Cam Newton is a phenomenal physical talent. Someone his size – 6’5”, 245 LBS – shouldn’t be able to move like he does. He has an absolute cannon for an arm. He’s a physical freak. But the NFL has seen its fair share of physical freaks during its lifetime, and not all of them have panned out.
Newton is frustrating to watch on film. Occasionally he’ll stand firm in the pocket and deliver the ball downfield in rhythm. Sometimes, he’ll complete amazing passes that you couldn’t imagine any other quarterback making.
Other times, he misses open throws. Throws that should be completed 9 times out of 10 at the NFL level. His accuracy is erratic, and he’s often late with the ball because he doesn’t recognize coverage as quickly as he needs to.
Last Sunday against the Falcons, Newton threw 2 interceptions that a 3rd-year quarterback simply shouldn’t. On the first, he failed to recognize quarters coverage to the side of a post route. The safety to that side sat low, leaving the middle of the field wide open to the post. Newton initially looked to the other side of the field where the defense was playing cover-2, a look that made the route combination to that side a non-option. He moved backwards, finally seeing the post, but he was too late. He threw the ball deep, underthrowing it despite his strong arm, allowing the cornerback chasing the post to catch up and pick off the pass.
The 2nd interception came at the end of the first half. Steve Smith ran a stutter-go route vs a soft corner. The corner did not bite and was several yards on top of Smith. This should have signaled to Newton that the route was dead, or at very least, that the ball should go to Smith’s back shoulder on a go-stop route. Instead he threw it over top, just as Smith was gearing down. The result was an unimpeded interception in the back of the end zone.
Newton has tons of physical talent, but he has a long way to go as a passer. Defenses are still more afraid of his legs than his arm, and they’ll continue to try and force him to win through the air. If Cam can’t become a more precise passer from inside the pocket, his career will continue to be mired with streaks and inconsistency.