Cam Newton has experienced uncharacteristic struggles of late, none more painfully apparent than in Week 13's loss to Tampa Bay.
His opponents are noticing the change on the game film, starting with this week's matchup: The Cleveland Browns.
The Browns have demonstrated in recent weeks they are unafraid of speaking critically of an upcoming opponent, but making such a claim about a former MVP seems a bit foolish, as if it's setting one's team up for failure. Garrett wasn't taking a combative tone though when elaborating.
"He doesn't look like he did at the beginning of this season and last year, so it might be biting at him, but we've got to play him like he's Super Cam," Garrett explained.
Garrett received backing from his interim head coach, who saw similar issues in Newton's performance in the 24-17 loss.
"There were some similarities (between Newton's four interceptions and Baker Mayfield's three last week) when I looked on film," Gregg Williams said. "Some of the things where he forced a few balls. Give Tampa credit, a couple of times they came out of nowhere and undercut a couple of routes, but he forced a couple of throws.
"We fought through some of the same things last week. It's never easy as a quarterback in our league, but he's had an unbelievable year until last week when he had a couple of things like that."
Our own review of the game film seems to agree. Newton, who had rotator cuff surgery less than two years ago, is dealing with a shoulder issue, but was removed from the injury report Friday after being limited earlier in the week. He's throwing with a noticeably shorter windup, almost as if he's short-arming the ball in an attempt to deliver without causing himself too much pain. It's producing passes with significantly less zip, leaving them in the air longer and creating a greater opportunity for interceptions. It's no surprise, then, that Newton threw four interceptions last week.
Garrett seems to think so or is at least preparing for such opportunities, calling a less-than-100-percent Newton "capable" but not speaking as glowingly of him as expected.
"We've got to take advantage of that," Garrett said. "If he's going to give us some or he's going to throw some our way, we've got to make sure we give our offense good field position or maybe even score with it."