Carolina Panthers: Cam Newton Rookie Season Projections for Each Game

Ryan KennedyAnalyst IIJune 7, 2011

Carolina Panthers: Cam Newton Rookie Season Projections for Each Game

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    Will No. 1 overall pick Cam Newton live up to his enormous hype in the NFL, fulfilling that "icon and entertainer" status in just his first season under center for the Carolina Panthers?

    Newton figures to be the future of the franchise, but it remains to be seen whether he'll be more like Kordell Stewart, worse than Akili Smith or excel at the level of Michael Vick and Steve Young. Mobile quarterbacks are very hit or miss since they need to have the right amount of pocket presence and playmaking ability.

    With the lockout cutting into valuable time with his coaches, Newton does have the Panthers' playbook and has been sleeping with it, which is a sign he is not going to try to do it based off talent alone.

    The question still remains though, how will the rookie do in the upcoming season? We will take a look at what should happen against what might happen if Newton plays in each game.

Sept. 11, 2011: At Arizona

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    What Should Happen:

    The opening game of the season comes on the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11 with war hero Pat Tillman still fresh in the minds of Arizona fans. This is not one of the easier opening games the Panthers could have picked. Cam Newton likely doesn't start due to his lack of familiarity with the offense.

    If Cam Starts:

    Cam goes into a mad house, but he is used to it. He looks good for having so little time under his belt, but with the addition of Patrick Peterson, the Cardinals' secondary is no joke.

    Cam tosses a pick and has trouble finding open receivers. He is able to make up for it with a couple decent runs and bringing one to the house himself. The Panthers still lose though.

    Stat Line:

    Passing: 7-of-15, 145 yards, 1 INT

    Rushing: 13 attempts, 140 yards, 1 TD

Sept. 18, 2011: Green Bay

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    What Should Happen:

    Jimmy Clausen again looks like he doesn't have it together, but he is much improved over last year—no need to bring in Cam yet.

    The defending champs are not someone you want to start your career against (or maybe it is?). Clay Matthews gets to Clausen, and Cam takes the field. It's not spectacular, but the offense shows signs of life.

    If Cam Starts:

    The Packers have a great defense, and they are much better prepared than the Panthers are at this point.

    Cam doesn't have the same type of room to work with as he did against the Cardinals, and his game suffers for it. He throws a pick and reverts to the shotgun, which dampens the running game. Newton has a typical rookie game.

    Stat Line:

    Passing: 12-of-29, 132 yards, 1 INT

    Rushing: 4 attempts, 45 yards

Sept. 25, 2011: Jacksonville

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    What Should Happen:

    Cam should start this game and the rest of them here on out. Injury should be the only thing that derails him.

    Jacksonville is a much easier opponent than either Arizona or Green Bay. Cam should get his first win in a home game where he shows Panthers fans' what they should expect for the long term.

    If Cam Starts:

    Cam easily gets into the Jaguars' secondary to find some chemistry with Brandon LaFell and David Gettis. After getting the corners to back off, Newton has more room to work with on the outside, which makes him dangerous.

    Still not reading his progressions all that well though, Newton is too quick to run, which doesn't matter to the home crowd as he puts a highlight reel together.

    Stat Line:

    Passing: 20-of-32, 235 yards, 2 TD

    Rushing: 8 attempts, 130 yards, 1 TD

Oct. 2, 2011: At Chicago

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    What Should Happen:

    Coming off the high of his first professional win, Cam hopes to string two victories together.

    Julius Peppers is happy to remind him of the glory days he had when he was in black and teal though. Cam doesn't have a great game, but he is able to pause the defense enough to open up some receivers and allows for Jonathan Stewart to get some good yardage.

    Carolina walks away with a well-deserved second win.

    If Cam Starts:

    Cam faces similar difficulties he had against the Packers, as the Bears have a very potent defense. His ability to run causes the linebackers to hesitate when blitzing, giving Newton an extra second of breathing room.

    It's not a pretty victory like last week, but not all of them are.

    Stat Line:

    Passing: 14-of-29, 200 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT

    Rushing: 6 attempts, 47 yards

Oct. 9, 2011: New Orleans

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    What Should Happen:

    Hosting the class of the NFC South, the Panthers look to make a statement that the new regime is going to make a quick turn around.

    Newton puts on another great effort for the home crowd with his arm this time—not his feet. The defense tries to keep it close, but Drew Brees is too much and Cam can't keep up in a shootout.

    If Cam Starts:

    Cam finds Jeremy Shockey and Brandon LaFell for touchdowns. Shockey is able to help Cam with some of the defensive schemes, but his ability to get out of tough situations in the backfield is what really helps the QB make plays.

    Newton doesn't run as much since he is starting to trust his progression reads, but the Panthers still come up short.

    Stat Line:

    Passing: 23-of-39, 301 yards, 2 TD

    Rushing: 4 attempts, 60 yards

Oct. 16, 2011: At Atlanta

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    What Should Happen:

    If Atlanta makes moves in free agency like expected, the Falcons' defense will be very tough to beat. Between that and being at home against a division rival, Cam is up for a very long day.

    Newton feels pressure all day long, and Matt Ryan puts the Falcons ahead early, not allowing the running game to get a rhythm. Cam is pressed to go to the air early and often, and no evasive maneuvers save him.

    If Cam Starts:

    Newton has a long day in store for him, starting with the Falcons getting an early pick when he tries to go deep to LaFell. He never really recovers and is unable to scramble to make much of anything.

    The Panthers get blown out, and Newton has his worst performance yet.

    Stat Line:

    Passing: 14-of-32, 163 yards, 2 INT

    Rushing: 8 attempts, 40 yards

Oct. 23, 2011: Washington

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    What Should Happen:

    Basically any problem that arose during the game against the Falcons disappears against the Redskins.

    The Redskins' defense has some playmakers, but not enough to contain the Panthers' offense. Carolina is able to get the running game going, and Newton follows suit. Without having to come from behind, Newton can take some time to watch the field develop and make plays.

    If Cam Starts:

    Newton has his best performance to date.

    Easily making plays on his feet and with his arm, the Panthers gain an early lead and sustain it throughout. Newton gets everyone involved in the passing game and throws three touchdowns—one to LaFell, two to Gettis.

    Stat Line:

    Passing: 23-of-32, 342 yards, 3 TD

    Rushing: 4 attempts, 60 yards, 1 TD, 1 fumble

Oct. 30, 2011: Minnesota

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    What Should Happen:

    The Vikings' defense is not nearly as potent as it once used to be. Newton uses his speed to cause mayhem on the field. Causing the Vikings to focus on him and not his receivers, Newton again has a strong passing day.

    Ron Rivera puts some trickery in the plan, and has Jimmy Clasuen and Armanti Edwards line up in the backfield with Newton. Newton ends up catching a pass.

    If Cam Starts:

    Cam has a solid, but not spectacular day against the Vikings. The offense looks very balanced with Newton getting through his progressions and making better reads before running.

    After catching a pass, Newton is all the focus at the press conference afterward.

    Stat Line:

    Passing: 18-of-27, 244 yards, 1 TD

    Rushing: 9 attempts, 87 yards, 1 sack

    Receiving: 1 reception, 32 yards

Nov. 13, 2011: Tennessee

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    What Should Happen:

    With Vince Young's old team coming to town, Cam looks to prove he is not the bust Young turned out to be. Newton puts up two touchdowns early, but gets hit hard and leaves the game in the second half.

    Newton afterwards claims he will be back next week.

    If Cam Starts:

    Cam puts up big numbers early, but ends up leaving the game shortly after halftime due to injury. Newton claims he is good for the next week but it seems doubtful. He learned that using your feet is not always a great option for the quarterback.

    Stat Line:

    Passing: 13-of-20, 200 yards, 2 TD

    Rushing: 5 attempts, 37 yards

Nov. 20, 2011: At Detroit

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    What Should Happen:

    Newton should sit this one out.

    With a leg injury, he won't have the mobility he needs to move against former teammate Nick Fairley and Ndamukong Suh. The Lions' offense is an up-and-coming one, and Stafford should put his first full season together making the Lions a dark horse playoff contender.

    If Cam Starts:

    Newton has trouble all day long against the Lions' front four. Unfortunately for Detroit though, the secondary and linebackers are not quite at the linemen's level yet.

    Newton is able to get things going late, and the game is close, but he doesn't have quite enough to get the win.

    Stat Line:

    Passing: 23-of-39, 231 yards, 1 INT

    Rushing: 6 attempts, 37 yards, 2 sacks

Nov. 27, 2011: At Indianapolis

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    What Should Happen:

    Cam comes back from a start, and the team heavily relies on the running game to keep Peyton Manning off the field. This works through three quarters, as the Panthers have the lead by seven heading into the fourth.

    Newton does not feel the pressure of a big game, but the defense can't hold on long enough, and Jonathan Stewart fumbles late in the game to blow a potential winning touchdown.

    If Cam Starts:

    Newton doesn't do anything to lose the game, but he doesn't get his team the victory either. Going with the game plan, Cam tries to keep it simple and doesn't go overboard with running himself. He has a touchdown and interception, but doesn't quite lead a winning drive.

    Stat Line:

    Passing: 13-of-20, 194 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT

    Rushing: 5 attempts, 60 yards

Dec. 4, 2011: At Tampa Bay

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    What Should Happen:

    The Panthers drafted Cam Newton hoping to emulate the success of Tampa Bay and Josh Freeman. Newton has shown glimpses, but between the Tampa Bay defense and Freeman's offense, the Panthers fall behind.

    Newton does his best Freeman impersonation, but falls short.

    Luckily, revenge is only two short weeks away.

    If Cam Starts:

    Newton spreads the ball around early connecting with LaFell and Shockey for touchdowns, and getting the running backs involved in the passing game, but the offense stalls in the second half. He tries to make the adjustment with his legs rather than his head, and this leads to some Bo Jackson TECMO Bowl backfield runs, but ultimately costs the Panthers yardage.

    Newton takes a step back as a field general instead trying to win the game by himself.

    Stat Line:

    Passing: 22-of-35, 254 yards, 2 TD

    Rushing: 12 attempts, 12 yards, 2 sacks

Dec. 11, 2011: Atlanta

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    What Should Happen:

    The Falcons have come close to putting the NFC South away and try to do so against their rivals.

    The defense holds strong against Matt Ryan and company. Newton makes better decisions, and the crowd keep the Panthers in it. Matty Ice melts in Carolina, and Newton comes up big with a game-winning drive.

    If Cam Starts:

    Newton rebounds from last week's mental errors, vowing to fix his mistakes.

    He does so by managing the clock and his team for the first three quarters. As the Falcons close in for the win up by three, Newton marches down the field with his scrambling to get the team into the end zone to keep Atlanta from clinching on the Panthers' home field.

    Stat Line:

    Passing: 19-of-31, 262 yards, 1 TD

    Rushing: 16 attempts, 121 yards, 2 TD, 1 fumble

Dec. 18, 2011: At Houston

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    What Should Happen:

    With the Texans and Gary Kubiak again fighting to get into the playoffs, the Panthers look to put a win streak together to end the season. The Houston defense is much improved this season, but the offense sputters even with all those weapons.

    Newton again shines at the end of the game, leading the Panthers to victory.

    If Cam Starts:

    The Panthers' passing game fires on all cylinders, as that is the weakest part of the Texans' defense. Even with pressure coming at him from all sides from the defensive line, the threat of Newton running keeps Mario Williams hesitant, allowing Newton time to work.

    Shockey again catches a touchdown, and Keoloha Pilares catches a touchdown in the fourth quarter to seal the game.

    Stats:

    Passing: 17-of-36, 219 yards, 3 TD

    Rushing: 2 attempts, 12 yards, 1 sack 

Dec. 24, 2011: Tampa Bay

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    What Should Happen:

    With Tampa Bay looking to push the Falcons for a shot at the division title, the Bucs come to Carolina hungry for a victory.

    Cam promises the Carolina fans a Christmas gift earlier in the shortened week.

    With it being extremely cold for the south, Newton musters up enough against the fair weather Buccaneers and comes through on his promise, leading the Panthers to a blow-out victory.

    If Cam Starts:

    Announcing he will bring a victory to Carolina fans for Christmas, Newton ups the pressure and looks to have a three-game win streak under his belt.

    Tampa Bay looks sluggish, and Newton breaks free for a long run late in the first quarter. He takes the lead and never looks back, leading six scoring drives to take the Panthers to victory.

    Stat Line:

    Passing: 16-of-21, 314 yards, 3 TD

    Rushing: 6 attempts, 100 yards

Jan. 1, 2012: At New Orleans

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    What Should Happen:

    Looking to end the season on a high note, the Panthers head to the Big Easy and find it quite hard. New Orleans fans make getting plays out of the huddle difficult, and Newton misses multiple audibles. The Panthers fall behind early, and the game is never really that close.

    If Cam Starts:

    Coming off the highs of the past three weeks, Newton feels confident heading into the final game of his rookie year.

    The Saints and their fans have a different idea though.

    The crowd noise makes it difficult to get out the audibles and snap counts, and the Panthers have to adjust to hand signals in the second half. It is never really close enough for it to matter. Newton struggles mightily, not even playing in the fourth quarter.

    Stat Line:

    Passing: 11-of-29, 131 yards, 2 INT

    Rushing: 8 attempts, 34 yards

Season Recap

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    Overall, Cam Newton puts enough strong performances together to show why he was worth the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft.

    With his highlight performances coming against Washington, Tampa and Atlanta, Newton gets strong consideration for the Pro Bowl. He ends up falling short to Drew Brees, Michael Vick and Sam Bradford, but with Vick playing in the Super Bowl, Newton is named an alternate.

    He also wins Offensive ROY; it isn't even close based on the stats below:

    Season Totals: 3,566 yards passing, 1,022 yards rushing, 32 yards receiving, 25 TD, 9 INT, 2 fumbles