Cam Newton realizing his potential

Cam Newton has responded well to aggressive play-calling and more trusted targets. Jeff Siner/Getty Images

To say Cam Newton has flourished over the Carolina Panthers' past four games isn't the whole truth. Yes, the 24-year-old quarterback has a 4-0 record with seven touchdown passes and a 72.3 completion percentage over that span, but he's been on the upswing since last season, not just during this recent winning stretch. And it's not the whole truth to pin the recent success on Newton alone. The Panthers are the NFL's only team to play zero games against opponents that had a winning record at kickoff. They have a formidable defense and running game. How much of this recent success should be credited to the QB?

To see a fuller picture, sometimes it helps to take a step backward. With assists from ESPN.com NFL scout Matt Williamson and former 16-year NFL safety Eugene Robinson, we tackle some intriguing questions as Newton, the No. 1 overall draft choice in 2011, passes the midpoint of his third season. Foremost: Is his recent success a mirage, or another step forward from the growth of 2012?