Analysis of Cam Newton's Game Tape

Ronald Martinez

I've been analyzing the game tape of young QBs this year in a post series titled QB Corner (#QBCorner). Cam was one of the first I looked at, and as luck would have it, the game I picked was the regular season win over the 49ers. I saw a lot to like in that game, including a fantastic arm. He did need to work on his footwork and pocket awareness, but playing a great defense with a subpar group of skill players, he did as well as can be expected.

A few weeks later, I took another look at him, this time using tape from the Week 16 win over New Orleans that really gave the Cats this opportunity to host a playoff game. He definitely improved his footwork and mechanics in that game, including several amazing passes on the last drive as the pocket collapsed around him. Granted it's a small sample size, but a few of Cam's weaknesses appear to be:

  1. Ball security. Cam's athleticism has saved the Panthers time and time again as he takes off for big runs on broken plays. But to get out of the pocket, he often waves the ball around. Going up against a 49ers rush that includes Aldon Smith, Justin Smith, and Ahmad Brooks, Cam has to be stronger with the ball.
  2. Navigating the pocket. Again, the athleticism is great, but Cam needs to realize he can't run from trouble all the time. Sometimes it's okay to check down or throw the ball away and live to play another down. He was sacked on 8.3% of dropbacks this year, which is not only a high for him, but is also borderline disastrous.
  3. Pre-snap identification of rushers. We seem to have a theme (dealing with pressure).
  4. Posture. Sometimes Cam can get really loose in the pocket which makes it harder to get the ball out quickly.

Some of his strengths, including things he's gotten better at this year:

  1. Footwork and throwing mechanics. His mechanics were noticeably improved in the Saints game. His passes on that last drive were beautiful and showed good ability to move his feet to face secondary receivers when the primary reads weren't there. He also did a better job of trusting his line and not panicking with his feet.
  2. Arm talent. On the TD throw to beat the Saints, the blitzing DB off the edge came free and disrupted Cam's footwork. No matter. He has the ability to throw darts even when his footwork isn't perfect, though of course, correct footwork makes him much more consistent.
  3. Reads. Cam generally stays away from trouble. His interception rate of 2.7% isn't elite (generally under 2.0% is great), but he doesn't make a lot of dumb decisions. Two games is a small sample though.
  4. Keeping his eyes downfield. A lot of QBs freeze up when they're on the run, either looking at only the rush or locking on to a receiver. Cam does a good job stringing out plays and hitting guys on the run.

Check out the game tape analysis of the 49ers game and the Saints game for a pass-by-pass analysis. Cam has shown real growth this year as a player and leader. The offense around him has a lot of holes: pass protection, receiver drops, and running back ineptitude have all been issues this year, but the team has overcome all of that with a supremely talented defense and a solid season from Cam. If Steve Smith is anywhere near healthy, this team can play with anybody.

#YouMakeTheCalls #YMTC #QBCorner

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