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Last year, Cam Newton revolutionized the NFL as a rookie, becoming the first quarterback in history to pass for over 4,000 yards and rush for over 500 in the same season, and he added 35 touchdowns in the process—all in a shortened offseason without sufficient time to practice with his new team.
I don’t think he will be as good in 2012; in fact, I think he will take a significant step back. Newton really benefited from weakened defenses early in the season, and his numbers tailed off down the stretch.
He had the fortune of playing 10 games against teams that rated in the bottom half in scoring defense. His numbers against the other six teams: 2-4 record, 56.3 completion percentage and 79.0 passer rating.
While people are quick to point out his passing yardage, he was actually 0-3 in games that he threw for over 300 yards and 5-1 in the games with his six lowest passing yardage totals of the season. He rated just 15th in the league in passer rating and 16th in ESPN’s new QBR statistic. He was a tremendous runner, but 14 touchdowns just can’t happen again; it's unrealistic for a quarterback to run the ball 126 times in a season and not get hurt.
Newton is blessed with astounding size, but the Carolina Panthers know how much he means to them, and there’s no way they will let him take off to run that many times again. Steve Smith is another year older, and the team really has no solid No. 2 receiver.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see Newton add a few passing touchdowns to his totals but throw at least 20 interceptions and post a passer rating slightly worse than last year’s mark while running for around five or six touchdowns. That would constitute a slump for a player expected to be a top-producing fantasy player at his position already.