Things haven't gone exactly as planned for the Carolina Panthers this season. Cam Newton took the league by storm last year, throwing for 4,051 yards and 21 touchdowns, rushing for another 14 scores and finishing with a QBR of 55.04. Expectations for this year were through the roof. Experts were even calling for the Panthers to make the playoffs.
But people forget that Newton threw 17 interceptions his rookie year. He ranked a mediocre 18th in completion percentage. And even though Carolina went 6-10, the Panthers beat only one winning team (the Houston Texans with T.J. Yates starting) all last season.
So, before we ask what's wrong with Newton, let's remember that this isn't a good football team overall right now. The personnel problems are real, and there is a lot of money tied up in spots that aren't producing. Clearly, others have noticed this as the Panthers fired their GM this week. The Panthers are experiencing growing pains in the secondary, starting rookie Josh Norman (and it doesn't help that Chris Gamble was just put on IR). They aren't getting enough pressure on opposing quarterbacks. And they're tied for sixth-worst in the NFL with a minus-6 turnover differential.
As ESPN Stats & Info noted, no team that has started 1-5 has made the playoffs since the new format began in 1990 -- and right now no one is going to pick the Panthers to make the postseason. But there are certainly things that Newton and this offense can do to get better and win some more games this season.
Let's take a look at why Newton is struggling this year and how he and this offense can improve:
Opposing coaches had an offseason to prepare
As Robert Griffin III is experiencing right now, it's nice to come into the NFL when you're a dynamic quarterback and there's no tape on your weaknesses. But the true test is when the book is out and there's a year's worth of film to review. Newton came into the NFL after a lockout, with no offseason and no OTAs. That meant that defenses didn't have any time to prepare schemes against him. And he thrived early on as a result -- in the first four games of the season, he averaged 346.5 yards passing; in the final 12 games, he averaged 222 yards passing.