Cam Newton was regarded as one of the league's elite young quarterbacks after his rookie season, but through 12 games of his sophomore campaign, he is in danger of losing that distinction.
While Cam's second season does not compare to his first, he has not completely fallen apart. Newton has thrown for 2,933 yards and 14 touchdowns versus 11 interceptions while completing 57.5 percent of his passes.
While Newton has produced some decent numbers, his Total Quarterback Rating is a paltry 49.5. In his rookie season, Newton posted a Total Quarterback Rating of 55, so he has clearly regressed as a passer this season.
Newton's completion percentage and Total Quarterback Rating leave something to be desired, but Cam has the talent and time to make strides as a passer. Barring a much deeper regression, Newton will have all the time that he needs to develop into a seasoned NFL quarterback.
As he continues to compete against NFL defenses, Newton will become more efficient in finding the weak points in opposing defenses and will exploit them.
The other young signal-callers that are in the running for the distinction of best young quarterback are Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Andy Dalton.
Will Cam Newton ever lead the Carolina Panthers to the Super Bowl?
Luck and Griffin have not looked like rookies very often this season, as both have played like savvy veterans most weeks. Dalton has already led the Cincinnati Bengals to the playoffs once and has the team in contention to qualify for the postseason once again.
At the moment, Newton could conceivably rank behind each of those three players if NFL GMs had to rank them in order of desirability to lead their franchise. Newton is without a doubt a franchise quarterback, but he has to prove that he can be a winning franchise quarterback.
While Newton may not be the best player in that trio at this moment, he has the opportunity to be in the future if he improves his accuracy in the pocket. That isn't to say that Cam will ever be as comfortable as Luck in the pocket, but he can bring other forms of production to the table.
Newton is a once in a generation type athlete, as he has the speed and agility of a running back and the frame of a linebacker. At 6'5" and 245 pounds, Cam is less susceptible to injury than the 6'2" and 210 pound Griffin.
Cam has been durable during his first two seasons in the league, as he has not missed a single start. Newton is also set up to finish the season strong, as the Panthers are set to face off against the Oakland Raiders and New Orleans Saints in the final four weeks.
While this season has been disappointing for Newton thus far, he still has the opportunity to change the way this season is remembered in years to come. If Cam is able to continue to the high level of play that he has shown in the previous two games, then his yearly statistics could look pretty good.
NFL quarterbacks are judged upon the number of games that they win, which is something that Newton still needs to learn to do on the professional level. While many of the Panthers' late-game meltdowns occurred on the defensive end, Newton has struggled late in games against the Kansas City Chiefs and Chicago Bears.
When Cam takes care of the ball, his dual-threat ability makes him one of the most effective quarterbacks in the league. When it comes to making big plays, Newton has an advantage over the majority of the league's signal-callers due to his ability to make plays with his legs.
Offensive efficiency is at its utmost importance in the red zone, which is where Newton is most effective. According to TeamRankings.com, the Panthers are ranked fourth in the NFL in terms of red-zone touchdown scoring percentage and Newton deserves a substantial amount of credit for that.
The Panthers were vindicated when Newton posted his massive rookie season after being selected first in the 2011 draft but the criticism will return in earnest if SuperCam does not become a winning franchise quarterback.