When a young quarterback throws for more than 7,000 yards in his first two professional seasons, it seems unnecessary to peg him as a player who could have a breakout season in his third year. However, despite the records and accolades he established though 32 games, there is a lot of work to be done.
He followed up a remarkable rookie campaign with a comparable sophomore season. While there was a drop in his passing yards (4,051 in 2011; 3,869 in 2012), he did reduce his number of interceptions thrown by five. The most glaring stat was his inability to improve upon his touchdowns thrown, as he threw 19 compared to the 21 he had in 2011.
Still, it was a decent season all around and the Panthers did improve by one game.
Entering the 2013 season, Newton will need to do more than just put up big numbers. He will need to find the maturity to be a leader of the team. His antics during blowout losses or postgame press conferences reflected his immaturity and showed he wasn't ready to lead.
If he can show the kind of heart and leadership he did in last year's finale at New Orleans, not only will he have a breakout year but he could sneak the Panthers into the postseason. Newton will work with a slightly different game plan as Mike Shula takes over as offensive coordinator, but if the talented quarterback can make better decisions and not force anything, he should be able to see improvements in passing yards and passing touchdowns.
If the offensive line stays healthy and gives him time in the pocket, that will help his cause, too. If the running game is improved and takes the focus off Newton, he should be able to have a memorable third season.