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Despite a 2-6 record thus far, Carolina Panthers fans have to be looking at this season as a success for one main reason: the emergence of franchise quarterback Cam Newton, the No. 1 overall pick in this past year’s draft.
Newton is on pace for nearly 4,800 passing yards, a mark that would be by far a single-season rookie record. He already owns the rookie record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback (seven), having topped Vince Young’s total from the 2006 season just eight games into his career.
Newton has resurrected Steve Smith as a bona fide No. 1 receiver, and the duo of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart (plus Newton) has given the Panthers the NFL’s fifth-ranked rushing offense, but the problems arise in the sort of injuries.
Three-time Pro Bowl middle linebacker Jon Beason is gone for the season, as is starting right tackle Jeff Otah. The Panthers have a staggering 11 players already on IR, including four on the offensive line. Even so, the Panthers have managed to play every team tough this year, as five of their six losses have come by seven or fewer points.