Has the NFL Caught Up to Cam Newton?

Gary DavenportNFL AnalystOctober 6, 2012

ATLANTA, GA - SEPTEMBER 30:  Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers reacts after tossing for a touchdown against the Atlanta Falcons at Georgia Dome on September 30, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

In 2011, Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton had one of the best first seasons ever by a signal-caller in the National Football League, setting records for passing yards by a rookie and rushing touchdowns by a quarterback.

However, with Newton struggling somewhat through the first month of the 2012 season and the Panthers stuck at 1-3, criticism of the youngster is growing, and it certainly appears that the honeymoon is over in Charlotte.

Through four games this year, Newton has completed 68-of-107 passes for just over 1,000 yards, four touchdown passes and six turnovers. These numbers have been labeled a regression by many pundits, with some wondering aloud whether or not NFL defenses have "caught up" with the 23-year-old.

If they have, then it happened last year.

Granted, Newton's yardage is down quite a bit compared to the first four games of last year, but expecting him to start out this season like he did last year just isn't realistic. They call starts like that "record-setting" for a reason—they just don't happen all the time.

With that said, Newton's yards per game are nearly identical to last year's. At this point last year, his touchdown-to-interception ratio was nearly the same as it is now, as well. And Newton's completion percentage and quarterback rating this year are actually a little bit higher than they were in 2011.

As to Newton's rushing totals? Through four games last year, Newton had gained 133 yards. This year, he's gained 167. And while his rushing scores are down (and even then only slightly), that's to be expected after his record-setting 2011 campaign (there's that phrase again).

Where exactly is this "regression?"

Newton has also recently taken some flak for sulking during Panthers losses. He has bristled at this criticism, explaining to Jonathan Jones of The Charlotte Observer that losing is never something he's going to take lightly:

A lot of people deal with things differently. Losing is difficult. Period. A person that says losing is not difficult, I don’t even want to be around that person. And obviously that person has never won anything relevant in their life. So for a person to say, 'Yeah we lost and we have to keep going.' Yeah you keep saying that and sooner or later you’re going to look up and be 0-16.

Sure, this attitude has come off as pouty publicly, but in all honesty, isn't having a quarterback who hates to lose a good thing?

Listen, all this isn't to say that all's well with the Carolina Panthers or that Newton's play to this point in the season has been spotless. The defense is a mess, and Newton has to stop turning the ball over, because that defense isn't leaving him with a margin for error.

However, the stats simply don't bear out all this talk of some big backslide by Cam Newton. And it appears that the only thing that's caught up with him is the criticism of many of the same folks who were so enamored with Newton in 2011.