Heading into his rookie season, Cam Newton has already become the focus of the NFL. His personality and talent have garnered great deal of media attention throughout the preseason.
The big questions that we are waiting to be answered are: How will he do in his rookie season? What kind of numbers will he put up and will he disappoint or exceed everyone's expectations? While there is a solid argument for either side, I strongly feel Newton will have an exceptional rookie season.
There are many different variables that have led me to that conclusion and I'll get into that as you read on.
Many draft scouts doubted Newton's ability to develop into an NFL caliber quarterback. They emphasized flaws in Newton's game and exaggerated these flaws as if they were debilitating weaknesses.
This is different from many other rookies. JaMarcus Russel, Peyton Manning, Sam Bradford, and Matthew Stafford were all praised as franchise quarterbacks. What did they have that Newton does not? Extremely high expectations.
I believe Newton has the character traits to strive when he's being doubted and I'll delve even further into that later on.
Cam Newton entered Auburn with little major collegiate football experience and few relationships with teammates. Yet he did not sit back and let someone else become the team's leader. Newton stepped up and quickly gained the respect of his teammates and coaches.
With Newton as team leader, Auburn had a sense of comfort in the huddle. He has that type of positive, reassuring personality. Because of Newton's leadership, Auburn won the National Championship.
Newton has already formed close relationships with his team and it is clear that he will soon be the unquestioned leader of the offense.
Newton has a great amount of talent around him at offense. There are holes on the roster—like the second receiver spot—that he will have to deal with for the time being, but the skill players are around him.
He has one of the best backfields in the NFL behind him. Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams spell each other perfectly and have already become one of the statistically best tandems in league history.
Steve Smith gives Cam a consistent deep target to utilize. At tight end, Cam has two great receivers: Greg Olsen and Jeremy Shockey.
On the offensive line, Newton will be spoiled. Right tackle Jeff Otah is an elite talent when healthy, and Jordan Gross is a stalwart presence.
Cam landed in a great situation with the Panthers. New offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski runs an offense that nicely matches Newton's skills. Chudzinski is open to offering Newton the freedom to make slight alterations in the playbook.
In Chudzinki's offense, Newton will attack vertically and use tight ends on a lot of deep outs and flat patterns. This is a great fit because Newton's vertical accuracy matches any quarterback prospect that I've seen in the past few seasons. While he can sometimes put too much loft on the ball, it's something that he can work on to increase his consistency.
Newton has a huge arm and he will certainly be afforded the opportunity to showcase it this season, but there will also be many instances where Newton will simply be required to hit his tight end for short, high-percentage passes.
Newton has won a college national championship in two consecutive seasons. His first was at the junior college level and more recently he won the BCS National Championship. If that doesn't describe a winner, then the word must have no meaning.
Newton went undefeated while playing in college football's toughest conference, the SEC, which produces loads of NFL talent every season. Newton's performance in a late season game against Alabama with huge implications was outstanding. Newton and Auburn overcame a 24-point deficit behind Cam's 4 TD performance.
A winning mentality is important to a young quarterback's success and I believe that he has the ability to start winning games very soon with Carolina.
To this point in the 2011 NFL preseason schedule, Cam has done everything that you'd expect from a rookie quarterback. He has taken great care of the ball and has rarely made fans nervous—except when he attempted to dive through three defenders for a first down.
Rookie quarterbacks Josh Freeman and Mark Sanchez made a lot of mistakes in their first NFL seasons, but were still considered solid future prospects. What will set Newton apart will be if he limits turnovers, something we rarely see from a rookie quarterback.
Let's take a look at some of the NFL's recent busts at the quarterback position.
- Vince Young started out fast, but character concerns quickly derailed a great future.
- JaMarcus Russel simply did not have the work ethic to make it in the NFL.
- Ryan Leaf was often injured and couldn't perform well enough for the short time he was on the field.
There are no character concerns with Cam. Newton has handled himself with great poise thus far which only increases my confidence in him.
Newton has already shown a strong work ethic. He spent every day training in the offseason and studied the playbook. Panthers coaches were impressed by the great shape he was in during training camp and how up to speed he was on the offense.
Durability is not a concern with Cam. He has been healthy and should remain so behind a solid offensive line. Durability is a much bigger concern for his protection; if the offensive line suffers from injuries, there could be a reason to worry about Newton.
Newton is in a much better situation than many realize and he may be on his way to having one of the most efficient and successful seasons that we've ever seen from a rookie quarterback.