NFL Preseason: Cam Newton and 10 Rookies Making a Case for Starting Spots

Ryan SimonCorrespondent IIAugust 15, 2011

NFL Preseason: Cam Newton and 10 Rookies Making a Case for Starting Spots

0 of 10

    Another season, another chance for rookies to compete for a starting job. 

    I'm not a big fan of rookies starting right away. I think most rookies should take their time and develop. Starting mid-way through the season or next season would be ideal. 

    However, some rookies are truly NFL-ready. And if a player is ready to start when he comes out of college, it'd be a real shame to bench him over being a rookie. 

    You put the best player at his respective position on the field. It that player happens to be a rookie, them get him out there.

    That being said, here is Cam Newton and 10 rookies making a case for starting spots.

Mark Ingram

1 of 10

    There's a reason the New Orleans Saints took Ingram, in the first round, even though they have plenty of running backs—this kid is a beast.

    There's no other way to say it, he's 5'9", 215 pounds, and has loads of potential. The Saints are famous for not letting one running back get too many touches.

    However, with Reggie Bush gone, expect Ingram to do big things in New Orleans. 

    In his first preseason game, Ingram ran for 23 yards on six carries, as well as catching a pass for four yards.  

Christian Ponder

2 of 10

    Donovan McNabb clearly has more experience than Christian Ponder, but Ponder could snag Mcnabb's job away from him down the road. 

    Given Mcnabb's recent stint in Washington, it's not like his starting spot is set in stone. 

    Ponder was taken with the 12th pick in the NFL draft, and he has the ability to start this season.

    Ponder threw for 83 yards and went 8-for-13. Ponder also had no touchdowns or interceptions against the Tennessee Titans last Saturday. 

    Ponder most likely won't start at the beginning of the season, but he has a chance of taking the starting gig if McNabb doesn't play up to par. 

Cam Newton

3 of 10

    Cam Newton is the future for the Carolina Panthers, whether Jimmy Clausen likes it or not. 

    He got some solid playing time during his first preseason game, going 8-19 and throwing for 134 yards. While he did make some mistakes, he showed that same confidence and poise in the pocket that led Auburn to a BCS National Championship. 

    I'd look for Newton to start sooner rather than later, and to make some serious noise with the Panthers down the road. 

A.J. Green

4 of 10

    A.J. Green is everything you want in a wide receiver. He's 6'4", 211 pounds, and he's extremely athletic. 

    This starting job is pretty much Green's to lose. The Bengals took Green with the fourth pick in the NFL draft, and I don't see him sitting behind any receiver on this Bengals roster. 

    With Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens out of the way, except big things from Green. 

    He caught four passes for 29 yards against the Lions on Friday. 

Julio Jones

5 of 10

    Just like A.J. Green, this is Julio Jones job to lose. The Falcons broke the bank to get Julio Jones, and for good reason. 

    Jones caught two passes for 43 yards against the Dolphins on Friday. 

    This was just a little taste of Jones' potential, and he'll more likely than not be worth the picks the Falcons gave up to acquire him. 

Jerrel Jernigan

6 of 10

    The New York Giants are pretty deep at wide receiver. They currently have 12, yep, count it, 12 wide receivers on their roster. 

    They have some decisions to make at wide receiver going forward, especially since Steve Smith bolted to the Philadelphia Eagles. 

    The likely candidates for the No. 3 receiver spots are Victor Cruz and Domenik Hixon. However, I think Jerrel Jernigan is a sleeper for snatching the job.

    The Giants drafted him in the third round, even with all the wide receivers on their roster, so they obviously except big things from him (possible Steve Smith insurance.)

    Jernigan can play special teams as well, he returned two kick returns for 33 yards, as well so three punt returns for 13 yards his first time out against the Panthers. 

    Keep Jernigan's name in the back of your mind, this kid could be big.  

Marvin Austin

7 of 10

    Another Giant with an opportunity to get a starting spot. Chris Canty has right defensive end on lock, but the left side is still open. 

    Linival Joseph currently has that spot, but he only played six games the entire 2010 season. While he did manage to pull off eight tackles in those six games, Austin still has a shot to compete for that starting spot alongside Canty.  

    Austin had two tackles against the Panthers on Saturday. 

Andy Dalton

8 of 10

    Unless Carlson Palmer comes out of "retirement," this is Dalton's team. 

    He's not a flashy quarterback. He's not going to blow you away with his arm strength, but he's very accurate. 

    Dalton passed for 69 yards and completed 11 of his 15 passes against the Lions. He did have one interception, but he had a solid outing barring that. 

    No one is excepting a lot out of the Cincinnati Bengals, probably not even the Bengals themselves. 

    But with Dalton and Green on their roster, there's a light at the end of the tunnel. 

J.J. Watt

9 of 10

    J.J. Watt is a bad, bad man. He's 6'5", 290 pounds defensive end.

    Watt will strike fear in the hearts of all quarterbacks for years to come. 

    The Texans rave about this work ethic, and he could be a valuable piece in helping the Texans win the AFC South. 

    Their first preseason game is against the New York Jets tonight, and I'd look for Watt to get a shot or two against Mr. Mark Sanchez

Casey Matthews

10 of 10

    If his brother Clay Matthews is any indication, the Philadelphia Eagles have found their middle linebacker. 

    While having a rookie as the "quarterback" of your defense could be costly, Casey can turn some heads. The Eagles aren't exactly stacked at LB, in fact, it's one of their few weaknesses. 

    Casey is going to have to earn his spot more than some of the other people on this list, but giving the Eagles current situation, he has a good chance to start this season.