It wouldn’t come as a surprise if this has been an offseason of self-reflection for Cam Newton.
A year after dominating the NFL en route to MVP honors and a Super Bowl appearance (albeit one that ended in devastating fashion), the Panthers quarterback must look back on the most disappointing campaigns of his professional career.
Newton’s struggles in 2016 have been well-documented. He saw his completion percentage dip to a career-worst 52.9 percent and passing TDs fall from 35 to 19 as he took a weekly beating from opposing defenses overpowering a beleaguered offensive line.
Gone was his trademark smile. Instead were confessions that the game was becoming less fun amid a belief he wasn’t afforded the protection from suspect hits other marquee quarterbacks received. And then offseason shoulder surgery kept him from throwing in OTAs and minicamp.
With all of that in his rear view, however, Newton is refocusing on the one thing that eluded him back when he was on top of the NFL.
“I’m looking at my life right now and I’m saying, ‘I’m missing one thing: I want a Super Bowl,'” Newton told campers Saturday at his annual 7-on-7 passing tournament, per the Charlotte Observer. “Yeah, but it’s really certain things that you have to really fine-tune and say, ‘Am I deserving to be a Super Bowl-winning quarterback? How can I push myself to be a better me?'”
The Panthers believe they know how Newton can do just that.
Carolina coach Ron Rivera emphasized at the end of the 2016 season his offense needed to evolve away from the zone-read and find better ways to protect his franchise QB. The team’s offseason moves reinforce that philosophy. The Panthers invested in the offensive line by signing Matt Kalil to a $55 million deal in March (time will tell if this was wise) and drafting Taylor Moton in the second-round. More importantly, they diversified their skill positions with a pair of rookie dynamos in Christian McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel to rejuvenate their attack.
We’re a long way off from knowing if these moves will lead to the evolution Rivera seeks, but if Newton plans to be a better Cam in 2017, he has the tools at his disposal to do it.