In 2015, Cam Newton was NFL MVP. He completed 59.8 percent of his passes, threw for 3,800+ yards, ran for 600+ yards, and accounted for 45 touchdowns (35 passing, 10 rushing) to just 10 interceptions. He also led the Carolina Panthers to the Super Bowl.
It’s been downhill ever since.
In 18 regular-season games since the start of the 2016 season, Newton has completed 54.1 percent of his passes for 27 touchdowns (21 passing, six rushing) and 18 interceptions.
In short, he went from averaging 2.8 touchdowns and 0.6 interceptions per game to averaging 1.5 touchdowns and 1.0 interception per game.
Why has he struggled so mightily since the Super Bowl?
“I think it’s because you’re asking Cam Newton to play more of a traditional quarterbacking role and more of a pocket-passing type of role – and that has not been where he’s been successful,” NFL analyst Mark Schlereth said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “He’s been below average from a completion-percentage standpoint from the pocket. He’s got a big arm, he can spin it, but he misses too many receivers, wide-open receivers. He lacks some timing and some accuracy from that standpoint.”
Indeed, Newton completed a career-low 52.9 percent of his passes last season.
“When he had his MVP season, there was probably about, on average, eight designed runs a game for Cam Newton,” Schlereth said. “On top of that, there was another four or five scrambles that you had to account for. So (there were) 12 to 13 rushing plays per game, on average, for Cam Newton.”
Here are the numbers: Newton had a career-high 132 carries (8.3 per game) in 2015 but has 104 in the 18 games since (5.8 per game).
The decrease in carries likely needed to happen.
“That’s an unsustainable form of offense,” Schlereth said. “In the NFL, I don’t care if you’re 6-5, 255. You can’t sustain that style of offense without being injured, without putting yourself in harm’s way. So they have pared that back. They have tried to create an offense where he’s more of a pocket passer, and that’s not his forte. He’s still learning that aspect of the game. So to me, it really has to do with what his skill set is – and it hasn’t been a traditional drop-back quarterback. He’s trying to learn that aspect of the game.”
He’ll continue learning it this Sunday, when the Panthers (2-1) play the Patriots (2-1) in Foxborough. Kickoff is at 1 p.m. ET.