The hype and expectations heading into the 2012 season were amazing after Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton took his own pen to the NFL record book during his rookie season. Since his sophomore campaign produced fewer passing yards, touchdowns, and a lower completion percentage, it’s safe to say confidence won’t be quite so high heading into 2013.
Carolina’s fanbase—and opposing NFL teams—should expect Newton to explode in 2013.
Looking at Newton’s entire season, either in 2011 or 2012, would be a mistake. Sure, there’s more data to look at and a much larger body of work. But looking at the full 16-game schedule masks the improvements Newton made in the second half of 2012. And those improvements were absolutely huge.
The game started to slow down for Newton in late November. The Charlotte Observer reported that after a season and a half of infrequent opportunities to call or change plays at the line of scrimmage, Newton was given the green light to read defenses and adjust if needed.
Former offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski also made it a point to pare down the play book for Newton. The Panthers tore out the superfluous plays that were bogging down the offense and went with what Newton had a complete grasp on.
The results were staggering.
After throwing 10 interceptions through the first nine games of the season, Newton threw just two in the final seven weeks of play. His quarterback rating and completion percentage spiked as well. But it was Newton’s ability to limit mistakes that shows growth is coming soon for Newton.
No one’s ever doubted that Newton can run and can throw. He’s arguably the best athlete on the field in every stadium he suits up. Newton’s playmaking ability is already legendary just two years into his professional career.
But the Panthers have a 13-19 record in the two years Newton has been showing the world he’s a top-notch athlete. Being able to throw the ball harder and farther and run faster than everyone else isn’t winning football games in Charlotte.
What’s winning for the Panthers is limiting mistakes.
Newton’s played in 11 games during his career where he did not turn the ball over. Carolina is 10-1 in those games. Compare that to Carolina’s 4-10 record when Newton throws for 300 or more yards or orchestrates three of more touchdowns in a game and you’ll see why the Panthers want mistake-free Newton, not Superman.
If you break down Newton’s two-year career into four halves, you’ll see amazing growth in his most recent set of eight games, the final portion of Carolina’s 2012 season.
In the first 24 games of Newton’s career, his touchdown to interception ratio never exceeded a quarter of a percent in either direction in any eight-game split. However, in the final eight games of 2012, Newton threw more than three times as many touchdowns as interceptions.
That’s amazing growth and reason enough to expect Newton to outperform anything he’s done with the Panthers since his arrival.
Expect 2013 to be a coming out party for Newton.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes and statements were obtained firsthand.