By Eric Schmidt

Last season, rookie Carolina Panthers QB Cam Newton took the NFL by storm. He set records in his first two starts, throwing for the most passing yards ever by a rookie quarterback. He shattered the record for most rushing touchdowns by a quarterback and he seemingly raised the bar on how rookie quarterbacks would be judged going forward. Now, NFL fans are wondering if he has what it takes in order to reach the next level in the NFL.

At times last season, Cam Newton looked invincible. He beat defenses with his arm and with his legs. This season, he’s beating himself. He doesn’t appear to be the same player that captivated fans last season. He’s guided the Panthers to a 1-4 record heading into their bye week, and for Newton, the week off couldn’t come at a better time.

Against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Newton threw for 303 yards. His totals in each game have steadily decreased each week. Against a stout Seattle defense on Sunday, Newton only managed 141 yards, but at one point in the fourth quarter, he had only completed five of 20 passes for just 55 yards. And just as in the game in week four against the Atlanta Falcons, Newton had another costly late game fumble. He only recorded three fumbles in his rookie season, he has three in the first five weeks of this year.

On Sunday, Newton was locked in on WR Steve Smith. Smith had 13 targets, but just five receptions. His other target, Greg Olsen didn’t even see a pass thrown his way until late in the fourth quarter. His passes were erratic. With a chance to win the game late, Newton bounced a pass five yards short to an open Brian Hartsock. He did have some dropped passes against the Seahawks, but Newton’s passes have been very erratic this season. On Sunday, he completed under 30% of his passes which were over 5 yards, according to ESPN stats.

What has to be the other issue for consideration here, is Newton’s reaction on the sidelines during these poor performances. He is often seen on the sidelines, sitting alone on a bench with a towel over his head, sulking.

Poor performances happen in the NFL. In week two, Eli Manning tossed three interceptions in the first half against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers but came back to win the game after throwing for over 500 yards. The NFL game is not just the physical tools, but the mental aspect as well.

I thought that the Panthers might have an outside chance at landing a wildcard berth this season, but after watching this team play three times this season, I wonder if they are going to be able to match last season’s win total.

Newton fancies himself Superman, but head coach Ron Rivera better find the kryptonite that’s taking away his super powers this season during the team’s bye week.

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