Wednesday, October 9, 2013
Newton consistent at being inconsistent
By David Newton
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- There were no mats on the floor or mirrors on the walls. The lighting wasn't soft and the thermostat wasn't turned up to create a warm environment.
But Cam Newton's Wednesday media availability did have an element of yoga to it as he was asked to look within and find what he must do to improve, as teammate Steve Smith suggested all of the Carolina Panthers should.
"For me, I feel like I can be more consistent,'' the third-year quarterback said.
That would be a good place to start.
Cam Newton's performances this season have varied by the half or even by the drive.
By definition, consistency is the achievement of a level of performance that does not vary greatly in quality over time. By definition, Newton hasn't been consistent.
Sunday's 22-6 loss to the Arizona Cardinals was a microcosm of his career. He began 5-for-5 for 70 yards, and would have been 6-for-6 for 74 yards and a touchdown had Smith not dropped a pass in the end zone.
Newton was 14-for-21 for 215 yards at halftime. He was 7-for-18 for 93 yards in the second half.
Newton has gone 38-for-60 for 452 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions in the first half of Carolina's three losses. He's gone 20-for-40 for 210 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions in the second.
That's a 63 percent completion rate in the first half, 50 percent in the second.
It should be noted that Carolina (1-3) led in each of those losses, as it did in its win over the New York Giants. But against New York, Newton got better as the game progressed. He was 10-for-22 for 112 yards, a touchdown and an interception in the first half; 5-for-5 for 111 yards and two touchdowns in the second.
Better than consistent.
The lack of consistency isn't new to this season for the first pick of the 2011 draft. Newton's accuracy has steadily declined since his rookie season.
He completed at least 60 percent of his passes in eight games in 2011. He's done that just seven times since the start of 2012. He has completed 60 percent of his passes in consecutive games just once since the start of 2012, and not at all since the first two weeks of last season.
To put that in perspective, with help from ESPN Stats & Information, 22 other quarterbacks have had more games with a 60 percent completion rate than Newton since the start of 2012. Among them are Cleveland's Brandon Weeden (nine) and Minnesota's Christian Ponder (10), who is battling Matt Cassel for the starting job against Carolina on Sunday.
Atlanta's Matt Ryan leads all players with 20 during that span, with Denver's Peyton Manning -- in about the only category he's second this season -- next with 18.
Ryan is one of the exceptions to the rule that consistency leads to wins. He's completed 69.5 percent of his passes, fifth-best in the league this season, but the Falcons are 1-4. All of those ranked ahead of him -- Manning, Dallas' Tony Romo, San Diego's Philip Rivers and New Orleans' Drew Brees -- are on teams with a combined 14-6 record.
Newton knows he has to become more consistent, from his accuracy to getting rid of the ball instead of taking a sack as he did way too many times against Arizona to carrying out his fake better. Coach Ron Rivera and offensive coordinator Mike Shula have said Newton needs to be more consistent.
Consistency makes Newton and the offense more efficient. Not to pin success all on one player, but as left tackle Jordan Gross said after the New York win, when Newton's hot, the Panthers are hot.
A good place to start is with consistency, particularly in the second half.
"It's more on my behalf that I've just got to focus in and hone in on my skills and say, 'Hey, let me focus more in the second half, get the job done,'" Newton said. "It's a pointed stat that is very vital.
"If we think we're going to make this next step, I need to step up my game playing in the second half.''
Otherwise, the Panthers will remain consistently bad.