Cam Newton Makes NFL Debut: 7 Things That We Learned

Tyler Horner@BR_TylerHornerCorrespondent IIAugust 14, 2011

Cam Newton Makes NFL Debut: 7 Things That We Learned

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    Cam Newton made his much anticipated preseason debut Saturday night, and all eyes were focused on his every move. 

    Newton played the second and third quarters with the backups and third stringers while Jimmy Clausen took the snaps with the starters. Next week, the rookie quarterback will start in Miami, where he'll get his first chance to play with the team's starters. 

    While Newton did not put up overwhelming numbers this game, there is a lot that we can take from his first NFL action, and we will learn ever more next week when offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski really opens up the offense for him. 

    Read on to find out what you should take from Saturday's game.

He Still Has Some Work to Do to Win the Starting Job

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    While Cam was rather impressive—for a rookie—Jimmy Clausen was equally or more impressive. Clausen was more consistent, and although he had happy feet in the pocket, he made some nice downfield passes.

    Clausen's only boneheaded mistake was a terribly inaccurate throw on an out route to DeAngelo Williams that resulted in a pick-six. Other than that, everything you saw from him was correctable and gave you a positive feeling about his future as an NFL quarterback.

    After all, his 90.8 rating compares very favorably to his dismal 46.8 rating in the 2010 preseason. 

    If Newton had already been named the starter, it's likely that he would not have lost his job after his performance. He has some ground to make up on Clausen, and if he wants to start the important third preseason game, he ought to show up big time in week 2. 

He's Not Afraid to Let the Ball Fly

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    In Rob Chudzinki's new offensive scheme, downfield passing will play a huge role and that fits Cam Newton perfectly. He likes to put zip on the ball, and that was very evident in a few passes to his tight ends early on in the second quarter. 

    Newton is clearly comfortable with his arm strength, and it looks like that is a skill that will translate immediately. Often, rookie quarterbacks lose some power when playing against NFL defenses, but Newton's confidence may make him an exception. 

His Training Camp Block Was No Fluke

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    This block put some fear into head coach Ron Rivera, but apparently Newton's competitive spirit that forced him to make this block will carry into live game action. On an end around to David Clowney, Newton threw a block that gave Clowney just enough time to get to the edge and pick up a first down. 

    I'm sure Rivera will be talking to Newton about this once again, but who knows if the quarterback is capable of pulling up and letting a defensive end go and make a tackle.

    It's something that gets you excited, but it may be smarter to let the defender go next time, especially in the preseason. 

He Really Can't Stop Smiling

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    Cam Newton's personality is infectious, and it all begins with his smile. His positive attitude was something that was easy to pick up on while watching the game, and it rubbed off on the team. 

    When the offensive line allowed multiple defenders into the backfield, rendering Newton's mobility helpless, Newton shook it off, and you could see his wide grin from 100 yards away.

    This optimistic attitude is something that isn't always shared by Jimmy Clausen. Clausen was sacked twice by Jason Pierre-Paul and failed to step up into the pocket to avoid the second sack.

    Although the sack was clearly by his own fault, Clausen seemed frustrated with the offensive line. 

He Will Be a Fan Favorite

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    I did not hear any booing of Newton while he was on the field. He even received  a standing ovation when taken out in the third quarter. It appears his shining personality has gained the support of the fans. 

    I believe this may in part due to Newton's lack of big mistakes. Newton narrowly missed Armanti Edwards for a touchdown, but other than that, it's tough to recall his 11 missed passes. 

    He brings a lot of life to a fanbase, and every time he drops back, it gives you a glimpse of what might be an all-time great quarterback. That's enough to get Panthers fans very excited, and unsurprisingly, it did Saturday night. 

He Will Lean on His Tight Ends

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    The Panthers acquired some much needed help at the tight end position this offseason, and it appears it will pay off.

    Greg Olsen was the team's leading receiver, and although Jeremy Shockey did not see a lot of action, that will change once we get to the regular season. Shockey is a very physical, veteran tight end who will be a security blanket for whoever lines up at quarterback for the Panthers. 

    Gary Barnidge also surprised many viewers. We've seen flashes of what Barnidge can do as a receiver, but under John Fox, the team leaned toward blocking tight ends so Barnidge was never able to crack the starting lineup, despite his talent.

    However, he now looks to have a role in the Panthers future as Shockey does not have very many professional seasons left. 

    Newton completed his first toss on a play action pass that caused most of the Giants' defense to rush to Newton in fear of his running ability. That pass was completed to Greg Olsen, as was a 30-yard dart that he completed later in the drive. 

He May Not Run as Much as Expected

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    Newton rushed for about 1,500 yards and 20 touchdowns in his Heisman season at Auburn, causing many to believe he would be a huge threat as a running quarterback this season. That wasn't the case Saturday though.

    Newton did not record one rush but instead used his mobility to set up the pass, as was case and point on his first play of the game. 

    However, it is hard to believe that there will be many more games where Newton does not run the ball. He won't put up Vince Young or Mike Vick numbers as a rookie, but it appears he will use his running ability only in emergencies.

    I can't say that I don't agree with that decision though. We know how good of a runner he can be. so it is essential that he works on his ability to be a pocket passer as Mike Vick did in 2010 with the Eagles