From the moment Cam Newton took the stage as the number one overall pick in last April’s NFL Draft, skeptics and critics have come after him with the furor of Charles Woodson on a corner blitz. And much to their surprise all Newton has done is side step the rush and execute play after outstanding play.
In Newton’s first two regular season games — on the heels of a preseason in which critics seemed more than a little eager to mention his “struggles” became the only quarterback in NFL history to begin his career with consecutive 400+ yard performances and the sixth quarterback to do so overall.
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In Newton’s first regular season game against the Arizona Cardinals, he was 24 for 37 for 422 yards two touchdowns and an interception. Newton averaged 11 yards per completion including a 77-yard touchdown pass and finished with a QB rating of 110.4 but the Carolina Panthers would come up short falling to the Cardinals 28-21.
Heading into last week’s contest against the Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers, word circulated from all corners how Newton would struggle and his shortcomings ultimately exposed by the Packers relentless blitzing schemes. Once again Newton rose to the occasion completing 28 of 46 passes for 432 yards and a touchdown. Despite throwing three interceptions the Panthers were in the game until the end as they gave the Packers a scare falling short 30-23.
Newton’s numbers through Week 2 are as follows: 52 for 83 for 854 yards three touchdowns and four interceptions a completion percentage of 62.7 and a rating of 89.1. Newton also leads the Panthers in rushing with 18 carries for 71 yards and two touchdowns. Of course the numbers that only matter are in the win column, but given the scrutiny that Newton has faced since his senior season at Auburn, it’s great to see this young man begin his career on such a high note.
At the NFL Combine Newton mentioned how he wanted to become an “icon”, a comment which drew the ire of many that felt that someone who was so “unproven” had no business making such a claim — let alone in public.
Looking at Newton’s numbers, I’m reminded of the formative years of Michael Jordan in Chicago. Jordan would post eye-popping numbers while the Bulls struggled in the standings, but with him in the lineup, victory was always within reach. And as it would be foolish to expect these numbers on a weekly basis, Newton’s early accomplishments cannot be passed off as a fluke either. Newton at 6’5” 260 lbs. with speed, is a different brand of quarterback that has the confidence and skills to revolutionize the position as did Jordan.
Newton is blessed with a great set of skill players at running back, DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart are a pair of 1,000 yard rushers along with two Pro Bowl caliber tight ends in Greg Olson and Jeremy Shockey followed by a rejuvenated Steve Smith at wide receiver and a good offensive line.
These tools will only help Newton as he continues to grow and mature into a complete quarterback. With Hall of Famer Warren Moon serving as a mentor and confidant, Newton has the eyes and ears of someone who can advise him on life as not only a star quarterback in the NFL, but also a black quarterback as well.
Sunday, the Carolina Panthers open their home schedule as they look for their first win of the season against the Jacksonville Jaguars and Blaine Gabbert. Gabbert was selected nine spots after Newton while oddly enough, some experts had Gabbert and Tennessee Titans quarterback Jake Locker ahead of Newton on their draft boards. I’m sure in-game analysts will be doing their best to make a case for Gabbert and why he may be better than Newton in the long run.
The NFL is a “now” league and although he’s short in the win column, Cam Newton’s critics, skeptics and detractors have to come to grips that he’s winning sooner than any of them ever expected.