Cam Newton has faced much criticism this year because of his confident attitude and creative antics on the field. He recently signed a huge contract extension that made him one of the highest paid quarterbacks in the NFL. Deserved or not deserved was the question that made its way around the NFL and the sports world. We live in a world where we hate other people’s success and hope for their failure. This is evident in every sport and even stretches as far as Hollywood. So it shouldn’t come to anyone as a surprise for all the hate.
Last season, Carolina’s Cam Newton ranked just inside the top 10 of Pro Football Focus’s cumulative quarterback grades. Obviously he landed there in large part due to his rushing ability and ranked just No. 14 if you focused only on his passing performance alone. This season is a completely different story. He ranks No. 3 overall and for the first time in his career earned a higher grade as a passer than he did as a runner. He worked on his efficiency and accuracy harder than any other player in the league. He was always the guy who needed to put everything together to achieve his ultimate performance. This is something he worked tirelessly on and now it seems like it paid off.
The question remains, how did he go from the cusp of the Top 10 to one of the best in the NFL? He has always been criticized for his sketchy audible calls and inability to read a defense. Reading the eyes of the defense may be one of the hardest things to master as a QB. Newton appears to have the right diagnosis to extend the defense on every drive. Last season, Newton produced a QB rating of 81.3 against the blitz and recorded an 8-6 TD-INT ratio. This year his QB rating versus the blitz has been an outstanding 118.7, while throwing for 21 touchdowns and just three interceptions.
This isn’t the only part of Newton’s game that has been overly criticized. One of the knocks on him throughout his career has been that he isn’t a pinpoint passer. Last year his completion percentage was 59-percent and this year he only rose to 61 percent. However, he has been more accurate on throws that travel 20 or more yards in the air to the tune of 48 percent. That ranks fourth in the NFL, and is a huge improvement over last year, when he was accurate on 32 percent of deep throws, which ranked fourth-lowest. Just another way he has grown as a passer.
Along with all these passing accomplishments, I would being doing him a disservice if I didn’t mention his running ability that for my money is tops in the NFL. Newton is having one of his best seasons ever running the ball. He leads all QBs in rushing grade this season, posting the second-highest mark of his career. He’s forced 10 missed tackles this season and continues to make linebackers look silly in their pursuit of bringing him down. Newton’s running ability makes him the most unique quarterback in the NFL, but it’s the improvement as a passer that has transformed him into one of the league’s top few quarterbacks.
The Denver Broncos defense has been one of the top units in the league and is anchored by defensive mastermind Wade Phillips. Phillips has had stints all over the NFL has a Head Coach and a defensive coordinator. He is known for his attacking style and unique schemes that leave the opposing Quarterback searching for answers. As if we didn’t need enough evidence, Tom Brady is still dusting himself off from the beating he took at the hands of Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware. Brady was held to an 18.1 QB rating in the first half and was knocked down a record 20 times. We all know how Tom Terrific doesn’t like to be hit or knocked down in a normal game, let alone in the AFC Championship game. I’m guessing the Rolex watches won’t be appearing on his offensive line’s wrist this year.
The Broncos will certainly give Superman Cam a test like no other. He has been playing on a level no one could have ever imagined. It is a testament to the coaches and his dedication to the game he loves. We’ll see if those improvements are enough to get him a Super Bowl win Feb. 7 against the best defense in the NFL.
Tony Cutillo (@TCutillo23)
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