It’s taken more than two full seasons, but Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton is finally showing signs that he’s starting to grow up. After being the first overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, Newton has struggled to win games for his team, showed a profound lack of maturity, failed to display the leadership that the quarterback position requires, and excelled more in fantasy football than in actual football. However, after another slow start this season, Newton’s last three games suggest that something has finally clicked for Newton, meaning he could be on his way to becoming the quarterback the Panthers expected him to be when they drafted him number one overall.
Almost overnight, Newton has become a more patient quarterback, which is a great sign of maturity. He’s not forcing throws into bad spots and he’s not being too quick to pull the ball down and run. Instead, he’s relying on his arm and making good reads, turning him into a much efficient quarterback. As a result, Newton is now able to run when he wants to, and not when he has to, which makes him a far more effective and dangerous runner.
The proof is in the numbers. In week 5 against Arizona, Newton threw three interceptions and completed just 21 of his 39 passes for a QBR of 5.7. It was one of the lowest points of Newton’s career, and after his inconsistencies during his first two seasons and Carolina’s lack of winning over that span, it wasn’t a stretch to think at that time that Newton could be a bust and that the Panthers should start looking at quarterbacks in next year’s draft. But somehow, Newton flipped a switch and has looked like a brand new quarterback the last three weeks. Over the last three games, Newton has completed 76% of his passes while throwing six touchdowns and no interceptions, a stark contrast to the six touchdowns and five interceptions he had over the first four games of the season.
Of course, Newton isn’t a completely changed man. He still does ridiculous Superman poses instead of heading back to the huddle, and he still resists being the leader on his team, but he has started to make progress in the leadership department. He’s also been a smarter and more mature player the last few weeks, and that has enabled his incredible skill set to shine through, making him look like the player we thought we’d see when he was first drafted, as he’s moved the ball down field with both his arm and his legs, with the Panthers averaging 32 points per game over the last three weeks.
It’s going to take more than wins against three subpar teams (to be kind) to draw any conclusions about Newton, but the last three weeks have been quite promising for him. The Panthers now have a winning record for the first time since Newton was drafted, and it’s because of Newton, not despite him. Newton has finally started to combine his unique physical skills with the mental makeup and maturity it takes to be an NFL quarterback, and if nothing else, it makes us wonder if he’s finally starting to grow up and become the quarterback we were promised when he was drafted.