needs to learn to accept the loss in yards and try again on the next down. When playing Atlanta, Cam was almost sacked and tried a shovel pass to Jonathan Stewart, resulting in a huge possession for the Falcons.

    These are the types of mistakes that lose football games.

    If Carolina wants to compete for a playoff spot next season, Cam Newton needs to mature in this area.  

Play-Action Pass

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    Thanks to his record-setting running ability, every team knows that Cam Newton and the Panthers can run.

    Cam Newton's big play will be the play-action pass. Everyone will expect him to run on certain plays, but improvement on his passing games will allow him to burn secondaries everywhere.

    With the Panthers set to add another receiver in the offseason, look for Cam Newton to use his arm more than he did in the latter half of the season.

    Obviously, this is dependent on the Panther's choice of draft picks, but most are speculating on a Alshon Jeffery or Michael Floyd-type receiver to join the squad.

    This will give Carolina's star the depth needed to use his strength to find those wideouts. 

Better Decision Making

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    This ties in similarly with the "interception" slide, but Cam Newton will need to improve his overall decision-making skills in order to finish off games with a win.

    Too many times, the Panthers were able to jump ahead early in games, only to fall in the second half to poor decisions.

    Referencing the Atlanta game again, Newton threw two easy picks at the start of the third quarter which gave the Falcons the lead. Newton has to cut down on rookie mistakes like those, especially when holding a lead. 

    Not all of these decisions can be attributed to Newton, however, his success will ride on his ability to grow and make sound decisions in his sophomore season. 

Avoid Injury

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    This is a no-brainer. If Cam Newton were to get hurt in any way, his sophomore season could be a devastating blow to the Panther's rebuilding phase. 

    Often in the season, Newton would scramble and make some daring dive for big yardage. These are great ways to put fans in the seats, but it's also a great way to get in one yourself.

    The gutsy trick plays are a great piece of this Carolina offense, but trying to dive into the end zone by mauling three defensive backs is not. Cam must cut down on flashy moves like those and focus more on gaining valuable yardage with his arm.

    Newton is an incredibly gifted athlete, but if he gets a serious injury, it'll be Jimmy Clausen taking the snaps for Carolina.