After a record-setting rookie season in 2011, Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton has regressed in his sophomore season and his team looks like a below-average squad.
Running the ball this season, Newton has had some success. The 6-foot-5 signal caller has carried the ball 51 times for 310 yards and three touchdowns, an average of 6.1 yards per carry. His per-carry average is trumped only by Robert Griffin III (among quarterbacks with a minimum of 20 carries).
While the former Auburn standout is enjoying a solid season on the ground, this quarterback hasn’t been able to throw the ball efficiently on the season. Newton is currently 121-of-212 (57.1 percent, 29th among NFL passers) for 1,701 yards, five touchdowns and eight interceptions.
Last season, Newton’s touchdown-to-interception ratio was 21-to-17, but many dismissed it as part of the learning curve for the young passer. Now, it seems as though turnovers are a huge issue for the former top draft pick.
The first of this quarterback’s problems is an inability to go through his basic reads and break off of his first look on a play. Coming out of college, this ineptitude was the biggest concern about Newton. The offense that Newton ran at Auburn was a constant stream of one-read-and-go plays.
On a given play, Newton would not have to read much past the defensive linemen. While this quarterback has the arm to make any throw, trouble making reads has plagued him in 2012.
At the midway point in the season, the Panthers are just 1-6. Newton’s bunch would need to finish 5-4 down the stretch just to match last year’s final record of 6-10.
As cliché as this may sound, the poor output is not all Newton’s fault. Per Pro Football Focus, the only Carolina offensive lineman with a positive grade on the season is left tackle Jordan Gross. The Panthers simply haven’t provided their quarterback with enough time in the pocket.
Newton has had trouble getting into any sort of rhythm this season and dropping the game in the final minutes against the Bears proves that the Panthers are not a mentally tough football team this season. Some of the blame has to fall on head coach Ron Rivera and his staff. General manager Marty Hurney has already gotten the axe and while it’d be silly to expect wholesale changes in Carolina, something needs to change.
Scheme-wise, the Panthers need to allow their offense to stay in a certain formation for drives at a time. Whether in some sort of heavy, under center set or a wide-open, shotgun look, Newton needs some consistency on offense and that starts with the playcalling. Too many times, when I watched film of Carolina, did the team elect to switch up formations every play instead of establishing a certain facet of the game (be it passing from the shotgun spread with efficiency or running the ball out of ‘jumbo’ sets at a solid clip) early on.
Look for Newton to figure out his struggles soon, considering all of his shortcomings, to date, are very coachable. At 1-6, the Panthers may need to chalk up 2012 to a rebuilding year and come into 2013 with a renewed sense of focus.