Last summer I was lying supine in the backyard of a friend's home when my attention was unexpectedly overtaken by some golden leaves atop a nearby tree. It wasn't long before the tree which produced those very same leaves became the object of my burgeoning fascination. This towering figure had me momentarily mesmerized while I watched its smaller limbs smoothly swaying in the breeze like the subtle movements of a world class ballerina. When I finally came out of my catatonia, I began to notice something peculiar that had been obvious all along.
In all its lofty grandiosity, the tree was situated within a foot of the house, which presented both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, the shade it generously provided was a means of protection from the scorching Texas sun. On the other hand, wind and lightning from a violent summer thunderstorm would always be a threat to rip asunder the tree's massive limbs, leaving the home below a sitting duck. Then it dawned on me.
The sight of this formidable tree hovering over my friend's home was reminiscent of another impressive specimen who was planted approximately two years ago in Bank of America Stadium. His name, of course, is Cam Newton, and the shade he has provided over the Carolina Panthers organization since then has been a breath of fresh air. But for all of his jaw-dropping, awe-inspiring abilities, one colossal weakness continues to betray his growth, and the subsequent development of this team.
In case you haven't been paying attention, the answer is INACCURACY.
On paper, Cam is surprisingly precise when attempting passes of twenty or more yards. So much so, that his 52% completion rate was good enough for second in all of the NFL last season. However, this high ranking can be a bit deceiving. Think about it. How many times can you remember seeing a twenty(or so) yard pass sail high above an open receiver over the middle? If you said too many times, you would be correct. Sadly, Cam is also good for at least one pass a game that falls short at the feet of an intended target.
I wish the critical analysis could stop here, but the inaccuracy issues extend to the short side of the passing game as well. In fact, Cam's relatively paltry 73% completion rate for passes in the 0-9 yard range in 2012 positioned him beyond the bottom of the league in 37th place. Yes, you read that right.
Unfortunately, this problem isn't just evident on paper. How often have you been watching a game when Cam unleashes a forty or fifty yard beauty with the graceful touch of a virtuoso violinist, only to throw an egregiously misplaced five yard screen pass in the very same offensive series?
When it comes to the subject of Cam Newton's inaccuracy, many of you may already be entrenched within one of two camps. One side automatically assumes that this glaring weakness is primarily a product of a poor offensive line, and the errant passes will disappear as soon as Gettleman prioritizes upgrading the front five. While the other side believes that Cam won't see much accuracy improvement even if he is afforded more time in the pocket. It's cliche', but the answer probably lies somewhere in between.
Much like the aforementioned tree, there is little doubt that Cam's limbs are strong and sturdy, but they often become unbalanced when the pressure builds from the mighty blitzing wind of a powerfully intense pass rush. Moreover, these mechanical malfunctions aren't just occurring within the pocket either. Even when he manages to find additional room to look down field after escaping the pressure of the pocket, he loses the fundamental nuances necessary to hit an open receiver, and the pass falls incomplete(see the closing seconds against Seattle last year).
Does Cam need at least a half second more to throw the ball? Of course he does. But I refuse to lay his inaccuracy solely at the feet of the Panthers' offensive line, below average or not.
Does Newton need more legitimate receiving weapons? Sure he does, but that would only be addressing a symptom rather than the root of the problem. Clearly, elite receivers can find separation more often than their lesser counterparts, but what good is being open if Cam cannot adequately hit them within their catch radius.
Moving forward, it is imperative for Cam to clean up his accuracy issues if he and the Carolina Panthers are to reap any present and future success together. Ultimately, if mere moments of brilliance are all this team and its fan base can expect from number one during the remainder of his rookie contract, then the debate about his willingness to remain a Carolina Panther might turn into a discussion about how many early draft picks we could acquire in return for his services.
This is certainly an extreme view, but we must remind ourselves that Cam Newton is still largely tied to Marty Hurney. How many losing seasons do you think it would take for Dave Gettleman to turn his attention from the misgivings of the coaching staff to the flaws of Superman? I won't even pretend that I can perfectly predict the outcome of these possibilities any more accurately than a wayward pass chucked by Cam himself, but it is certainly something to chew on if you can somehow stomach the thought.
In the meantime, sit back and enjoy the show because the shade sure feels nice this time of year.