Another reminder of Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton’s descent from league MVP to struggling quarterback was provided this week when Pro Football Focus announced its top 101 players from 2016 – and Newton was not among them.
As bad as Newton’s career-worst season was, I still have trouble believing there are 101 better players than the Panthers’ seventh-year quarterback. But based on Newton’s numbers – not to mention Carolina’s drop-off from NFC champion to a six-win team – it’s not surprising Newton went from No. 8 on PFF’s list to Nowhere to be Found.
Middle linebacker Luke Kuechly, who sat out the last six games following a concussion, fell from No. 3 in 2015 to No. 48 this past season.
PFF’s comment: “Only missed time keeps Luke Kuechly this far down the list, as for the second season in a row he missed games for the Panthers. Kuechly only played 656 snaps in 2016, but still posted the second-best grade among all linebackers, earning a mark of 92.9. ...”
Defensive tackle Kawann Short, the Panthers’ highest-profile free agent this offseason, slipped from No. 30 to No. 49 after his sacks dropped from 11 to six.
PFF’s comment: “Kawann Short began the season slowly, but by its end, the Carolina interior defender was back to being a whirlwind of destruction in the heart of the Panthers’ defense. Over the second half of the season, he was right up there (in terms of overall grade) with Arizona’s Calais Campbell, trailing only Los Angeles’ Aaron Donald among interior defenders. ...”
The only Panthers player to improve his PFF ranking was TE Greg Olsen, who jumped nine spots from No. 67 to No. 58 after becoming the first tight end in NFL history with three consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons.
PFF’s comment: “Greg Olsen remained the Panthers’ best receiving weapon, even if the team’s offense and QB Cam Newton, in particular, weren’t nearly as successful this year. Olsen was one of only two NFL TEs to record over 1,000 receiving yards in the 2016 season. ... Olsen was sure-handed and reliable as ever, but just didn’t get the play from his QB that he did a year ago.”
In addition to Newton, five other Panthers (or ex-Panthers) dropped off the list completely: Former CB Josh Norman, RG Trai Turner, RB Jonathan Stewart, LG Andrew Norwell and LB Thomas Davis.