Cam Newton at his best under pressure
February, 3, 2012
By Graham McKean | ESPN.com
Sam Sharpe/US PresswireCam Newton's verstility is just one reason why he might run away with Rookie of the Year honors.
In a staggering feat for a rookie, Newton also set the single-season record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback with 14.
Not only did Newton re-write the record books, but he also showed that he's one of the best quarterbacks -- in the entire league -- when it comes to facing pressure.
When facing two prominent and yet different types of pressure, Newton excelled. Newton ranked in the top five in the league both against defenses that brought five or more pass rushers against him and in situations when he had to make plays outside the pocket. No other quarterback could make that claim.
Under duress or taking a hit specifically means when the pressure of a defensive threat toward a QB is imminent or is occurring during the play. Against the first type of pressure, Newton owned the best Total QBR in the league at 96.6.
The ability to make plays when under pressure is a necessity for any QB, and being mobile helped Newton do it better than anyone else.
This leads to the second type of pressure he excels against: under duress or taking a hit while throwing outside the pocket. Newton ranked fifth in QBR in this category, placing him among the elite quarterbacks when he's in the open field.
How is it possible that a rookie is so successful against this combination of pressure? His ability to rush the ball both directly and indirectly benefits his QBR.
Directly, Newton not only ranks first in QBR on rush plays, he crushes the competition. At 6’5’’, 248 pounds with a 40-yard dash of 4.59 seconds, he is a terror in the open field.
His athleticism accounts for the fact that he had the most rushes this season by a QB (126), ahead of Michael Vick and Tim Tebow. But quantity aside, his No. 1 QBR ranking on designed rushes reveals the quality of Newton’s ground game.
Indirectly, both the high quantity and quality of Newton’s designed rushes helps to set up his passing game. Forced to respect his rushing ability, defenses applied direct pressure to him when he leaves the pocket to avoid being exploited for big gains on the ground.
The only problem is that Newton clearly excels under pressure, leaving a defense vulnerable regardless of their gameplan.