NFC South: Does Cam Newton have the “Sophomore Jinx”

The NFL enters its sixth week of the season and only two teams remain undefeated. One of those teams, the Atlanta Falcons is perched at the top of the standings in the NFC South with a 5-0 record. The other three teams have won just a combined three games between them and are quickly losing any chance of making the postseason.

One NFC South team that looked as if they would turn things around this season and make a run at the playoffs was the Carolina Panthers. However, after five weeks of play, the Panthers are 1-4, four games out of first place. Not only are they losing, but also the team is facing internal problems amongst players and one of their biggest problems at this time is with their superstar quarterback Cam Newton. He has not played at the level he played last season and his attitude on the field and on the sideline has rubbed his players, coaches and the fans the wrong way.

Through the first five games of the season to say Newton has struggled is an understatement. He has only completed 59% of his passes; has thrown just four touchdowns; has tossed five interceptions; and has fumbled the ball five times.

Many are starting to say it is nothing but the famous “sophomore jinx” that is affecting Newton. Often times this happens during the second year for a quarterback because opposing defenses have determined how to counter the opposing team’s superstar and the defensive coordinators have set up new schemes to stop the playmakers on the opposing offense.

Coach Ron Rivera says that Newton is pressing to make his plays and is not managing the game correctly. Newton has looked too often over the top trying to make the deep throw and that has bogged down the entire offense. His coach said he needs to check down and look at other options on the field and once he accomplishes that, then the deep threat will become available again.

One issue with Newton, which does not take into account his outstanding talent as a football player, is his demeanor on the sideline. As a professional football player, he is in the spotlight every game and he has to learn to handle himself better on the sidelines and not sulk when the team does not play well.

His fellow teammates have told him, his father has told him and his coaches have as well. Acting emotional after not playing well will not help him the next time he takes the field and if anything, it will damage his respect with his fellow teammates.

Newton also must learn to have a short memory when it comes to things positive and negative. If he throws an interception or misses a wide open receiver, he needs to forget about it and move on. Those types of things will happen, great players know how to shake them off and move one. What needs to be done by Newton is find a way to learn from the mistakes, but not become obsessed with them.

Just as when he came out of Auburn University two seasons ago, Newton has the physical talent and tools to take a team to the playoffs and even beyond. However, his mental game must first match his overwhelming physical talents before he is able to direct his team on a regular basis in the NFL.

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