Jan 12, 2014; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) runs against San Francisco 49ers inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman (53) during the second half of the 2013 NFC divisional playoff football game at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Cam Newton: Will he solidify himself as an elite QB in 2014?

He was voted 24th by his peers on the NFL Network’s list of the league’s top 100 players in 2013, is considered one of the best offensive threats in the NFL and even led Carolina to their first playoff appearance in his era last year.

However, despite how good of an NFL quarterback Cam Newton has proven he can be on the field, can he become one of the league’s elite in just his fourth year?

To do so, the 25-year old Newton cannot just be the team’s best offensive threat on the field, he must become the team’s true leader.

“I’m excited to take this challenge to be this team’s leader,” Newton said to the Winston-Salem Journal.

“More has been given to me on my plate, and be a leader of men.”

 

 

Despite having to miss a majority of the Panthers’ offseason program due to ankle surgery, Newton seems to be fully ready (let alone excited) to take this Panthers franchise to the playoffs in back-to-back seasons for the first time in team history, let alone to their first playoff win since 2005.

Due to the ankle surgery, Newton’s overall mobility will be something to watch for going into training camp and the preseason.

Newton led Carolina to its first playoff appearance and division title since 2008, completing a career-best 61.7 percent of his passes, throwing a career-high 24 touchdown passes despite also throwing for a career-low 3,379 yards.  His seasonal-passing yardage has dropped significantly since he threw for 4,051 yards in his 2011 Rookie of the Year campaign.

 

 

But remember the classic saying: “nothing great comes easy.”

If Newton is going to establish himself as one of the league’s elite signal-callers, he’ll have to do it a brand new group of wide receivers and without his all-pro left tackle.

Despite their first true successful season in the Cam Newton era last year, the Panthers gutted their receiving corp, letting Brandon LaFell, Ted Ginn Jr. and Domenik Hixon enter free agency and releasing longtime Panther wideout Steve Smith, who signed with the Baltimore Ravens shortly after.

November 4, 2012; Landover, MD, USA; Carolina Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith (89) celebrates with Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) and Panthers tackle Jordan Gross (69) after scoring a touchdown against the Washington Redskins in the second quarter at FedEx Field. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Newton has begun doing extensive work with his new receiver group – rookie Kelvin Benjamin, Jerricho Cotchery, Jason Avant and Tiquan Underwood, alongside returning Panthers Marvin McNutt and Tavarres King and tight end Greg Olsen – and will need to nail down the chemistry between them and himself as the Panthers get ready to open training camp on July 25.  McNutt and King have not caught an NFL pass in their career so far.

“We’ll have plenty of time to develop that chemistry in training camp,” Newton said.

The receivers, Newton, along with backup quarterbacks Joe Webb and Matt Blanchard, have spent the past week with Panthers receivers coach Ricky Proehl at Proehlific Park in Greensboro, N.C. to get a jump on their chemistry together going into training camp.

Numbers aside — he is the first player in NFL history with at least 50 passing touchdowns (64) and 25 rushing touchdowns (28) in his first three seasons — if Newton can win with a brand new, and put up the numbers he has put up throughout his first three seasons, he can begin to be considered an elite quarterback.  The country will be watching as the Panthers have three prime time games, starting with a Sunday night game against the Steelers on Sept. 21.

Not bad for a guy who some people thought wasn’t going to be good in the NFL.

 

Tags: Cam Newton Carolina Panthers NFL

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