Cam Newton: Analyzing What Each Player on Carolina's Offense Can Do for Newton
There is no doubt in anyone's mind that Cam Newton will bring excitement to the Carolina Panthers.
Will he star in his rookie season? Maybe yes, maybe no. That has yet to be seen.
But when Carolina made the decision to draft Cam Newton No. 1 overall in last month's NFL Draft, they knew they were bringing in a guy who has the potential to be great.
He led Auburn to a perfect 14-0 record and completed one of the most memorable seasons for a quarterback in college football history.
So, as Cam Newton prepares for the 2011 season, Carolina knows they have a rare gem at the quarterback position.
But what about the rest of their starting offense? Are any players from the Panthers 2-14 team going to make Cam Newton's rookie season a smooth transition?
Let's break this down and figure out what each player on the Carolina Panthers' starting offense can do for Cam Newton.
Running Back DeAngelo Williams
DeAngelo Williams could be huge for Cam Newton's development in the NFL, but first of all, Carolina has to do everything in their power to make sure they re-sign Williams.
Cam Newton is a good passer, but he is a much better runner, which became evident last year during his Heisman Trophy season. We saw how good Michael Dyer was at Newton's running mate, and the same could go for Williams.
In fact, DeAngelo Williams was on the verge of becoming an elite running back before injuries and inconsistent play from his team kept him from heaving a great year last season. If healthy, he is a good running back that can take pressure off Newton.
If Cam Newton knows that he has a reliable running back to hand the ball off to, that will make his job incredibility easier.
If Carolina is going to be successful in 2011, that means Cam Newton should never be throwing the ball more than 25 times per game.
With a reliable running back, he can make sure that's the case.
Wide Receiver Steve Smith
They say that a quarterback's best friend is his tight end or offensive tackle. But if the Carolina Panthers could somehow convince Steve Smith to stay in town, then he would instantly become Cam Newton's best buddy.
Smith is an electric playmaker, and really, outside of maybe DeAngelo Williams, he is the only playmaker this offense has left.
Having Smith gives Cam Newton a legitimate No. 1 wideout to throw the ball to. He has electric speed and the ability to stretch a play down the field.
He will make Newton's job much easier, assuming he returns to the team, which right now, is a big "what if" around Carolina.
Without Steve Smith, the Panthers' receiving corps is pretty weak. If Newton is going to have success as a rookie, he really does need a guy like Smith to make his job that much easier.
Wide Receiver Brandon LaFell
All signs point to Brandon LaFell bring the No. 2 wideout for the Carolina Panthers in 2011.
LaFell is a second-year wide receiver out of LSU. He played solid in his rookie season, hauling in 38 catches for just under 500 yards and a touchdown.
Those numbers all came despite Carolina's inconsistency at the quarterback position.
What LaFell can do for Newton is give him a receiving target with elite speed who can stretch the field. He isn't a guy who is going to catch 100 passes in a season, or haul in 15 touchdown catches in a season.
If Steve Smith leaves, Carolina has to find a way to land another No. 1 wideout, because as good as LaFell is, he is best served as a No. 2 option.
Tight End Jeff King
Jeff King is a good football player, but if Cam Newton is going to have a good rookie season, Carolina has to get better play from the tight end position.
A tight end can indeed be a quarterback's best friend because he is expected to block on the ends, and be the big safety valve target in the passing game.
In King, the Panthers have a good blocker, but this is a guy who has only had one NFL season where he has totaled over 200 yards receiving.
This past year, King was the team's starting tight end, and he only caught 19 balls for 121 yards and two touchdowns.
The tight end is considered to be extremely important for a young quarterback's development. That is what Jeff King has to be in 2011.
Tight End Jeremy Shockey
We said in the previous slide that the tight end is the most important position when it comes to helping out a young quarterback's development.
With that said, the Carolina Panther went out and signed Jeremy Shockey this offseason.
In Shockey, the Panthers got a much needed upgrade at the tight end position. The former New Orleans Saint has had seven seasons in the NFL where he has topped the 500-yard mark.
He didn't have the most productive years of his career in New Orleans, but it became evident that a new start was necessary, and that's what he will get in Carolina.
Jeremy Shockey will be huge in the development to Cam Newton. He will give him a large target in the receiving game who has reliable hands. What more can you ask for if you're a first-year NFL quarterback trying to succeed at the NFL level?
Look for this to be a nice fit here in Carolina.
Offensive Tackle Jordan Gross
When it comes to NFL offensive tackles, there aren't many better than Jordan Gross.
This is a list looking at what each player on the Panthers' offensive can do for Cam Newton. Well, there isn't a single guy on the entire roster who is more important to Newton than Gross.
Jordan Gross is in charge of protecting Newton's blind side, which is the most important job of any offensive line position. If Newton is going to stay healthy and have time to throw the ball in the pocket, Gross is the guy who will need to protect him.
Gross is a two-time Pro Bowl selection, and perhaps the best season of his career came last year when he was elected as a NFC Pro Bowl starter.
This offense doesn't have a whole lot to offer, but they do have Jordan Gross.
Offensive Tackle Garry Williams
Garry Williams, a third-year pro who was undrafted out of the University of Kentucky, appears to be in place to be the Carolina Panthers' starting right tackle in the 2011 season.
Williams started 11 games last year, but appeared to have struggled at times, as was evident by how much time Jimmy Clausen spent down on the field.
We don't know a ton about Williams right now, just because he has only started 11 games in his NFL career, which all came last year, when everyone on Carolina's roster seemed to struggle.
It wouldn't be surprising to see Carolina go after another offensive tackle in the offseason. Williams could be a great help for Newton, if he is able to develop at a rapid pace.
But if not, this could be be interesting to see how it plays out in 2011.
Offensive Guard Geoff Schwartz
Geoff Schwartz saw limited playing time as a rookie in 2009, but he moved into the starting lineup this past year and started every game at offensive guard in 2010.
At 6-foot-6, 331 pounds, Schwartz has great size for a lineman, and will play a huge role in paving the way for a successful run game in 2011.
If Cam Newton is going to be a rushing threat in the NFL, then Geoff Schwartz is a guy who can make his job a whole lot easier.
There is no doubt that the Carolina Panthers are going to have some draw plays drawn up in their play book for Newton, and those are the types of plays where Schwartz will be asked to clear the path for the Panthers' franchise signal-caller.
Offensive Guard Mackenzy Bernadeau
Mackenzy Bernadeau is a guy who came out of a small school (Bentley) and was a project pick when he came into the NFL in 2008.
But since that time, it seems like he has gotten better every year, and concluded last year with 12 starts under his belt.
Heading into this season, Bernadeau will be looked at to be one of the Panthers' starting offensive guards in Week 1 and beyond.
Similar to Schwartz, Bernadeau is a guy who will be looked at to pave the way in the run game. If DeAngelo Williams returns to the team, he could form a solid ground attack with Cam Newton.
But if that ground attack is going to be successful, Bernadeau will have to have a big year in 2011.
He is extremely important to Newton's development as a runner and in general, as a football player in the NFL.
Center Ryan Kalil
Ryan Kalil has developed into one of the best centers in the NFL over the past couple of years.
Center is a position who the quarterback is obviously involved with in every play. In Kalil, Newton gets to work with a guy who has been a Pro Bowl selection for two straight years now, and the streak could very well continue in 2011.
It's not all that often where you see a 2-14 team feature one of the best offensive lines in the NFL. But with two Pro Bowlers in Kalil and Gross, this Panthers team has some nice pieces in place that should help Cam Newton develop at the quarterback position.
Kalil, in particular, is an exceptional run and pass blocker. Keep in mind that Newton spent the majority of his college career playing out of the shotgun. Kalil will be looked at to help make his transition to playing under center a smooth one.