BACK in 2015 Cam Newton was the toast of the NFL, steering the Panthers to a 15-1 record and a SuperBowl berth. An MVP that year, Newton had easily his best season of his career posting 35 touchdowns in the air and added 10 via the ground. Last season, however, things were quite the opposite. Newton struggled mightily with his worst pro season in year six as the Panthers slumped to 6-10 record. With offseason surgery behind him and the Panthers adding support and other offensive weapons, Newton enters the most important training camp of his life.
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SINCE bursting onto the scene for the Carolina Panthers in 2011 Newton has shown that he could potentially finish his career as a Hall of Famer. The former No. 1 draft pick out of Auburn made a Pro-Bowl calibre introduction to the big time and has turned in yo-yo seasons ever since. Obviously, his MVP campaign in 2015 resulted in career highs in most categories and season 2016 resulted in career lows. The failures from last season weren’t entirely Newton’s fault though, as he constantly found himself on the receiving end of quarterback hits. In fact, since Newton came into the league in 2011 he leads the league in quarterback hits which lead to him suffering multiple injuries, including a concussion last season that forced him to miss a Week 5 matchup with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It wasn’t the only hard hit Newton took last year, with many ‘questionable’ tackles leading to him discussing the issue with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
CAROLINA has made an added emphasis this season to give Cam more protection and more targets on offense. The Panthers overpaid Matt Kalil with a 5yr/$55mil contract and used their first two selections in the draft on a versatile playmaking running back in Christian McCaffrey and a slot receiver Curtis Samuel. For the last few years Carolina has relied upon Cam to be their main playmaking source and while the dual threat QB can still definitely add another string to their bow, giving him better players he can rely on and more time to make decisions will only benefit the 7th year pro. Newton is also visibly lighter and leaner heading into training camp. Weighing at 245 pounds in the past he was one of the biggest play callers, not only in weight but in height checking in at 6 ft 5 in. If Newton can shed some a few of those extra pounds, it will only add to his potential as a more agile runner and weapon on the ground for the Panthers.
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TAKING the beating that Newton has no doubt had a negative impact on his confidence and would be playing in the back of his mind every time he takes a snap. He hasn’t been the same ever since the Panthers SuperBowl loss to the Broncos in 2015 and Carolina fans will be hoping that he can once again return to the dynamic star we all know he can be. In the past, Newton’s lack of supporting cast has hampered his success to a certain extent. Yet, with a better group around him now, he knows that the Panthers have a chance to once again go on a deep postseason run. With Kalil protecting his blindside and a perhaps the best receiving core of his career the tools are now at Newton’s disposal to again be triumphant. Newton has acknowledged that he has talent around him, allowing him to take a step backwards and not be forced to shoulder as much of the load as he has had to in the past. The question is, can he make the most of that extra talent and adapt into the player the Panthers need him to be?
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IF he can get the ball out of his hands quicker clearly that will help the Panthers keep him upright and healthy. After seeing him throw last week during his annual pre-camp gathering, many people are confident of his possibility to star in 2017 but are still wary of the unknown. Cam has to take advantage of the added support he has now, there are no excuses left. His inconsistencies throughout his career should now be behind him after half a dozen seasons in the league and there is no longer a need for Newton to do everything in order for Carolina to be successful. With the defense ready to resume to their aggressive best it’s time for ‘SuperCam’ to do the same.
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