There is a murmur building in Charlotte. The whispers have grown in volume and soon there will be full-fledged debate about whether Cam Newton is a starting quarterback.
It's easy to blow the question off as hyperbole or an overreaction to a poor start to the season. But there is some validity to an argument that Newton cannot live up to his first-overall selection.
Let's check out the case for each side.
Newton Peaked In His Rookie Year
When pondering whether Newton's rookie year was a fluke, there needs to be closer examination of the season that Newton actually had.
His first two games made national headlines because he threw for over 400 yards in each contest. The ugly side is that he threw four picks against three touchdowns. However, over the remainder of the season, Newton threw 18 touchdowns and only 13 interceptions. Those are the numbers that are the most important.
This year's season hasn't been nearly as impressive from a taking-care-of-the-ball standpoint. He's already thrown five interceptions and fumbled away three more possessions.
Newton is actively taking points off the board, and he isn't putting up nearly as many as before. Through five games, he's only tossed four scores and run for three more.
All of the normal musings about sophomore slumps aside, his regression doesn't make much sense except to say that his freshman season was an aberration. Rob Chudzinski has been the offensive coordinator for the Carolina Panthers since Newton was selected, so the issue isn't a lack of consistency.
All signs point to Newton being a sandlot-style player. He excelled last year when he could just wheel and deal on the fly, but it appears the expectations of running an offense are getting to him. His frustration and pouting episodes are further proof that he isn't cut out to be a NFL quarterback.
Newton Is Just Getting Warmed Up
Settle down, Panthers fans. This isn't a complete slam job on Cam.
There are a few signs that indicate that Newton might actually be progressing a bit despite the obvious steps backwards.
His completion percentage has dropped a point, but his yards-per-attempt average has increased by a little more than a half yard. Obviously, he's taking more chances instead of settling for dinking and dunking. The latter doesn't lead to many wins. Ask the Oakland Raiders.
Additionally, the physical tools do not go away after one bad year. His size, arm strength and ability to drop a ball in a bucket from 40 yards out give him everything he needs to excel. He just needs to work on the mental side of the game.
Newton has had trouble keeping his emotions in check instead of focusing on learning and improving. But remember that he is only 23 years old. As people age, they generally (hopefully) mature, which is all that is stopping Cam Newton from being one the next elite passers.
Just give him time. He'll be just fine.
Which one is the more accurate portrayal of the quarterback situation in Carolina? It's somewhere in the middle, but skewed slightly towards the hopeful side.
Don't turn the page on Newton just yet. Something tells me this kid will have a breakthrough after the Panthers' bye week.