Can Newton turn the season around for the Panthers?
A 1-4 start is not what the Carolina Panthers had in mind after finishing 4-2 last season. Little has gone right, especially on offense, and fans are probably worried about Carolina’s franchise quarterback Cam Newton.
Newton has been nowhere near the player that earned AP Rookie of the Year honors in his rookie season.
Last season, Newton completed 60 percent of his passes for 4,051 yards, 21 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. He totaled 35 touchdowns on the year as he added 14 touchdowns and over 700 yards rushing.
2012 has not been as kind. He has completed just 58 percent of his passes for 1,154 yards, four touchdowns and five interceptions.
But there is little to worry when it comes to statistics.
Ryan had career lows of a 58.3 completion percentage, 2,916 yards and 14 interceptions. He also had an 80.9 quarterback rating, the same mark that Newton has now.
The next season, Ryan threw for 3,705 yards, 28 touchdowns and only nine interceptions.
Bradford was injured for his sophomore year, and he only played 10 games. They were some bad games, though, as he only completed 53.5 percent of his passes for 2,164 yards, six touchdowns, six interceptions and six fumbles.
2012 has been more kind to Bradford as he has completed almost 60 percent of his passes for 1,337 yards, six touchdowns and an 81.3 quarterback rating.
Dalton has also joined Newton in the sophomore slump category. He has already thrown nine interceptions after throwing just 13 all of last season, but the Cincinnati Bengals are inconsistent. They have lost to both the Miami Dolphins and the Cleveland Browns, and he still has not found a way to defeat a team with a winning record.
Cam's struggles may also be due to the offensive scheme. The Panthers’ vertical passing game aims to create big plays using deep throws. Unfortunately, much of Newton's success resulted from the run-and-gun system Carolina had in place last season.
This reliance may have shifted Cam’s focus from trying to move the ball using a sustained drive, to trying to score within one or two plays. Newton’s low completion percentage may be a result of this.
Senior Analyst Gil Brandt of NFL.com also believes teams have adapted to the Carolina offense. He writes that Cam excelled when facing six-man fronts last season, but now that teams are giving him five-man fronts he has struggled. He has a quarterback rating of 39.4 this season when facing five-man fronts.
Hopefully, Newton and the Panthers used their bye week to work on adjusting the offense. There is no need for Carolina to stop going deep, but mixing in short passes and understanding the fronts could make a difference against Dallas on Sunday.
The stats will come, and the offense will eventually adapt, but it's something that can’t be taught which should scare fans when it comes to Newton.
Fans should be worried about Cam’s inability to win late.
When Jake Delhomme was quarterback, no game was out of reach. Back in 2008, he led a miraculous drive to win the game against the Chargers in San Diego, hitting TE Dante Rosario in the back of the end zone as time expired.
When the Panthers went on their run to the Super Bowl in 2003, it was because he was “Captain Comeback” and Carolina became the “Cardiac Cats.”
This is what Newton lacks. He lacks the gut and the heart to do everything humanly possible to fight for the win. Last season, he failed to finish the comebacks against Detroit, Chicago, Minnesota, Green Bay and New Orleans.
Nothing has changed from last season as he still cannot be “Captain Comeback.” He fumbled away the game against Atlanta, and he failed to gain the one yard needed to obtain the go-ahead score against Seattle.
Delhomme wasn’t flashy, but he won in the fourth quarter. This is only Newton’s second season, but the fire that Delhomme had is not something that can be taught.
Bryan Strickland of Panthers.com wrote that Newton knows that "it's easy for a leader to stand out when you're 4-1, but it takes a courageous leader to stand up and still lead the troops to victory when you're 1-4. You have to look yourself in the mirror and find out who you are.”
Newton needs to be Newton, but if he can become the leader Delhomme was, Carolina will be in good hands.