With Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton having gone from a potential league MVP candidate in the first half of the season to being mired in a slump in the second half, many have pointed to his sore shoulder as being the reason why he has not delivered with the game on the line in recent weeks. But if you ask Newton’s former teammate in Steve Smith, that isn’t where observers should be looking when trying to explain why Newton has not played well. Instead, Smith says that the problem is below the waist.
Speaking Monday on WFNZ’s Garcia & Bailey, Smith stated that moreso than Newton’s shoulder, sloppy footwork by the Panthers’ franchise quarterback has been contributing to him missing throws to open receivers.
“Everybody wants to say ‘His shoulder’s the reason why he overthrew a six-foot-five wide receiver’. No: His footwork was the reason he overthrew a six-foot-five wide receiver,” said Smith. “His footwork was the reason that (he missed Jarius Wright, who was open in the endzone. Or the back-shoulder throw that he threw a million miles per hour to Curtis Samuel. Footwork.”
“It has nothing to do with soreness. Is (his shoulder) sore? Absolutely. … But just watching the game, an overthrown ball is just like a dropped pass. There are some things that you can correct, and then there’s some opponent things (that) happen that causes you (to make a mistake).”
In the Panthers’ five-game losing streak, Newton has made plenty of great plays – But he has made some very poor ones as well. That was particular true on the final play of Week 14’s game against the Cleveland Browns. After the Panthers got the ball back for a last-ditch effort to try and win the game, Newton had Devin Funchess wide open over the middle with virtually no one in front of him. Had the two connected, Funchess may very well have taken Newton’s pass to the house.
But instead, Newton did not set his feet well, and opened up his body rather than driving through the throw. As a result, he overthrew Funchess, resulting in the pass being picked off by Damarious Randall instead.
Funchess is likely still running here. Sucks. Devin missed one from Cam earlier and Cam missed Devin late. Epitome of this losing streak. Nothing has seemed to be on the same page. pic.twitter.com/gySW9Ka4wr
— Tripp Morgan (@TrippMorgan6) December 11, 2018
In fairness to Newton, Smith stated that he isn’t the only quarterback in the league who has shown footwork issues at times: Despite being the current darling of the league, Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes has made footwork mistakes that have resulted in the ball “sailing”.
However, there’s a big difference between the two: Despite Mahomes making mistakes like throwing blind and throwing across his body, those issues have been masked by the fact that those plays end up working out and the Chiefs win. For the Panthers, those issues have been costly. And, as a result, they have been losing.
“When you don’t win, the mistakes are more glaring,” said Smith. “(Radio station) callers are gonna call in and complain about the bad things, because that’s what you do when you lose. Losing does that, but winning glances over those same footwork issues because you’re winning and you don’t think it’s a problem.”
Just as Smith stated, winning masks a lot of things: As it did for the Carolina Panthers when they were 6-2 at the halfway point of the season. But now, with their defensive issues not getting better and their offense taking a slide, the Panthers will have to make absolutely sure that they correct everything that has kept them from reaching their potential: Starting with the issues that have kept Newton from taking control in the fourth quarter.