Cam Newton's Phoenix Phase: The Rise From Mediocrity
He's Superman but without the proverbial cape.
Expectations were of astronomical proportions, being drafted No 1 by the Carolina Panthers in 2011. At 6-5 and 245, Cam Newton's stature was intimidating with a skill set to match.
Newton exploded on the scene and took the NFL by storm. During his inaugural season, Newton accounted for 35 touchdowns and passed for over 4,000 yards. Although there is usually a major learning curve for rookie quarterbacks, Newton seemed to slide right into the starting role and find immediate success. He was the AP Offensive Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year, and earned a Pro Bowl nod.
It was almost too much, too soon.
Fast forward to Newton's dreadful second season as the Panthers' starting quarterback. Although Newton improved in some significant passing areas, many NFL analysts considered this a sophomore slump. After every Carolina loss, Newton looked disengaged and at a loss for what took place. He led the Panthers to a 7-9 season after many thought that Carolina would be more of a threat after Newton's initial rookie success. You could tell something was wrong by listening to and watching the post-game interviews. Newton's personality and leadership was questioned. His smile became more infrequent. It was almost as if he was going through seasonal depression.
Superman turned mortal, and we began to see a different side of Newton in 2012. He was at a loss for words when explaining losses. His play, at times, reflected his demeanor. Although his interception total was down from the previous year, he was more careless handling the ball. He simply wasn't the Cam Newton to which the world had grown accustomed.
And then came the turnaround
Towards the latter part of last season, we saw Newton become more efficient and more engaged. His play ultimately propelled the team to make a late-season rally which fell just short of a playoff berth.
Momentum carried throughout the offseason, and the Carolina Panthers are now sitting pretty at 7-3 and coming off two major wins over two SuperBowl contenders, the Niners and Patriots. Their defense is suffocating, which allows Newton to manage a more cautious offensive approach. Newton now doesn't feel like he has to do too much. The Panthers' defense and running game have relieved some of this enormous pressure he felt like he had to perpetually carry.
The load is now distributed more evenly, and it looks as though Newton is excelling with this better-defined role. Newton's quarterback rating is up, his management of the game is more profound, and his completion percentage is by far his best to date.
The Panthers are relevant again and are a wrecking ball waiting to smash their next opponent.
Carolina is positioned to do some damage in the playoffs, and with Newton reverting back to his charismatic and efficent ways, it's going to be a brave move to bet agains them.