The quarterback battle in Carolina got a little tighter last week. Most were expecting Jimmy Clausen to lose the job with his poor play, but Clausen was more efficient than Newton, meaning Cam will really have to impress this week if he wants to get the nod in the third preseason game.
Cam made some correctable mistakes in his first game, but that's expected for a rookie so don't read much into the stats. He threw a lot of incompletions, but there is no better time to learn than in your first NFL game so expect an improved Newton when the Panthers take on the Dolphins.
There were a few mechanical and mental errors that I believe will be corrected, but certain skills will take longer to build. Here are a few things to look for from Newton on Friday.
Newton narrowly missed on some long passes last week and I expect him to cut out a lot of those incompletions this week. He only connected on eight of his 19 passes and can really turn those numbers around with more consistent footwork.
He threw off of his back foot on a couple passes that could have been touchdowns had he properly stepped forward. The most notable miss was a pass that just sailed over Armanti Edwards' outstretched arms; a pass that would have been a touchdown had he taken some power off of it.
Look for Newton to correct his footwork and increase his completion percentage. This may mean less long passes, but if it means he will be less erratic with his footwork and help him down the road, I'm all for it.
Newton didn't record one score last week and you can partially chalk that up to the coaches. It seemed like Newton was on a tight leash when it came to running the ball and likely could have used his feet to pick up a first down or even a touchdown on multiple occasions.
You can also attribute it to the receivers, who dropped a few great passes in the end zone. It may have been that Newton put too much zip on the ball for Carolina's inexperienced group of receivers, but to use that as an excuse is unacceptable. They simply need to do a better job of getting their hands away from their body.
An additional week of work with this receiving corps will be great for Newton. It will build some chemistry and improve their timing, which often seemed off—something that is typical in the preseason, especially when a rookie is at quarterback.
I would be very surprised if Newton threw an interception, and there are several reasons I have for that feeling.
First of all, the Dolphins don't have an attacking defense. They rarely forced turnovers last season and only came up with 11 interceptions by season's end—good for 28th in the league. They did not take a lot of chances and Newton will likely end up throwing many short passes.
My second motivation for predicting this is that Newton will be playing with the starters—and for only one quarter. Playing with the Panthers' starting lineup is a big deal because once they got into the third and fourth quarter, Newton and teammate Derek Anderson were playing with guys who likely won't make the team.
Last week, when playing with the backups, Newton was under a lot of pressure and wasn't able to escape, even with his great mobility. He'll now have a better offensive line to be protected by and better check downs to get the ball to. Look for limited mistakes this week.
In his first preseason action, Newton was making quick decisions and didn't try to run the ball when a play broke down. Rather, he tried to fit the ball into a tight window and it often resulted in a dropped pass or an inaccurate throw.
This week, I wouldn't be shocked if Rob Chudzinski opened up the offense a little bit to let Newton try and win the starting job. That means we should see more runs for first downs. With Steve Smith out of the lineup, there is no ideal playmaker to look for on third downs so Newton may try and make some magic on his own.
As long as Newton has learned how to slide or when to run out of bounds, this shouldn't be much of a concern for head coach Ron Rivera, who likely wants his first draft pick to avoid contact at all costs during the preseason.
The Dolphins aren't nearly as good of a team at this point as the Giants and the Panthers still came up with a convincing victory, with the Giants only touchdown coming on a pick six. The Panthers are getting healthier and linebacker Thomas Davis will be among the significant players who will return to action this week.
Miami's backups were able to stage a comeback last week, but the Panthers backups looked strong last week. I expect Jimmy Clausen to impress again and either maintain or extend a lead in the second and third quarters.
A few young receivers stepped up last week as well.
Kealoha Pilares and Armanti Edwards were among the players that impressed me. Now that Carolina has seen some more of what their young talent has to offer, look for them to get more time and Newton to get his first win as a starting quarterback.