Carolina has based the entirety of its offensive system around the skill set of Newton, and if he is unable to play to his ability, the Panthers will struggle not just in the NFC South race, but in every game they play.
Newton is not a typical "drop back and throw" type of passer. He is best on the move, utilizing play action, draw plays and rolling the pocket outside the hash marks.
This season, he has fallen into the trap of trying to do too much of what doesn't work for him.
The Panthers have the potential for one of the best rushing attacks in all of football, and they have been able to play to that strength in the past.
Last season, Carolina was 6-3 when Newton threw the ball 20 times or fewer. This is an offense that executes best with a strong ground game.
Jonathan Stewart's and DeAngelo Williams' potency has declined in recent years, but these are still two extremely versatile backs that can be major contributors to an offense.
What happens to them if Newton regresses?
What happens to the rest of the offense?
Sure, sophomore slumps happen, but Newton seems downright somber. From looking as if he did not care in a postgame press conference, to being forced off the bench by team captain Steve Smith in the middle of a game.
Newton's attitude and demeanor are harming the Panthers franchise and raising an abundance of question marks.
Last year, as he was marching toward Rookie of the Year honors, we saw that Newton can be a jubilant and inspirational leader.
But what about when he struggles, as he has so far this season?
Can Newton overcome his on-the-field obstacles and remain the voice and face of the Carolina franchise?
Because if he can't, the keys to the offense will be handed to either Derek Anderson or Jimmy Clausen.
Anderson is a journeyman 29-year-old with no real upside or potential.
Clausen is still young enough to succeed, but Carolina has shown almost no interest in helping his development in any tangible way.
The Panthers need the mobility and strong arm of Newton in order to compete in the NFC South.
This is a team with great weapons and a plethora of talent, but the young Newton is essential to present and future success.
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