Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera on Sunday named rookie QB Cam Newton the starter for the team's upcoming game against the Cincinnati Bengals. This is a significant development, because the third preseason game is generally treated as a regular season game from a game-planning standpoint.
"We're going to start Cam this Thursday against Cincinnati," Rivera said, according to a release on Panthers.com. "What it will do is give us an opportunity to see how he'll handle the whole game experience, and we'll go from there. But he will start on Thursday as we go through this mock game week."
Rivera stopped short of naming the rookie his opening day starter.
"No, that makes him the starter for this Thursday," Rivera said. "We're still in the evaluation process to be quite honest. After having gone through the game, where we did some good things but not enough, the big that that we have to do is continue to evaluate the situation and circumstances.
"We've only really gone through about three-and-a-half, four weeks of training camp, so to rush into a decision I think would be kind of absurd. What we want to do is see how he handles this whole game week preparation."
The Panthers coaching staff has been impressed with Newton throughout camp, even though he hasn't led a touchdown drive through two games.
"The thing he has got to continue to do is he has got to make good decisions," Rivera said. "We had an opportunity to break the tape down and really saw some good things. It didn't show, obviously, but the biggest thing was he was making good decisions. Any time you see the guy make the decisions that you're supposed to make, the next part of it is delivering the ball on time, the next part of it is hitting the receiver in stride.
"His big thing that has to improve is his mechanics, and that is one thing that has actually been surprisingly good. I think that's the one thing he's getting better at. If you put the tape on and watch his mechanics from the game to what it was our first day of camp, you would go, 'Wow.' That was one of the nice things talking to Mike Shula about him was that mechanically he has gotten better.
"There is a lot of promise."