Today’s Ask Fiu topic … Cam Newton and whether or not he needs to limit his running for longevity.
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Q: I’m a huge Carolina and Cam Newton fan. I’m worried though that he takes too many hits and it’s eventually going to be a problem. Does he have to change his style at some point? He can’t keep playing like this, can he?
A: Nope … not for the long haul.
Obviously you don’t mess with this now when the team is on the verge of probably winning the Super Bowl, but something has to be changed a bit to keep him alive for the long haul. Quarterbacks take way too much abuse as is, and no matter how big, how strong, and how good a player is, the NFL catches up to everyone.
Newton has stayed relatively healthy so far, but he’s been sacked 185 times and has close to 600 rushing attempts so far in his five-year career. By comparison, in his 18 seasons, Peyton Manning has been sacked 303 times and has 636 rushing attempts, not to mention all the other hits. And one thing we’ve learned, a consistent running quarterback in today’s day and age – this isn’t the 1970s when Fran Tarkenton was being popped by 200-pound linebackers – equals dead quarterback.
Newton is the best zone-read quarterback in the new era, but it’s still a concern how much these guys get hit considering they’re SO good when they take off – and that’s where the scouts had a problem figuring out Marcus Mariota last year. Russell Wilson is close in terms of running, taking 164 sacks and running 411 times in his four years, but he quickly learned to slide whenever possible. There are others, like Andrew Luck and Aaron Rodgers, who use their running ability to make things happen, but Luck couldn’t stay on the field this year and Rodgers doesn’t take as many huge hits now.
To sound like a cliché, all it takes is that one big shot and that one fluky pop, and Carolina is stuck in the same world Dallas found itself in this season.
The nice part about Newton’s game is that he doesn’t have to run – and this is where I bristle. I’ve heard more than one scout/analyst say he’s not an accurate pocket passer, but he’s proving himself game after game to be more than good enough. He’s never going to be Manning or Rodgers as a pure thrower, but he can be a consistent 60% passer and still make the plays he does without having to run and take those three or seven extra hits a game.
That’s where the maturity comes in as he and the coaching staff start to get into how the biggest part of being a leader going forward is always being on the field. Newton will always run, but it’ll slow down soon because it has to.
In terms of a comp, I think he’ll eventually be more like Ben Roethlisberger as a very big, very strong bomber who uses his toughness to shake off pass rushers. And utilizes his mobility to buy time rather than take off and run more than he has to.
But for now, for Super Bowl Sunday, run wild and be Cam Newton. The time for tweaking the style comes in Week 8 next season.