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Comparing the First NFL Starts of Cam Newton and Robert Griffin III

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Comparing the First NFL Starts of Cam Newton and Robert Griffin III
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

As good as Cam Newton's first start was as a rookie in 2011, Robert Griffin III put on a performance in his first career start that was even better. 

These two quarterbacks will likely be forever compared as they progress through their careers—even more so than Andrew Luck and RG3. The reason for this is simple: Newton and RG3 will showcase their legs almost as much as their arms throughout their careers, while Luck will always be a traditional pocket passer. 

So, how did RG3's first start stack up against Newton's? 

 

Efficiency and Ball Security

Efficiency and ball security are the two biggest keys to excellent quarterback play outside of natural abilities. 

RG3 was as efficient and careful with the football during his first career start. Newton was phenomenal in his first career start as well, but his first start doesn't compare to RG3 in these categories.

Here are their stats, side by side:

Player Comp. Att. Pct. Yards Avg. TD Int.
Cam Newton 24 37 64.9 422 11.4 2 1
Robert Griffin III 19 26 73.1 320 12.3 2 0

It's clear that Griffin III was a better "game manager" than Newton was in their first career starts. He is a highly efficient quarterback for a rookie, and if RG3 manages to keep playing this way, he will have one of the best rookie seasons in the history of the NFL.

 

On the Ground

Joe Robbins/Getty Images
Newton is better at scoring on the ground, but Griffin III is the better runner.

Mike and Kyle Shanahan used a wide variety of formations in the Redskins' opener against the New Orleans Saints, most of which accentuate RG3's natural abilities. As a result, Griffin III was able to have a high degree of success running the football even when the Saints knew it was coming. 

Newton's first career game as a pro didn't go as well in this category, either, though he did pitch in a touchdown on the goal line—something RG3 didn't accomplish. RG3 carried the ball 10 times for 42 yards, and Newton carried the ball eight times for 18 yards with one touchdown. 

From the standpoint of determining which player had a better outing as a runner, the nod goes to Griffin III. 

 

Just Win, Baby!

Which player was more impressive in their rookie debut?

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Newton's first career game ended in a loss to the Arizona Cardinals, while Griffin III's first game ended in a sweet victory against the Saints in New Orleans. 

Newton didn't have nearly as much talent around him as RG3 has in Washington, though, so it's hard to say which player has the edge in this category.

We'll have plenty more opportunities to see if RG3 can continue playing at this insanely high level throughout the 2012 season, and the only thing I know for sure is that it's going to be a pleasure to watch. 

 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReed78

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