It’s not that it’s entirely impossible to predict Cam Newton. He was the top pick in the 2011 draft class. He has great size for the position, he’s incredibly athletic, and he has the arm to move the ball through the air and the legs to take over a game if need be.
However, look back to 2015 when he was coming off a career-low 3,127 passing yards and only 18 touchdown passes, but he also had 12 interceptions with nine fumbles (five of which were lost). To add insult to injury, Newton and the Panthers lost their star wide receiver, Kelvin Benjamin, early on in training camp with a torn ACL. Out of the gate, 2015 seemed like it was destined for failure for Carolina. The Panthers didn’t appear to have any offensive weapons and Newton’s numbers had gradually been decreasing from his amazing rookie campaign and they were without a key piece of their offense for the whole year. What happened that season? The Panthers made the super bowl on the backs of Newton’s MVP season and one of the best defenses in the league.
In 2016 expectations were high. Benjamin was coming back from injury and the offense was expected to be a powerhouse with Cam Newton finding his stride the year earlier. There were expectations that this team could make another deep playoff run. The Panthers finished 15th in points per game (23.1) and 19th in passing yards per game (343.7). Not to mention the defense that allowed an average of 19.3 points per game in 2016 suffered some personnel turnover (most notably Josh Norman’s departure) and allowed 25.1 points per game in 2016.
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Newton did see a huge drop off from his MVP run in 2015. The offensive line didn’t hold up as well as it did in 2015. He failed to rush for over 500 rushing yards in a season for the first time in his career last season. Not only that, but his 359 rushing yards in 2016 was 180 yards worse than his second-lowest rushing total. But it wasn’t just on the ground that he suffered. The passing yards were down, but the biggest dropoff was in the touchdown department. He threw for 35 in 2015, and managed to only throw for 19 last season.
So what could possibly be in store for 2017? With the first three picks in April’s draft the Panthers invested in their offense. They drafted one of the most versatile offensive weapons by taking Christian McCaffrey eighth overall. Carolina’s never had a player like this before. McCaffrey can line up in the backfield and also in the slot. He’s quick and has great hands. Unfortunately he can’t join the team until Stanford’s academic year ends. With the second-round pick they took Curtis Samuel, a wide receiver out of Ohio State. He’s a shorter receiver who can also play in the slot like McCaffrey. Samuel’s speed is undeniable as he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.31 seconds. With their third-round pick the Panthers took Taylor Moton to improve the offensive line. The Panthers also locked up running backs Jonathan Stewart and Fozzy Whittaker to provide backfield depth, but when you draft a player like Christian McCaffrey eighth overall you expect him to be your everyday starter right away.
Newton is a strong candidate for a bounce back season. The organization is motivated after seeing the division rival Atlanta Falcons lay claim to the NFC last season. With the exciting additions to the offense Newton could settle back into being one of the elite quarterbacks in the league. He has only thrown for over 4,000 yards once in his career, but he could easily top that mark this season with how much attention the organization gave to that side of the ball. There’s nothing wrong with playing with a chip on your shoulder as Newton and the Panthers offense have a lot of doubters to prove wrong this season.