Charlotte, NC. The rookie season that Cam Newton had in 2011 was quite possibly the best that any first year QB has ever had. The 2011 #1 overall pick burst onto the scene last September and never looked back. He stunned the NFL world with 2 straight 400 yard passing games….in his first two NFL games as a starting QB for the Carolina Panthers. The guy immediately showed ridiculous athleticism, and the kind of talent that earned him the Heisman Trophy in college. There appeared to be zero learning curve, as he took the league by storm with 21 passing TD’s and 14 rushing TD’s last year. It seemed as if most fans and critics were waiting for a fall-off, where he would show that his early season success was a bit of a fluke. It never really happened. The stats calmed down as the year went on, but every week he seemed to do things on that field that made your jaw drop. At times, he looked like a man among boys, and it was obvious he belonged in the NFL. The Carolina Panthers went just 6-10 last season, and showed they had plenty of holes on both sides of the ball. They did, however, win four of their last six, which gave their fans plenty of optimism for 2012. We all know the NFL is a topsy-turvy league, where teams can go from the outhouse to the penthouse very quickly. With a professional year under his belt, and a team that is hungry, Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers will be the NFL’s breakout team in 2012.
Sophomore slump? Plenty of athletes have gone through it, and plenty more will. Some are even predicting this sort of thing for Cam Newton. He had an amazing amount of success in 2011, and it would only make sense that he will come back down to earth, right? Well, for the guy who transforms from Clark Kent into Superman every time he scores, he has the look of a player who will only get better and better. Newton is a unique athletic freak. The things he can do on the field are very rare for any player, especially a quarterback. He has the size of a linebacker or defensive end, the speed of a wide receiver, and a rocket of an arm. His talent level is simply off the charts, and the sky is the limit as to what he can accomplish over the next decade or so. But aside from Newton, the Panthers have some nice pieces around him. The two-headed monster in the backfield is back, as DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart return. They added FB Mike Tolbert from San Diego, who has shown he can do some damage either carrying the rock or acting as a lead blocker. Steve Smith is still plenty fast, as his rapport with Cam last year was outstanding. Smith had a huge year in 2011, and 2012 should be the same. The defense looks to be solid, with Jon Beason leading the crew. Defensive end Charles Johnson will continue to give the line a pass rush, and rookie LB Luke Kuechly appears to already be a tackling machine, just like he was in college. Chris Gamble will anchor the DB’s, as they must improve from last year. The Panthers defense ranked 24th against the pass and 25th against the run in 2011. If they can move up the ranks into the middle of the pack in 2012, that should be good enough for this team to win several more games.
The NFC South is one of the toughest divisions in the NFL. New Orleans and Atlanta are the favorites, and Tampa Bay is rebuilding, yet dangerous. This division is in a bit of flux as well, as the Saints are dealing with a ton of turmoil and question marks. The Falcons have the pressure of winning a lot in the regular season, but coming up empty in the playoffs. The Bucs still have too many holes to be considered a legit contender. The Carolina Panthers are in a great position heading into this season. They don’t have a ton of expectations just yet, but have the talent to get it done. Every year there are a few teams who surprise just about everyone, and explode onto the scene. 2012 will be Carolina’s year, as they will be one of those teams and win the NFC South.
Denver Sports by J Simp
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