CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 24: Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers scrambles against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Bank of America Stadium on December 24, 2011 in Charlotte, North Carolina (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
KC Joyner has another list to chew on, this one a top 10 of players under 25 to build around. It's a nice nebulous definition that allows him some latitude on subjectivity. Of course the Panthers Cam Newton is on the list, coming in at #3. To leave him off the list would have invalidated it by practically any NFL fan.
I've noticed a pattern though with how Joyner discusses Newton and his success as a rookie. He seems to think that somehow the lack of an offseason and time getting to know a new coach and offensive coordinator somehow benefited the defenses Newton played against:
Pros: Newton earned a Pro Bowl nomination in 2011 by becoming the first player in league history to pass for 4,000 yards and rush for 500 yards in a single season. His 14 rushing touchdowns were the second most in the NFL behind McCoy. Despite these achievements, Newton is fired up to move his game to the next level and prove his remaining doubters wrong.
Cons: How much of Newton's success last season can be attributed to the effects of the lockout? His passing numbers were great early in the year when defenses were hamstrung in terms of play calling -- he posted at least 374 passing yards in three of his first four games -- but fell off dramatically as the season progressed, as he tallied 208 or fewer passing yards in five of his final six games. Newton also had major issues in the bad decision rate department, as his 4.2 percent mark in that category was the fifth highest in the league. (BDR measures a quarterback's propensity for making mental errors that lead to turnover chances for the opponent.)
So were the defenses hamstrung because Newton had learned a fraction of the playbook? Were they instead hamstrung by his shaky passing mechanics? It boggles the mind to me to suggest that offenses were better prepared by a lack of OTAs than defenses. Every training camp you hear that early on the defense always looks better because the offense is still working on timing, playbook changes, etc...even if you have the same QB, HC and OC.
I think when Joyner says Newton is trying to satisfy his doubters he is referring to himself as one of his primary doubters. Now I agree Newton's stats did tail off as the season progressed but that also corresponds with an increase in wins and an increase in the running game, much by Newton himself. To just put up the passing numbers as evidence of a decrease in performance is dis ingenuousness as best.
I would postulate Newton got off to a hot start not because of some perceived advantage from a shortened offseason but because defenses game planned to stop the Panthers running game and thereby challenged Newton to beat them with his arm. It worked early on for the most part as far as wins versus losses but Newton piled up some big stats along the way and it got noticed.
Every QB in the league, including the rookies were given the same 'advantage' and Newton set records regardless. Only Andy Dalton came close to Newton in his stats among rookies. Newton finished 15th in QB rating (84.5) and 10th in passing yards (4,051). Why can't writers like Joyner just give the kid his due?