Cam Newton earned a trip to the Pro Bowl and was named NFL Rookie of the Year in 2012, but the Carolina Panthers quarterback only showed flashes of the potential that will elevate him to elite status in 2012.
Newton made history in 2012 by becoming the first quarterback in NFL history to debut with consecutive 400-yard passing games, setting the NFL rookie passing record with 4,051 yards and becoming the first NFL quarterback in history to rush for 14 touchdowns in a season.
The Panthers quarterback threw for an additional 21 touchdowns in 2011 and led the Panthers to the fifth-highest scoring total in the NFL.
Not bad for a rookie.
Avoiding the Sophomore Slump
Despite the sophomore slumps that have plagued many a second-year quarterback following solid rookie campaigns in recent seasons, including the Atlanta Falcons' Matt Ryan, the Baltimore Ravens' Joe Flacco and the St. Louis Rams' Sam Bradford, no such fate will plague Newton's second act.
He is just too focused and talented to take a step backwards in 2012.
At the NFL coaches breakfast in March, Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll described Newton as "an extraordinarily rare athlete" who grew into the quarterback position as the season progressed and led the Panthers to four wins in a five-game stretch late in the season.
“Look out for those guys. Holy mackerel,” Carroll told the Charlotte Observer's Joe Person. “If he can just stay out there, they're going to be a fantastic team.”
Ready to Join the Elite
Newton is so talented and gifted that he may even be able to break the Madden curse if he ends up being selected to grace the cover of the popular video game. He is currently one of the final four candidates still in the running to be on the cover of Madden '13.
One thing is certain, though: Newton and the Panthers will be better in 2012.
If Newton can cut the 17 interceptions he threw last season in half, the Panthers will be good for over 30 points per game and a potential 12-win season.
And if all the right pieces fall into place and Newton progresses along the parabolic curve that has so far shaped his ascent to becoming a top-flight NFL quarterback, he will become the first second-year quarterback since Dan Marino to join the ranks of elite NFL quarterbacks at such an early stage in his career.