Cam Newton has officially finished the first half of his first season as a pro. There have been more ups than downs for the Carolina Panthers' quarterback, but despite the terrific stats for Newton, they haven't led to wins.
The Panthers are 2-6 and coming off of a heartbreaking loss to the Minnesota Vikings in which Olindo Mare missed a 31-yard field goal that would have tied the game. Newton was good again and completed a huge pass on 4th-and-14 to Brandon LaFell that kept Carolina's hopes of winning alive, but it wouldn't matter as Mare's kick sailed wide left.
And with the missed kick it concluded the first half of Newton's rookie season. Let's take a look at the Carolina quarterback and see how he has graded out through eight games.
Accuracy was one of the question marks many had about Newton during the pre—draft process, but he has shown that he can deliver throws on the money. What has been so impressive about the young quarterback is his ability to deliver the ball where only his receiver can catch it.
A great example would be against the Vikings when Newton took a shot deep to Steve Smith, and threw it to his back shoulder, which left the cornerback helpless.
He has also shown that he can deliver an accurate touch pass over a defender. There still is room for improvement, though.
Newton's completing 60.3 percent of his passes, which is good, yet that number needs to be bumped up a couple more percentage points.
Still, he has answered any questions about his accuracy through eight games.
By no means is Newton the perfect quarterback. He has his flaws and is still learning the NFL. But one of his most impressive traits is the poise he has shown under duress.
Known for his running ability in college, Newton has done more with his arm in the NFL than his legs. A large majority of that is due to the poise he has shown in the pocket.
Great quarterbacks can shake off a bad throw, an interception or a costly drop by a receiver. Newton may not be an elite level quarterback yet, but he has shown that when things go wrong he doesn't let it affect him the rest of the game.
This has been the most impressive part of his game early on.
Arm strength was never a question for Newton coming out of college. In the pros he has shown that he can deliver darts to receivers and fling the football a good length of the football field.
One of the most impressive throws that he has made in the NFL was against the Green Bay Packers. The pocket collapsed around him, he jumped up and flicked the ball down the field and hit Smith in stride. It's throws like those that show just how special the kid is.
In the preseason there were quite a few analysts who were critical of Newton's footwork, myself included, but the throws off the back foot and sloppy footwork have disappeared and have been replaced by a fine tuned machine.
When pressure forms around him he doesn't get happy feet. Instead he keeps his eyes down the field and steps up into the pocket like a veteran quarterback.
Too often do we see rookie quarterbacks feel the pressure and have their feet moving around a million miles an hour before they make a throw. Tim Tebow is a great example of a quarterback who has horrible footwork in the pocket.
Fortunately, for Newton, he has worked hard and been tutored by quarterbacks coach Mike Shula, who has done a fantastic job with him.
Hard not to love the enthusiasm Newton has for the game. He is a natural born leader and his teammates gravitate towards him. Not enough is made of the leadership qualities that Newton brings to the table.
Everyone wants to comment on the impressive stats, but what's going unnoticed is how his teammates have responded to him. This is a guy that came in without any OTAs or minicamps and managed to win the team over from the start of training camp.
It's hard to say if there is a player in the NFL who takes losing as hard as Newton does at this time. He broods over losses and is dejected, although it's not to the point where it affects the team.
Bottom line: Newton can do it all. Whether that be run it in from the goal line, scramble for a touchdown, throw for a touchdown or get out and block. He's the ultimate package and he's only a rookie. Once the Panthers add a few more pieces this is a team that will be frequently be playing when the playoffs roll around. Final grade: A
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