2017 Grade: .452

2017 3rd Down: .230

Week 1 at San Francisco: Cam Newton looked exactly like you’d expect a guy that threw just two pre-season passes, coming off shoulder surgery, to look. He was rusty, inaccurate and didn’t trust his eyes the way he normally does. The GIF below is as easy of a touchdown as a quarterback in the NFL will get. That’s why he gets a -3 (lowest score possible) for that egregious throw.

Week 2 vs. Buffalo: Newton was positively dazzling early in the game. Threading needles and picking up critical first downs on third down had pundits thinking the rust had been shaken – then the second half started. His accuracy issues popped up again as he missed some WIDE OPEN targets, most notably an easy touchdown that would’ve put the game away in the fourth. He’s showing signs of MVP Cam, but he’s far from that level right now.

Week 3 vs. New Orleans: Keeping Cam Newton healthy is clearly a priority for the Panthers, but hemming his game in isn’t doing anyone in that organization any favors. An offense that used to use his dynamic skillset to push the ball down the field and create designed runs for Newton is now a dink-and-dunk operation. That’s not Newton’s game, and he’s suffering as a result. His short area accuracy was a major problem in this game, and resulted in a few turnovers.

Week 4 at New England: As a passer, Cam Newton didn’t do anything special against the Patriots. But that’s a step up from where he has been the first three games of the season. Newton’s accuracy issues only showed up on one throw out of the 38 registered drop backs. He exposed the glaring holes and breakdowns in communication in the Patriots defense as the Panthers ran roughshod in Foxboro. Best of all, Vintage Cam showed up, as he ran the ball as effectively as he has since 2015. Panthers fans should be very encouraged with this performance.

Week 5 at Detroit: 2015 vintage Cam Newton is back – or close to it. This off-season, I wrote that Cam was the fourth best quarterback in football. Not that I’m neglecting some of the short area accuracy, because that’s still there, but the dynamic element to his game should not be overlooked. He’s back to being a short yardage conversion beast. He’s attacking down the field with tremendous touch, zip and accuracy. He’s playing with a confidence and rhythm that we didn’t see last year. Cam scored 11 points on 14 third down drop backs and had just three negatively graded plays of his 37 registered plays. The Panthers are a dangerous outfit, and they have their transcendent quarterback to thank.

Week 6 vs. Philadelphia: If you judge Cam Newton solely off his ability to win from the pocket, you’re being disingenuous to his skill set. All things considered, he played a good game on Thursday until the final two series. Two of the three interceptions were tipped passes (one was in the bread basket of Jonathan Stewart and dropped) and he made big plays throughout the course of the game. His accuracy issues arose at the end, but he still had the Panthers moving the ball all night.

2016: Transcendent Trigger-Man

Cam Newton is an enigma in every sense of the word. Search high and low for physical faults – you won’t find them. He’s a transcendent type-of-quarterback that is, far and away the most unique signal-caller in the game today, possibly ever.

Impeding Newton is anything but the attributes apparent to the eye, but rather his general demeanor and attitude. Now I won’t pretend to know Newton on a personal level and what he’s like off the field, but as the old saying goes, ‘where there’s smoke, there’s fire,’ and when it comes to Newton’s body language on the sidelines and at the podium, the fire is roaring.

The quarterback known as Superman played spectacular again in 2016 up until the end of the season. My theory is that his play tapered off when the Panthers’ games became, for the lack of a better word, meaningless. After the team dumped a game in Oakland dropping its record to 4-7, Newton posted his four worst grades of the season during the following month.

With an NCAA national title and three consecutive NFC South titles in his hands, Newton has rarely had to deal with adversity in his football career and that’s probably because he’s such a special player.

Everything you want a quarterback to do, Newton does it. He can beat defenses from the pocket dropping passes under the safety and over the linebacker. He can drill balls to the sideline, inside the numbers and he can pinpoint a deep ball as well as anyone.

The wildcat is a fad that has come and gone in the NFL – except for in Carolina. The Panthers direct-snap the ball to a quarterback as their wildcat trigger-man who also happens to moonlight as a read-option specialist. He’s a bruising runner that can escape immediate pocket-pressure and beat teams with his legs or throwing on the move.

Beyond the running-scheme, Carolina’s passing scheme is complex with timing-patterns working off combinations and asking Newton to squeeze the ball into tight-windows. The downfield shot-plays are typically built-in from heavy-formations or tight-splits utilizing Newton’s unique-ability to break the pocket or use play-pass.

Newton could clean up some of his mechanics as he has a habit of not stepping into his throw causing some of his passes to sail. Regardless, his accuracy and zip are among the best in the league.

Cam needs all these traits as the Panthers primary wide-receivers and offensive-line were atrocious in 2016. The right-side of the line was a tire-fire and the next time either of the two between Kelvin Benjamin and Devin Funchess create separation will be the first time.

Newton’s game hinges on confidence and rhythm and the poor-play of his teammates around him, along with some inexcusable officiating on illegal hits to the supremely-talented quarterback, shook that confidence a bit.

There is no doubt in my mind that Newton will be back to dominating and dabbing in 2017.

Stat Sheet

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