It feels like yesterday when Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton was selected No. 1 overall in the 2011 NFL Draft, then took the league by storm.
Over the years, the 6-foot-5, 245-pound dual-threat has built a reputation of the NFL’s most celebrated game-changers, and his resume backs that up.
He’s a 2011 Rookie of The Year, a three-time Pro Bowler, a 2015 MVP, and a 2015 first-team All-Pro. Yet, despite that, skeptics remain.
However, he can change that by answering a few questions.
3. How is his shoulder?
A conversation about Newton in 2019 is rarely devoid of talk about his shoulder. Specifically, his throwing one.
He tore his rotator cuff in December of 2016, then had it repaired in the ensuring off-season. Though he didn’t miss a game in 2017, it was fairly obvious it affected him. Then, in 2018, the same shoulder started flaring up. He couldn’t push the ball over 20 yards.
The Panthers rested Newton for the last two games of 2018, and in January, he went under the knife again for a repair. Many hinted that the surgery might require a full season of football off. So far, he’s far ahead of the estimated healing time, and Carolina is prepared to start him week one. Nonetheless, it’s concerning.
SportsInjuryPredictor.com flares Newton at high risk of re-injury and gives him a 46.6% chance of injury in 2019.
2. Was last year’s hot start a fluke or a sign of what’s to come?
Though a former MVP, Newton has never been a particularly efficient quarterback.
The former Auburn War Eagle hasn’t thrown for less than double-digit interceptions or over 61.2% completion rate once in his career. But in 2018, that changed. The QB finished the season with a 67.9% completion rate, and though his interceptions prevailed, he had the second-highest passer rating for his career with 94.2.
Each of those stats is a marked improvement in years past, and they’d be better if his shoulder didn’t give out. In the first eighth of the season, Newton recorded a passer rating of over 100 five times. He tallied 19 total touchdowns to six total turnovers lost.
The Panthers went 6-2 during said stretch. Newton looked the part of an MVP candidate, but the shoulder injury halted those efforts.
Norv Turner, his offensive coordinator, stated multiple times he wants to improve Newton’s efficiency. The two did just that running a West Coast-inspired scheme. Now, we have to see that over a full season.
If so, Cam may be back in MVP talks — this is all before considering he’s one of the best running quarterbacks the NFL has ever seen.
1. Can he win a Super Bowl in Carolina?
Newton got there in 2015, and we know how that worked out. After three seasons of injuries, insufficient by his offense, and a spell of bad luck, the 30-year-old can take them back.
He is — without a doubt — the catalyst for success in Carolina, and his team is in win-now mode. Many have stated his Super Bowl window has closed — based on the NFL life span of dual-threat quarterbacks — but I disagree.
With shown improvement as an efficient passer, Newton may shift his game from backyard football to a running a calculated attack in Carolina.
Despite many saying the opposite, Cam is a cerebral quarterback that studies film like no other. If his shoulder is healed correctly, he has the arm, legs, and swagger to back up his brain.
At his peak, Newton is one of the NFL’s best and most unstoppable.
But, his all-time-great status won’t be confirmed until he has a big, diamond-encrusted ring on his finger.