NFL: Cam Newton and 4 Young Players Looking to Have Breakout Years

Bob Bajek@bobbajekAnalyst IIISeptember 13, 2011

NFL: Cam Newton and 4 Young Players Looking to Have Breakout Years

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    Week 1 of the 2011 NFL season was extremely exciting, as football returned after an offseason long lockout and each team hosted moving Sept. 11 remembrance ceremonies.

    Some young players had solid performances, as they are trying to establish themselves as solid starters.

    Here are five players looking to have breakthrough seasons.

Oakland Raiders Running Back Darren McFadden

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    For the Oakland Raiders to become relevant again, much of that burden rests on fourth-year running back Darren McFadden's legs.

    McFadden, 24, is a second-year starter and had a solid 2010 campaign by running for 1,157 yards and seven scores.

    With Oakland not having a good starting quarterback who might have problems hitting the receivers consistently, McFadden will be called to carry the offensive load. 

    In Week 1's 23-20 win over the Denver Broncos, McFadden rushed for 150 yards on 22 carries.

    If that's any indication, he will have a super year.

Arizona Cardinals Quarterback Kevin Kolb

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    Languishing behind Donovan McNabb and Michael Vick for years, first-year starter Kevin Kolb is finally getting a shot with the Arizona Cardinals.

    Kolb, 27, spot started for both quarterbacks and did an admirable job, prompting the Cardinals to make a blockbuster trade to acquire him from the Philadelphia Eagles.

    With $63 million in the bank, Kolb has a lot to prove, and he had a good start Sunday in a 28-21 win over the Carolina Panthers. Kolb was 18-for-27 for 309 yards and two touchdowns, good for a 130 quarterback rating.

    All-Pro wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald will help Kolb be successful.

Washington Redskins Running Back Tim Hightower

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    Tim Hightower, 25, had limited action with the Arizona Cardinals, being Edgerrin James' backup in 2008 and splitting time with Beanie Wells the past two seasons.

    Being traded to the Washington Redskins to be their featured back, Hightower had a solid Week 1 performance against the New York Giants. He had 25 carries for 72 yards, a touchdown and 25 yards receiving.

    Hightower will be a key ingredient of the Redskins' offense, as Santana Moss and Chris Cooley with their receiving abilities will give Hightower space to run.

Chcicago Bears Defensive Tackle Henry Melton

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    Henry Melton, 24, is a second-year defensive tackle for the Chicago Bears who saw limited action his rookie season. Playing behind Tommie Harris, Melton had 16 tackles and three sacks in 2010.

    This year, the Bears cut ties with Harris and have placed Melton in his spot.

    The result? Melton had a breakout game in a 30-12 victory over the Atlanta Falcons. He had five tackles, two sacks and seven quarterback hits on Atlanta's Matt Ryan.

    The Bears need a dominate defensive tackle for their defensive line to be effective, and Melton might be the answer.

Carolina Panthers Quarterback Cam Newton

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    Cam Newton, the No. 1 pick of the 2011 NFL Draft, has big expectations in leading the Carolina Panthers back to competitiveness after a devastating 1-15 2010 season.

    It didn't take Newton, 22, long to deliver.

    He went 24-for-37 for a rookie record 422 yards and two touchdowns against one pick. Newton also used his legs for a running tally in a 28-21 loss to the Arizona Cardinals. 

    Newton has strong offensive weapons in wide receiver Steve Smith, running back DeAngelo Williams and tight ends Greg Olsen and Jeremy Shockey, so he has the tools for a successful season.


    Bob Bajek is a freelance reporter and can be followed at and Twitter.