QBs in Focus: Cam Newton

Cam Newton is the latest QB in Focus, as Steve Palazzolo breaks down his performance in detail.

| 3 years ago

QBs in Focus: Cam Newton

qb-month-newtonThough we certainly miss football during the offseason, it’s always a good time to take a step back and analyze our plethora of data.

We’re often so busy grading and collecting data during the season that we’re unable to put a lot of the information to good use. With that said, we’ve decided to declare June as “QB Month” as we break down NFL quarterbacks every which way.

We’re going to examine quarterbacks from a number of situations before looking at each of them individually. The grades and numbers should reveal each quarterback’s strengths and weaknesses from the 2013 season.

As we go through this series, it’s important to understand the relationship between QB Rating (NFL’s version) and PFF Grade.

While QB Rating is obviously supposed to be a QB statistic, it’s actually a better gauge of what the entire offense did in a given situation. This is the type of information that is actually extremely valuable to our NFL team customers as their game planning efforts must go towards stopping an entire passing offense, not just the quarterback.

If the quarterback throws an easy dump off pass to the RB who then weaves through the defense for the touchdown, it’s certainly not a great indicator of quarterbacking skill as it is the running back and defense accounting for the majority of the work on the play. Of course the QB Rating will look quite shiny in that situation.

On the other hand, PFF Grade is a good indicator of how well the quarterback actually performed in a given situation. Whether they throw an accurate pass that was dropped, or perhaps an inaccurate one that should have been intercepted and the defense dropped, the PFF grade will account for those situations with a positive and a negative grade respectively while QB Rating will simply reflect the 0-for-1 passing.

It’s important to distinguish between QB Rating and PFF grade, though there’s a good chance they’ll match up in most situations.

After taking a look at the entire league in various situations, it’s time to break down each quarterback individually.

Cam Newton

Cam Newton

Cam Newton (2)

Cam Newton (3)

All categories with a * are normalized so that the league average is 0.0.


•  Among the league’s best on third downs (+9.0).
•  Graded at +3.0 on plays that broke the pocket.
•  Best grades came on short passes, including +3.8 on throws in the 1-to-10-yard range.
•  Graded at +7.1 in a clean pocket and +8.9 against the blitz, including a +6.5 grade against third-down blitzes.
•  Posted a +4.6 grade on passes in between the numbers.
•  Among the league’s best on drop-backs of 9 or more yards (+7.4).
•  Showed well on passes in the 2.1-to-2.5-second range (+8.1) and ranked second in the league on passes lasting at least 3.6 seconds (+10.9).
•  Graded at +6.0 on passes to tight ends including a +5.0 grade to tight ends lined up in the slot.
•  Showed well on out routes (+3.2), comebacks (+3.3), and post routes (+4.4).
•  Extremely impressive +5.2 grade when pressured in two seconds or less.


•  Struggled on second down (-6.0), particularly 2nd-and-Long (-5.5).
•  Graded at -6.4 on passes traveling at least 20 yards and -3.6 on passes traveling at least 30 yards.
•  Worst grades came on 4-to-6-yard drops (-3.1).
•  Graded at -3.3 on passes outside the numbers to the right
•  Graded at -9.4 on passes in the 2.6-to-3.0-second range.
•  Worst routes were corners (-1.5) and go routes (-0.9).


•  74.8% of drop-backs came out of the shotgun or pistol, right around the league average.
•  Faced the blitz 38.0% of the time, fourth-highest in the league.
•  6.4% of passes traveled at least 30 yards in the air, fifth-highest in the league.
•  24.1% of drop-backs lasted at least 3.6 seconds, sixth-highest in the league.
•  Only threw to running backs in non-screens situations 9.7% of the time, fourth-lowest in the league.
•  Threw the fifth-highest percentage of running back screens at 6.0% of his attempts.
•  5.9% of drop-backs left the pocket, just above the league average.

For the entire set of “Quarterbacks in Focus” posts, click here.


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| Senior Analyst

Steve is a senior analyst at Pro Football Focus. His work has been featured on ESPN Insider, NBC Sports, and 120 Sports.

  • Chris

    It’s so weird how he can grade so well using standard and long dropbacks, yet he only grades well at throws under 10 yards. And he can grade so well against the blitz, but so poorly on quick dropbacks, which is usually how you beat the blitz.

    I wonder why he grades so poorly on 2nd down though?

    • andy tyl

      Good observation. I think part of it due to the scheme- a vertical game. The other reason is I believe is his accuracy in the short-game. I don’t know if he graded well under pressure as you can see his ratings consistently went down as more pressure applied. I think Cam does not do a good job in pre-snap reads for shorter outlets when facing pressure situations. So he throws longer passes to beat the blitz, instead of the shorter ones (traditional thinking) as you can see he was the 4th lowest in throwing to the running backs in non-screen situations.

      • Chris

        As far as throwing against pressure, I was just going off what I’ve seen in this series. Yea he isn’t as good against pressure, but he’s way better than a lot of other guys we’ve seen so far. And usually guys who are better at pressure get the ball out faster on shorter drops. His Time To Pressure numbers show he was great against very quick pressure, and he’s also great against third down pressure.

        This seems to suggest to me that he’s very good against pressure when he can read it presnap and react accordingly. But when he doesn’t pick it up presnap is where he would struggle.

        So he’s good when he can recognize a blitz presnap but he has issues if he has to pick it up while he’s going through his reads?

        • andy tyl

          I think that probably would apply to most of the qbs in the league when they are able to do the appropriate pre-snap reads. I’ve been followed Cam since Auburn days and watched all of his games, college and pro, he has improved a lot since his first year. He was pretty bad, in his first year, w/ immediate routes; horrible in short ones. Last year he improved a lot in the immediate area and hopefully he can improve his short routes as well (he is probably one of the worst qb when throwing and setting up the screen). Remember this guy only had less than 300 attempts in college compared to the average of about 1,500 attempts for other qbs.