Originally posted on Cippin on Sports  |  Last updated 8/30/12

After the Carolina Panthers made him their first overall pick for the 2011 NFL Draft, quarterback Cam Newton did his best to replicate his success of the 2010 season with the Auburn Tigers. Unfortunately, despite Newton’s outstanding performance, the Panthers struggled notably throughout the 2011 season and even this Rookie of the Year could not take the team to the Super Bowl. But Newton’s individual achievements during the 2011 season were indisputable. So much so, that Newton adversaries are questioning whether this record-holding superstar will actually be able to continue living up to last year’s standards and success on the football field or if he, like many others before him, will fall victim to what is known as the “sophomore slump”.

The infamous sophomore slump, evident in lowered performance following a year of high performance, has been a notable phenomenon in many rookies that surpass expectations in their first year. This was true for Cam Newton’s first year with the Carolina Panthers. Following his success at Auburn University and his win of the Heisman Trophy, Newton had one of the most impressive years in rookie quarterback history, accumulating 21 touchdown passes, 14 touchdown runs, and 706 yards rushing. While Newton may be able to replicate the yards rushed, scoring these same numbers of touchdowns again will be nearly impossible to pull off taking into account that other prominent rushing quarterbacks, such as Kordell Stewart, never achieved double digit rushing touchdowns more than once in their careers. Thus, from a purely statistical standpoint, it would be borderline miraculous for him to achieve similar or higher numbers this year.

Yet, Newton stresses repeatedly, that the word ‘slump’ is not in his vocabulary and promises to continue to impress the crowds with what have come to be known as Superman-type numbers. Rather than fearing a slump this upcoming season, the question should instead be rephrased as ‘What can be statistically expected of Cam Newton in his second NFL year?’

Of course, when considering the highlights and achievements of Newton’s last season, it may make sense to assume that this year’s numbers will be significantly lower. He holds the NFL record for the most passing yards by a rookie, a title he achieved when he passed for 4,051 yards, breaking Peyton Manning’s former record of 3,739 yards. Newton also attained the 2011 NFL record for the most rushing touchdowns by a quarterback, 14, in any single season. And these are only the numbers. In his first year playing for the Carolina Panthers, Newton was also named AP Offensive Rookie of the Year, Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Year, Sporting News Rookie of the Year, PFWA Offensive Rookie of the Year, and three-times awarded Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Week.

With such tremendous success in a single year, is it realistic to expect statistical outcomes that come anywhere close to or even top last year’s achievements? Speculations of factors that could impact his performance this season include the possibility of a negative impact caused by the addition of running back Mike Tolbert on Newton’s goal line carries. Another belief is that in his second season with the Panthers, defenses on opposing teams will be more likely to have figured out and anticipate Newton’s signature moves. Of course, when considering statistical probability of similar outcomes to last season, it is important to acknowledge that a regression toward the mean may be the most prominent inhibiting factor this year.

Nevertheless, according to his sources, Cam Newton is determined to not only disprove the common conception that rookies with a successful first year will generally experience a significant decline the following season. In the end, only his determination and unmatched skill set will determine whether Cam Newton can once again defy all odds and use his Superman moves to score record numbers this season.

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