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What Improvements Can Cam Newton Make to Take the Next Step?

Oct 21, 2012; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) tries to avoid the tackle by Dallas Cowboys outside linebacker Anthony Spencer (93) during the third quarter at Bank of America Stadium. The Cowboys defeated the Panthers 19-14. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-US PRESSWIRE
Jeremy Brevard-US PRESSWIRE
Lou RomContributor IOctober 22, 2012

Cam Newton’s sophomore slump continues as the Carolina Panthers (1-5) lost another close one Sunday, this time 19-14 to the Dallas Cowboys (3-3).

Newton was efficient, going 21-37 for 233 yards and one touchdown and an interception.

He had the game in his hands late in the fourth quarter.

This time, it appeared he got the job done when he threw a fourth-down strike to Greg Olson with 2:11 left to keep the drive alive, catching the Cowboys' defense napping.

But officials ruled the Cowboys had called timeout prior to the snap and on the next play a questionable non-call on pass interference led to a Panthers turnover on downs. Morris Claiborne crashed into Murphy before the ball arrived, but no flag was thrown.

At 1-5, the postseason is a near impossibility for Newton and the Panthers.

Newton's season thus far has been defined by a series of bad decisions and bad breaks.

Newton clearly has regressed this season. Though he's thrown for significant yardage, 1,387 through six games this season, he has one more interception than touchdowns and continues to struggle with his decision making.

But now, Newton's job with 10 games remaining on the schedule is to regain the form that made him the first rookie quarterback to throw for 4,000 yards and that earned him Offensive Rookie of the Year honors.

To do that he must tackle the following:

  • Use his height and his vision to make better decisions in the pocket by looking beyond his No. 1 receiver, Steve Smith, and spreading the ball around. (He's gotten better at this the last couple of weeks.)
  • Stop holding the ball when he should get rid of it; in particular, he seems to have forgotten how to simply throw the ball out of bounds when no one is open.
  • Stop rolling out of the pocket when it's unnecessary and the pocket is mostly intact. He still tends to abandon the pocket prematurely, especially on third down.
  • Relearn when to fight for extra yardage and when to protect the ball and slide. 

Of course, Newton can't do that on his own.

He needs his offensive line to protect him better than it has so far, and he needs his receivers to stop dropping passes. And he needs his offensive coordinator to take more chances, because despite all of the above, the current strategy clearly is not working.

Lou Rom, a veteran journalist with more than 17 years experience, covers the NFL, his hometown New York Giants and whatever else gets under his skin for Bleacher Report.

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