Pro Bowl 2012: Cam Newton and Other NFL Newcomers to Watch on Sunday
On Sunday Jan. 29, the 2012 NFL Pro Bowl kicks off and although it's not a hyped-up game, there are some interesting players to watch.
With a lot of newcomers and alternates playing since the game is before Super Bowl XLVI, pro football's best get to shine a little brighter as the New England Patriots and New York Giants prepare for early February.
That being said, here are some new Pro Bowlers/rookies to watch for this weekend.
Cam Newton: QB, Panthers
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Although Cam Newton is a rookie, he sure as hell did not play like one in the 2011 season.
On a 6-10 Carolina Panthers team that had a weak defense and not much of a threatening rush offense, Newton compiled over 4,000 passing yards while also throwing 21 touchdowns to just 17 picks.
He finished with a 60 percent completion percentage, 84.5 rating and also added 706 rushing yards with 14 touchdowns to his credit.
In short, Newton was the Carolina offense and before his arrival, receiver Steve Smith's career was virtually over. If there's one player to watch in the 2012 Pro Bowl, it's Newton because he's going to be shredding defenses for quite some time.
Von Miller: LB, Broncos
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Now, if there's one defensive player to watch in the Pro Bowl, it's Denver Broncos rookie linebacker Von Miller.
Right after Newton going No. 1 overall in the 2011 NFL draft, Miller went No. 2 overall to the Broncos and the defense finally got that consistently dominant player to lead.
And to enhance Miller's impact even more, on the first regular-season snap of his career Von forced a fumble on Monday Night Football against the Oakland Raiders.
Needless to say, it was a foregone conclusion that Miller was going to have a great season.
He finished with 64 tackles, 11.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and defended four passes. Between Denver's two playoff games, Miller added three tackles and a sack to his rookie-season resume.
Patrick Peterson: PR/KR, Cardinals
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Not as a cornerback but definitely in due time, Arizona Cardinals rookie Patrick Peterson made a ridiculous impact in the Grand Canyon State this season.
Making the Pro Bowl as the NFC's kick/punt return representative, Peterson accounted for 699 punt return yards on 44 attempts while taking four back to the house.
He averaged just under 16 yards per return and had a long of 99 yards while only fair-catching 22. Maybe next season punters will realize not to kick to him and, also, maybe Arizona will have him pull double-duty during the regular season.
If Peterson can legitimately dominate on punts, imagine how well he can return kickoffs as he'll have more time to read blocks and build up speed.
Move aside, Devin Hester.
A.J. Green: WR, Bengals
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Alongside rookie teammate quarterback Andy Dalton, receiver A.J. Green was the deep threat that gave the Cincinnati Bengals offense hope all season long.
He has already made Bengals fans forget about the days of Chad Ochocinco, as Green's future is just as bright if not brighter. And for as dominant as Ochocinco was, Green significantly outplayed by comparison of rookie seasons.
In his rookie year, Ochocinco only appeared in 12 games and caught 28 balls for 329 yards while scoring just once. Green, on the other hand, caught 65 passes for 1,057 yards and scored seven touchdowns.
Had it not been for Green's ability to stretch the field and out-jump virtually any defender one-on-one, Dalton doesn't have a Pro Bowl season.
John Rozum on Twitter.