Cam Newton started out his professional debut in a mediocre performance against the New York Giants. The first overall pick played the second series against the Gmen , and proceeded to make several quick strikes and plays without anything noteworthy. He finished the game with 8 for 19 completions for 134 yards. I would say that this performance speaks to the learning curve that Newton will have to learn in the NFL. He was exposed at moments for his lack of presence and knowledge of reading defense. He had two specific instances that he missed an open receiver for a touchdown in this game. The Panthers did end up winning the game, but against any team touchdowns are vital.
When he was at Auburn he was able to get by some plays by a great offensive line and his pure athletic ability. Now, he has arguably the worst offensive line in the league and only one good receiver in Steve Smith. Smith is also recovering from an injured finger and did not play in this game. His health is crucial for the success of Cam Newton in his rookie season. He has a new tight end in Greg Olsen, and you could make an argument that he is one of the ten best TE’s in the league. Olsen has the ability to stretch a defense and get a critical third down catch. DeAngelo Williams, the starting running back for the Panthers is a good north/south rusher who will be able to get his stats. This will allow Newton to be able to get play action plays and prevent defenses from blitzing him every play.
The stat line that Newton had was not great by any stretch of the means, but there are important glimpses of the quarterback that he could be. There was a specific play where Newton found Greg Olsen for a long completion downfield where he read the defense correctly and distributed a good ball in stride to Olsen. However, Newton had two drives where he was in the end zone , and did not get a touchdown in either of them. This is a big red flag for Ron Rivera as head coach. Success in the NFL is often based on red zone efficiency, or the percentage of drives that are in the end zone that lead to a touchdown or a field goal. The Panthers got two field goals but field goals do not win a bunch of games in the NFL. Newton will get better but it will not be this year. The Panthers need to draft possession receivers and allow Newton to build camaraderie with his receiving core. Ron Rivera also needs to run first and pass second. He has a quarterback who plays like Michael Vick combined with Ben Roethlisberger. Rivera will learn the growing pains of the NFL the hard way with a dreadful season coming up. No one would ever predict the Panthers to go to the playoffs, and if they did they are on some serious drugs. What should scare Newton is that Steve Smith only has one year in him two years at best. He is going to have less receiving options than Andy Dalton. This goes to show sometimes being the number one pick can be a blessing and a curse. Anyone see the name Alex Smith again or even…. Ryan Leaf.