Cam Newton is 6-foot-5 and at least 245 pounds; a transformative physical specimen at the quarterback position. He is large and, in most cases, in charge.
The supposedly-healthy leader of the Carolina Panthers has made his mark by using his legs and plunging ahead in short-yardage situations. He is supposed to be 100 percent after undergoing surgery on his throwing shoulder nine months ago and rehabbing hard.
So it’s a bit perplexing what went on last night in Charlotte in a weather-delayed abomination of a game that ended in a 20-14 Tampa Bay win. Newton was 24-of-50 for 324 of the most paper tiger-y yards you’ll ever see. His offense failed to find the end zone and was forced to settle for four field goals.
He looked like a broken man. More importantly, the Panthers used him as if he were broken. Multiple opportunities arose for the mammoth man to sneak for a first down or touchdown. None were explored. Newton didn’t gain a single yard on two total rushing attempts.
Facing 4th-and-let’s-call-it-1.5 yards in the final 90 seconds, Carolina dialed up a version of the Philly Special that ended in Christian McCaffrey getting stopped short of the line to gain. It reeked of desperation and an admission that Cam ain’t right. That one of the important tools in his toolbox is on the fritz and getting rusty.
SharpFootball points out a stunning stat. Since 2015, Newton has executed over 100 sneaks. No other quarterback in that time has 40.
There is more than one way to gain 2.7 feet of ground, so it’s not as though not having Cam under center to plow forward is a sign of hopelessness. But never exploring the option has to be a sign of concern for Panthers fans because there’s really no excuse for the play-calling if the franchise player is, in fact, alright.
Again, he is 6-foot-5, 245 pounds of muscle. A proven entity in the bully-ball game.
At 0-2 with both losses coming at home, and a giant question mark at the most important position, it may just be time to panic and wonder just what the hell is going on with Newton.