In today’s NFL, very few rookies can come into the league and immediately have a huge impact on their team, and quarterbacks are the ultimate case study. The learning curve from the NCAA to the NFL is the most dramatic of the major sports. In sports such as basketball, baseball, and hockey, pure skill and talent can be enough to carry a kid through their first professional season. However, in the NFL, schemes and game plans are far more complex, and successful NFL offensive systems are rarely executed in college. Many successful college teams are seen running a version of the spread offense, which is exactly what Cam Newton ran in his one year at Auburn University, which culminated in a national title.
Such a system is rarely seen in the NFL, with the exception of a handful of plays throughout the season, and only when the teams have proper personnel to offer these packages. As a result of this, spread offense quarterbacks are often times dismissed and their ceiling for success at the next level is quite low. Cam Newton is no exception to this theory, as he was an undeniably raw talent that could throw the ball a mile and elude the quickest and strongest of defenders, while standing at 6’5’’ and 248 lbs. Yet proof of him possessing the quarterbacking skills required for the next level was lacking. When the 2011 draft rolled around, he was unquestionably a first round pick, but the question was whether he could be a successful quarterback in a pro-system. The Carolina Panthers, coming off of a historically bad season, figured they had little to lose, and selected Newton as the first overall pick. Now there’s no doubt the reigning Heisman Trophy winner had tremendous upside and could deliver excitement to Carolina, but how good could he really be?
Five weeks into the season, Cam Newton is showing he can be really good. As a quick disclaimer, yes, the Panthers are still 1-4, but it’s a promising 1-4, as 3 of those losses came to 3 of the last 4 teams to battle for the NFC Championship (Bears, Packers, Saints). They have battled each and every team that they’ve faced down to the wire, and Cam Newton is the reason why. He stepped up in Week one after being named starter by head coach Ron Rivera and set an NFL rookie record by throwing for a gaudy 422 yards. The next week against the stout Packers defense, he one-upped himself and tossed for 432 yards and simultaneously set an NFL record for most passing yards in a player’s first two career starts at quarterback. Last season, in 16 games, the Panthers scored a dismal 196 points. In the five games they have played this season, they’ve already racked up 116 and have increased their points per game total by 11. Newton has shown that he can be a leader and take the heat when the team doesn’t perform and, as most of us, he hates to lose. Newton has looked strong each and every week, and clearly continues to grow as a pocket passer. He’s even found a reliable deep threat receiver in veteran Steve Smith, who made no attempt to hide his disappointment with the team last season. Newton currently ranks fourth in the NFL with 1,610 yards passing and has tossed a respectable seven touchdowns. He’s also rushed for an impressive five touchdowns, as he’s been able to still showcase his quickness and mobility from college. Cam continues to impress fans, analysts and players alike and shows promise for things to come in Carolina.
Tyler Galicia can be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org