Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton put together a spectacular rookie season that featured several record-breaking, breathtaking plays. Newton's introductory season was one of the most impressive and surprising ones in history, as few expected such a raw quarterback to make the plays that he did.
However, he still did run into trouble at times and showed that he still needs to develop, particularly in his reading of coverages and footwork.
There were many instances in which his rawness was on display, starting with Week 1 against the Arizona Cardinals.
Early into the third quarter against the Cardinals defense, Newton and the offense came out in a 12 gun spread personnel set, which consists of one running back and two tight ends that are flexed with Newton in a shotgun set. Arizona's hybrid defense consisted of three down linemen and four other defensive players in the box.
Initially, it appeared that the Cardinals were dropping eight in coverage, but a delayed blitz came from Newton's left, the same side of which he was making a half-field read. Newton's two-man read to the left initially looked clear because linebacker Daryl Washington (No. 58) was running toward the flat to cover tight end Greg Olsen.
However, this quickly changed because Washington took a quick turn back to the middle of the field and it muddied the picture for Newton, who was locked on to his inside-breaking receiver. Washington knew he had a teammate already in the flats, the cornerback whose responsible for the area in Cover 2 (five under, two deep zone), so he turned back inside and undercut Newton's pass to seal an interception.
If Newton was not locked in on his target, he would have seen Olsen in the flats for a quick pickup of yards and a possession-saving throw.
Another example of an area that Newton should improve on in his second season is his footwork. This was one of the areas of his game that was not very good, but was successful despite it because of his arm talent.
An instance of this came in Week 14 against the Atlanta Falcons, in which a high-arching throw resulted in an interception.
The Panthers offense once again came out in 12 personnel, but this time, the two tight ends were in a stacked twins set to Newton's left, while another set of twins were to his right.
The Falcons defense came out in their traditional 40 front with four down linemen, but had nickel personnel out on the field, which features five defensive backs. They were playing a soft Cover 2 on this play, much like the Cardinals appeared to be on the previously illustrated play.
On this play, Newton once again forced a pass into traffic and it resulted in an interception, but a big reason for the interception was the inaccuracy. The pass sailed, and the reason for this is because of Newton's footwork, which was not good. He failed to rotate his hips when delivering the pass, consequently throwing it all-arm, which led to the poor delivery.
Because of this, the play resulted in a turnover when the ball landed in the hands of Falcons safety William Moore.
Although Cam Newton had one of the best rookie seasons in NFL history, he still has a lot of room to grow as a quarterback, most notably with his deciphering of coverages after the snap and cleaning up his footwork. I fully expect him to continue to improve as a passer and become one of the league's best because of his strong work ethic and overall talent.