Cam Newton: Steve Smith Is Not the Key to His Success
With Smith seemingly recommitted to playing football this year after dealing with his wife's illness and showing at Carolina's offseason workouts, would having Smith around in Carolina really be all that much of a benefit to the rookie quarterback?
The quick answer is yes. The long answer is a little more complicated. What quarterback would not benefit from having a Pro Bowl-caliber veteran receiver on the team?
With mostly young receivers who have not produced yet on the Carolina roster, there is really no telling how good the receiver unit will be if Smith is not on it.
Brandon LaFell and David Gettis looked solid at times last year, especially for third- and sixth-round draft picks working with a rookie quarterback. With an added year, both should see improvement under Rob Chudzinski's new offense.
Smith on the other hand had his worst season as a pro with a rookie quarterback. Not one to shy away from placing blame, Smith has been frustrated with the team's slow rebuilding process and clearly isn't a fan of Jimmy Clausen after the quarterback apologized to the defense after a poor performance.
Smith decided that Clausen would be better served apologizing to his offensive teammates instead and made his thoughts known publicly.
Smith has had a temper and may not be the person that Newton needs right now as a role model. Sure, Smith can rebound from his off year and Newton may prove to have a more successful rookie campaign than Clausen.
The question remains does Newton need to learn how to adapt to the NFL from a hothead like Smith?
Newton and Smith were joking and laughing at Smith football camp, but what about the week that Cam decides he is going to win by himself by running the ball and doesn't hit Smith when he is open?
Smith isn't one to hold back his tongue, so it is not to be expected that anything less than excellence will be tolerated.
Even if Smith and Newton become best buds, is Smith something that Newton really needs?
Looking over the past eight drafts and taking a look at teams that had elite receivers and how the rookie quarterback performed, the results are rather mixed.
Matt Ryan, Ben Roethlishberger and Carson Palmer all had "elite" receivers in Roddy White, Hines Ward and Chad Johnson, respectively, and performed well.
Sam Bradford, Vince Young and Joe Flacco had Danny Amendola, Drew Bennett and Derrick Mason as their top receivers. Bradford was Rookie of the Year, Young made a Pro Bowl and Flacco led his team to the playoffs...and won.
Then there are the guys who had "elite" receivers and failed. Matt Stafford had Calvin "Megatron" Johnson but nearly threw twice as many interceptions as touchdowns before getting hurt.
And then there was Jimmy Clausen. "Smitty" did nothing to help Clausen perform at a high level. Sure, the Panthers were a run-first team with an injured offensive line, but Smith did nothing to help Clausen and likely won't help Newton either when he gets in a jam.
Newton and the Panthers don't need Smith to be successful. David Gettis and Brandon LaFell should hold their own. If the Panthers can find a good slot receiver, they should be all right.
Plus, Jeremy Shockey once broke in another former No. 1 draft pick in Eli Manning. He ended up with 666 yards and six touchdowns. Newton can only hope for the same.
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