It didn't take for long for Cam Newton to raise expectations for his individual performance in his rookie season. Living up to the standard he set early on is proving to be a difficult process.
He's still on pace to shatter Peyton Manning's record for passing yards by a rookie (3,739), but more and more teams are getting a chance to study the Panthers' offense as the season progresses, and defenses are making it harder for Newton to complete the deep pass, which he did so regularly in the first month of the season.
Never was that more evident than in Week 10, when Newton didn't complete a pass longer than 19 yards in the Panthers' 30-3 loss to the Titans. Newton, who is among the league leaders in rushing touchdowns with seven, also was kept from rushing for a TD for a second straight game in Week 10.
It was the first game in which he failed to pass or run for a TD all season.
Newton burst onto the scene like no other rookie signalcaller before him, throwing for more than 400 yards in each of his first two games and 374 or more in three of his first four. He's hasn't thrown for more than 300 in a game since Week Four, though, and has thrown for 256 or fewer in four of the last five. Steve Smith, Carolina's top wide receiver, had catches of 53 yards or longer in four of the first five games of the season. He hasn't made a catch longer than 36 yards in the past four games.
The production on offense has varied depending on the week, but losing has been a constant for the 2-7 Panthers this season. Newton has made it very clear that it doesn't sit well with him. Learning how to handle the losses and translating his frustration with the team's situation into making strides as a player is the challenge he's facing each week. Indications are that he has shown dedication to developing during practice and in meeting rooms throughout the season, but there's clearly plenty more work to be done. The best he and the Panthers can hope for now is a respectable finish to a trying year heading into his first full offseason of work with teammates and coaches.
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