Cam Newton's rookie season has been nothing short of spectacular. However, that does not mean he can be content with his body of work.
Newton has a lot to improve on—we all knew that coming out of college. He's already staked his claim as one of the top 10 to 15 quarterbacks in the NFL, so the fact that he has so much untapped potential is stunning.
It's hard to not get ahead of yourself when thinking about Newton's future, but you don't have to go back too far to find a quarterback who failed to improve in his sophomore season. St. Louis' Sam Bradford has seemingly taken a step backward following an impressive rookie season.
It remains important to temper expectations for the young gun, considering the unpredictability of NFL success.
Here's what Newton must improve on in the offseason to avoid a sophomore slump.
With a shortened offseason, Newton has relied mainly on his physical tools to carry him in his rookie season. In 2012, he'll have a full offseason to work with his team and come out with an improved ability to get the most out of the Panthers' offensive scheme.
Newton is the perfect quarterback for Carolina's vertically attacking offense, and he can become nearly unstoppable once he fully comprehends the offense. We know how well Tom Brady has perfected the New England offense over his career and the success that he has achieved.
Newton has a few weapons at his disposal, but he must learn how to get the ball to all of them when the time is right. He mustn't force the ball to Steve Smith or get his eyes locked onto any one receiver.
Peyton Manning is the prototype to follow here. His eyes are constantly moving and he gets the ball out of his hands quicker than any other quarterback in the league. If there is an open man, Manning will find him.
If Cam can develop that sense to feel the open target, he will be on his way towards becoming an elite player.
Newton brings to the table an unmatched ability to tuck and run the ball when a play breaks down. He glides through the open field, dodging linebackers and even defensive backs with ease.
Newton will learn to better utilize his running skills by watching film. He often forgets how athletic defensive players are, and instead of keeping his eyes down field, he'll attempt to run and often get corralled for a loss.
Cam could benefit from watching Michael Vick's film from the 2010 season. Vick was incredibly efficient on the ground and seemed to have a great sense of where and when to attack the defense with his legs.
Newton has great size and is one of the strongest quarterbacks I've ever seen play the game. He matches the size of many NFL defensive ends and linebackers, giving him the potential to become a great passer within the pocket.
Newton improved his tendency to take a hit in the pocket since coming out of college and steps into his throws with more confidence. However, he needs eyes in the back of his head, because as we saw in the game with Minnesota, any quarterback can be sacked and drop the ball when they don't step up in the pocket.
That's especially important when facing an elite rusher like Jared Allen.
Newton has delivered some jaw-dropping passes, but the timing routes that he has lacked to this point are equally impressive. He has the accuracy to put the ball where only the receiver can catch it, and it will make him a highly efficient passer if he can elevate that ability.