It’s Cam’s world, we’re just living in it.
Cam Newton is performing at a higher level and having more fun than any other athlete in the world right now (sorry Steph). The jaw-dropping talent that made him the #1 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft has been on display all season. With help from a stout defense, Cam has led the Carolina Panthers to a 17-1 record and a Super Bowl showdown with the Denver Broncos.
If the Panthers defeat the Broncos on Sunday, Newton will become only the second player ever to win the Heisman Trophy, National Championship, NFL MVP (he’s the hands down favorite this year), and Super Bowl. The only other player to accomplish this is Hall of Fame running back Marcus Allen. Just for kicks, Cam also won the Junior College National Championship.
While Newton’s on-field performance this season has been nothing short of incredible, he’s been the target of endless scrutiny through all forms of media. Enough is enough. Love him or hate him, its time to pay homage to the dominance of the Carolina Panthers’ signal caller.
Cam Newton was virtually unstoppable in 2015. The stress that his dual-threat skill set puts on opposing defenses is immeasurable. From his deep ball accuracy to his short yardage rushing proficiency, Cam can truly do it all.
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Newton’s regular season completion percentage (59.8%) was fairly mediocre (29th among qualified passers), but this number belies his true value. A better measure of his success as a passer this season is his yards per attempt (7.75), good for 7th in the league. Newton missed a lot of throws, but when he hit, he hit big (just ask Ted Ginn).
Newton is certainly no slouch as a passer, but his running ability is what makes him special. He finished 9th in the league in yards per carry (4.8) and rushed for 10 touchdowns.
His 10 rushing touchdowns were good for 2nd in the league, behind four players tied with 11. All four players ahead of Newton were running backs, and each player needed at least 200 carries to reach 11 touchdowns. Cam needed only 132 to reach 10.
According to pro-football-reference.com, Newton was almost twice as efficient at scoring from inside the five yard line as the rest of the league in 2015.
Cam’s combination of size (6‘5 - 250 lbs) and speed (4.59 second 40 yard dash) is truly unprecedented. In a sport where physical ability is king, he is the cream of the crop at the game’s most important position.
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Newton recently said that people have no one to compare him to. He’s right. The NFL has never seen a quarterback like him. Below are Newton’s combine measurements compared to the fastest quarterbacks in the NFL today.
Cam doesn’t have elite top end speed, but his weight makes him a deadly weapon in short yardage. In a wildcat formation (no running back), Carolina has the luxury of running a 250-lb battering ram behind a line with an extra blocker. Combine his density with his massive (9.875 inch) hands that he so often stretches over the goal-line, it’s no coincidence that Cam is unstoppable inside the five-yard-line.
Newton’s rushing prowess, which may be the most dominant individual trait in the NFL today, may ultimately be his downfall. Every time he leaves the pocket he puts himself at an increased risk for injury. Cam was able to avoid serious injury through the first 18 games of this season, and was at or very close to 100% healthy for the entire season.
This phenomena is not simply luck, as Newton’s hulking frame makes him less susceptible to injury than any other running quarterback in NFL history. However, expecting Newton to maintain a clean bill of health forever would be optimistic, to put it lightly.
All three of the quarterbacks listed previously in comparison to Newton have had injury issues. Robert Griffin has sustained two torn ACLs, and both Marcus Mariota and Tyrod Taylor suffered sprained MCLs in 2015.
Even if it doesn’t take him out of the game completely, any injury that limits Newton’s ability to run the football will dramatically curb his effectiveness. Once defensive coordinators realize Cam is banged up, they can devote more resources to defending his teammates. Newton’s legs were able to hide the weaknesses of the Panthers’ offensive skill players in 2015. If he can’t run the ball as effectively, those weaknesses would be exposed.
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Its no secret that running quarterbacks don’t last as long as pocket passers do. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that Newton can develop into a solid pocket passer, but that revised version of Newton will pale in comparison to what we’ve seen from him this season.
His style of play, as lethal and fun to watch as it may be, is not as sustainable as is traditional pocket passing. Newton may remain a great NFL player for some time, but eventually he will have to adapt to maintain his status among the best players in the league.
Even if the Panthers ultimately fall to the Broncos on Sunday, that doesn’t change the fact that Cam was far and away the most valuable player in the NFL this season. No matter which team you’re rooting for, take a moment to appreciate Cam at his peak. It won’t last forever.
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