Even the most staunch Cam Newton supporter has to be asking himself at least a few questions right now. I would be lying to you if I said I have all the answers and know what the solution is. Dissecting a quarterback’s performance is one of the hardest things to do in all of sports, but clearly something is amiss whether its Cam’s fault or not.
Lets start with the ugly stats:
Cam Newton in last 16 games: 16 TD’s, 16 INT’s, 53.7%, 72.5 rating
In previous 16 games: 37 TD’s, 10 INT, 60%, 102.2 rating
Cam Newton’s last 16 games: 72.5 passer rating
Brock Osweiler (2016): 72.2 passer rating
I am not blind to the fact that Cam Newton played a good number of those games with a torn shoulder but the facts are the facts and that being said Cam Newton has been statistically below average since week 3 of last year. Here is anther fact, Cam Newton was the NFL MVP just two seasons ago. Let take a look at a recent list of NFL MVPs.
The worst player on that list is Rich Gannon and he was a 4x Pro Bowler who had a resurgence late in his career before catching the injury bug and retiring. The rest are almost all going to be fitted with a gold jacket over the next ten years. The point is the NFL MVP is not a fluke. How a quarterback goes from the most dominant player in the league(the players voted on this not me) to a below average quarterback in such a short amount of time is anyone’s guess but I am going to list a few potential reasons starting from least concerning to franchise altering.
All Panthers fans around the country are crossing fingers, toes, arms, and everything else they can cross hoping this is a simple case of not having enough practice time. There is a good chance this is the leader in the clubhouse for the cause of Cam’s early season struggles. All everyone wants to talk about is the preseason but forget that, this goes much deeper. Cam was laid up all summer without throwing a football. That means no time was spent developing timing with all the new toys that were added to the offense, no honing of the craft. If anything it’s like hitting a mini reset button when you go 6 months without throwing a football. I still think there is a large chance that this is the main culprit of the recent Cam we have seen. If we look up in 4 weeks and Cam is the steadying force he was 2 years ago we can call take a deep breathe and relax.
- Personnel Problems
Whether you want to start at the OL or the WRs you could make an argument that Cam has some deficiencies on his team that leave him hanging, albeit that argument holds slightly less water with the additions of Christian McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel. There are two areas of concern for me personally however, one being vertical speed down the field, and the other being the LT spot. First when I say vertical speed I mean a guy like Ted Ginn, a guy that can take the top off the defense (catching optional). When I see a guy like Curtis Samuel I see a guy who will be used more like Tavon Austin (horizontal routes, drags, screens) than as a true vertical threat. The second, and in my mind larger, concern is the play of the offensive line. It is interesting that this version of Cam coincides with the loss of Michael Oher after week 3 last year. When Oher went down Mike Remmers was forced to move to LT and the rest was history. Last years offensive line play has been documented so I won’t harp on it too much, but suffice it to say it was a problem. Matt Kalil was brought in to protect Cam’s blindside and has had two below average games thus far. Not lost on me also is the loss of his brother, Ryan Kalil, the Panthers pro bowl Center who has missed a chunk of the last 16 games as well, these guys need to be playing and playing well for Cam to regain his form.
- Transforming the Offense
This is code for keep Cam in the pocket and have him get the ball out quicker. I am 100 percent in favor of him getting the ball out quicker but taking away his legs I have a problem with. I understand its roots and acknowledge why it is important in a perfect world. You have a franchise guy at the most important position in sports and you are afraid of injuries shortening his career. The logical solution to this is to adapt your offense so that the QB does not take as many hits. But what if the trade-off is your top 5 QB becoming more like the 15th best QB? Do the positives outweigh the negatives here? I am not so sure. Check out this graph courtesy of Football Perspective that shows a rolling total of Cam Newton’s last 16 game rushing totals.
I am by no means a genius but look at the end of 2015 season and the current time and see if we can spot any differences. Cam’s rushing yards are half what there were in 2015, which was one of the most dominant stretches of QB play in recent memory. Whats not counted on this chart in 2015 are all the plays that worked because a defender was afraid Cam was going to take off and scramble for 10 yards that opened up a play though the air.
Google Cam Newton highlights and you will see all sort of plays but a large majority of those plays are either plays with his feet or plays created by his feet. Not using his athletic ability to terrorize defenses seems almost unfathomable. I hear you being worried about Cam’s health I really do but this isn’t Drew Brees or Tom Brady we are talking about, this is a 6′ 6″ 260 lbs guy who can be a transcendent player but only if you take him off his leash. I know I would rather have 8 years of “A+” Cam vs 10 years of “B-” Cam.
PS: all of Cam’s recent injuries came either in the pocket, chasing down an INT, or foolishly walking into the endzone and not seeing a LB hawking him down. None while scrambling/not being dumb
- Mounting Injuries
This is just worse case scenario. This only comes into play if we are having this same discussion in a year and a half or so. Lets combine this with the last reason listed. Maybe the offense is transforming because it has to. Maybe the ankle and shoulder injuries are starting to take their toll and this is a guy who just isn’t the same player who played two years ago. What if the shoulder injury forces a slight change in mechanics or the trust just isn’t there. Look I’m not a sports psychologist and I don’t think this is the case for 28 year old Cam Newton either. I have a hard time believing his best days are behind him.
I think the truth lies in some cocktail of not using his legs and being rusty. Hopefully we can look up in a few weeks and all laugh at this article but it doesn’t make the last 16 games any more funny.
Now lets all bask in some Cam Newton Highlights!!!
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