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Cam Newton far better, far sooner than anyone expected

Panthers quarterback Newton works to jump over Vikings free safety Abdullah during an NFL football game in Charlotte Reuters

PFT is trying to look at every team in-depth during their bye week.

The Packers, Bears, Jets, Bucs, and Raiders were in the spotlight last week. Now up: The Carolina Panthers.

Losing rarely feels this good

Carolina is 2-6 at the midway point. They are on pace to double their win total from a year ago, but that’s not the reason for optimism. The Panthers are better than their record indicates. They are 1-5 in games decided by one score or less.

Some of those close losses came to quality opponents: Green Bay, New Orleans, and Chicago. The Panthers offense is dramatically improved, and there’s just one reason why.

Promising decade ahead

Cam Newton is far better, far sooner than even Warren Moon imagined.  You could argue Newton is already one of the ten best quarterbacks in football. Carolina’s offense was dead last in points, passing yards, and total yards last season.  They rank 14th, 5th, and 5th respectively this year.  That’s all Newton.

Newton’s rushing totals (317 yards, 7 TDs) are big as expected. But no one expected him to be such a composed pocket passer. He doesn’t look to run unless it’s necessary. He doesn’t get too flustered by blitzes. He delivers strikes with bodies around him in the pocket.

There are still some errant throws and his decision making can be improved, but that’s to be expected. The Panthers found themselves a franchise quarterback who can be one of the game’s best sooner than you think.

Creative running game

The Panthers are a lot of fun to watch because Newton gives them so many options in the running game. Newton’s play fakes are terrific and the threat of him running keeps defenses a half-step slow. Carolina is fifth in the league in yards-per-carry. Jonathan Stewart has started to take the primary back role from DeAngelo Williams.

Good thing they kept Smith

Steve Smith has been reborn with Newton helping him out. Smith leads the league in receiving yards. Carolina’s offense has enough weapons with Smith, the two running backs, and Greg Olsen playing well at tight end. Throw in an underrated pass-blocking line and it’s a solid grop overall.

Rivera hasn’t helped defense

So why is this team 2-6?  Mostly because their defense can’t get stops.  Ron Rivera arrived from San Diego knowing the defense was shaky, but they have been worse than expected.

The linebacker group was decimated by injuries. Chris Gamble is enjoying a revived season at cornerback, but the rest of the secondary is mediocre. Charles Johnson has looked worth his big money at defensive end, but starting two rookie defensive tackles hasn’t worked.

The Panthers are 28th in points allowed. Only three teams give up more yards-per-pass. They are 28th in turnovers and can’t stop the run. Rivera’s group is among the league’s worst.

Schedule gets tougher

The Panthers play seven winning teams in their final eight games. That includes four division games in their final five weeks.

Carolina has shown they can compete with anyone. A 4-4 record down the stretch with this schedule would be a sign of big things to come.

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69 Responses to “Cam Newton far better, far sooner than anyone expected”
  1. joetoronto says: Nov 2, 2011 11:31 AM

    What Cam Newton has done to that team is amazing.

    Their future actually looks bright.

  2. boilerup1869 says: Nov 2, 2011 11:34 AM

    Someone thinks Chicago is a quality opponent! Woo!

  3. redbullenergydrink says: Nov 2, 2011 11:40 AM

    Gotta give Cam the credit that he deserves! Great job so far!

    Now let’s see him win some games.

  4. bangthedrum22 says: Nov 2, 2011 11:41 AM

    This goes to show you that BO KNOWS QB’S .. Bo jackson was on the radio pre season and said Cam was probably the best athlete in the league.. I thought bo had lost his mind at the time .. Looks like he might be right

  5. beastson says: Nov 2, 2011 11:42 AM

    They gotta shape up that Defense. Cam is a beast. I feel sorry for other fans in that division because he is here to torture them for a long long time.

  6. mneaglesfanguy says: Nov 2, 2011 11:44 AM

    He is a great talent as suspected strong arm pretty accurate and he has that mellow composured character to him that all qb’s have. I always thought he was gonna be good at nfl level with pro quality athletes around him.

  7. drshakedown74 says: Nov 2, 2011 11:45 AM

    He is better than I thought he would be.

  8. snowpea84 says: Nov 2, 2011 11:45 AM

    Lets hope he actually takes his game to the next level and becomes the player people are acting like he already is. That would be amazing. Until that happens, temper your enthusiasm.
    It is not at all a stretch to imagine him taking a team to 8 or 9 wins, but never getting better than that.
    I hope thats not the case, but lets see him do it first.
    Although, these are all the same peopl who think Mike Vick is amazing, or that Vince Young was good in Tenessee.

  9. bnwillard says: Nov 2, 2011 11:48 AM

    This guy will be ruling the league in 2 seasons. It’s a damn shame the Panthers picked this year to field their worst defense and special teams units in franchise history.

  10. dirtdawg55 says: Nov 2, 2011 11:49 AM

    Hard to believe there was debate about Cam – and Tebow. Both are proving to be what they were all along. Both are gifted athletes but one is a gifted QB. I was sure Tebow would flop at QB and remain convinced he will never amount to anything ore than a novelty at the position. I wasn’t sold on Newton either, but largely because I hadn’t seen much of him, but I have watched prolonged periods of his pay this year and he is the real deal. He stands solidly in the pocket, doesn’t have the dancing feet so many younger QBs seem to have and can throw an absolute dart. He has thrown some beautiful deep balls.

    This kid is for real and us naysayers are having to eat humble pie. Oh well, doesn’t taste as bad as I thought. Glad to see a guy have success when so many doubted it, even if I was one of them (and yes, I know this is Chapter One, but I will root for a great ending from this point forward even though I am not a Panthers fan).

  11. someidiotfromouthereintheprojects says: Nov 2, 2011 11:49 AM

    cam is easily a top 10 nfl qb…watching carolina football has never been more enjoyable. if you get a chance to see them, check em out. cam is the boss. just ask bo, he knows.

  12. meegs34 says: Nov 2, 2011 11:49 AM

    Teams would have tried “Suck for Cam.”

    But it doesn’t rhyme.

  13. beastson says: Nov 2, 2011 11:49 AM

    Bo knows Football!

  14. mediasloppy says: Nov 2, 2011 11:52 AM

    If this cat wins offensive rookie of the year it’s a shame. I cannot deny he has played good and far better than people gave him credit for, but Andy Dalton is doing an even better job, while winning games and hardly gets the press coverage Newton does…

  15. someidiotfromouthereintheprojects says: Nov 2, 2011 11:53 AM

    and seriously people, cut out the VY and Vick comparrisons, you’re embarrassing yourself

  16. nflcraziness says: Nov 2, 2011 11:56 AM

    Let’s not forget about Christian Ponder, he is 1 – 1 as a starter, with the win coming against Cam and the Panters. Neither are fazed by the big time and both give hope to their teams for the future. Ponder doesn’t seem like the “reach” with the 12th pick everybody was saying. And he was the 4th QB selected in the draft. Should have gone higher?

  17. phillyfan4ever says: Nov 2, 2011 11:56 AM

    I agree and Cam made me eat my words. The guy is an absolute stud and even though they are 2-6 he has made the panthers a revelant team again.

    Futures bright in NC

  18. edukator4 says: Nov 2, 2011 11:59 AM

    eating crow over here, didnt think he’d work out like this at all

  19. zoxitic says: Nov 2, 2011 12:01 PM

    I wonder how Charley Casserly and Nowicki from PFW feel now. They absolutley scorched Cam when analyzing him at draft time. They werent the only ones, but they were the most vocal.

  20. snarkzilla says: Nov 2, 2011 12:03 PM

    Newton does some spectacular stuff but he’s still a bit raw, which is what anybody who’s reasonable would expect – but if he’s already top ten and Dalton’s been better – which he has been – who are the 22 QBs who are worse?

  21. bobbyyyd says: Nov 2, 2011 12:05 PM

    whoever said andy dalton should win rookie of the year are smoking some good stuff. The ONLY reason dalton is winning is b/c the bengals have the best D in the NFL. Give the Panthers the bengals defense and they would be 7-1 or 6-2. Do not get me wrong Dalton is a good Qb and will be a good Qb for years to come, but to say he is better than cam is funny

  22. beastson says: Nov 2, 2011 12:06 PM

    Jaguars should have drafted Ponder or Dalton. Ponder is much better than Dalton. Dalton just landed on a team with a strong defense and a good offense.

  23. bigcarguy1 says: Nov 2, 2011 12:08 PM

    Cam is doing his thing and proving a lot of haters wrong–that being said, these league is judged by wins and losses!! Indivdual records do not matter–and The Panthers need to win some games.
    Defense is killing them!!

  24. bigredlite says: Nov 2, 2011 12:12 PM

    you are all whacked out in the head. Cam is a decent QB but their is really to much hype on Cam Newton no one is mentioning his fumbles or interception ratio. Why isnt Andy Daltons name in the mix for top 10 QB he is actually helping his team win without excuses. come on be fair people just because he was picked number one does not make him a top ten QB.

  25. KeepitReal says: Nov 2, 2011 12:15 PM

    Merrill Hodge placed Cam as the 5th best Quarterback in the NFL.

    If you were building a new team, what Quarterbacks would you take over Newton? I can only name two. Aaron Rodgers and Roethlisberger. Brees and Brady are too old.

  26. fatguystrangler says: Nov 2, 2011 12:15 PM

    Before the Draft, I said on here he’s the ultimate Boom or Bust prospect. Looking like a Boom. Nice season so far, kid.

  27. sterling7 says: Nov 2, 2011 12:20 PM

    I am a HUGE fan of college football and based on the offense Auburn ran I thought sure Cam Newton was destined to be a disaster at quatertback. His progress and play amaze me at this level being a rookie. Obviously I was wayyyyyyy wrong and I am very happy for him and the Carolina fans, they have so much to look forward too. I would like to see Cam run less because even at his size this is the NFL and they live to punish ball carriers so I’d like to see him run less before he sustains serious injuries.

  28. ravensfreak00 says: Nov 2, 2011 12:20 PM

    When the Panthers drafted Newton, I was telling all of my friends how he was going to be a bust. Boy, was I wrong.

  29. knucklebucket says: Nov 2, 2011 12:20 PM

    I hated the attitude on this kid before the draft. I must admit I wanted to see him fail. However, after watching this him play this year he is the real deal. His success may take a little bit of time but he has shown that he is going to be good for a long time.

  30. obamablowz says: Nov 2, 2011 12:20 PM

    Alright I said it before the season started…..THIS KID WONT MAKE IT. So far I’m wrong. Good Luck Cam.

  31. freewayjim says: Nov 2, 2011 12:23 PM

    First things first, wow, was I wrong about Cam Newton, at best I thought he’d get by on athleticism but be limited everywhere else.

    Wrong! the guy can really play some QB and I mean that in a sense beyond his athleticism, he looks like a natural out there, oh sure he makes some mistakes, even veterans make bad plays now and then but I think we are on the cusp of seeing something pretty special.

    That said, I’d like to take this opportunity to ask if anybody at the college level has any clue as to coaching and developing QB’s?.

    I live in SEC country, the Cam Newton I saw last year looked nothing like what we are seeing now. And Urban Meyer should be highly embarrassed that he had Tim Tebow for four years and sent him to the NFL without correcting any of his glaring flaws.

  32. telergy says: Nov 2, 2011 12:25 PM

    No one gives Rob Chudzinski any credit. His playcalling ability is unquestioned. This is a guy who made Derek Anderson a pro bowler. If this was any other NFL system, I don’t think Cam would have as much success. It’s not ALL Cam.

  33. snarkzilla says: Nov 2, 2011 12:33 PM

    Newton has 11 TDs passing + 7 rushing. But also 12 turnovers.

  34. porkcarrot says: Nov 2, 2011 12:36 PM

    Two points.

    1. On defense they lost linebackers Jon Beason and Thomas Davis, two studs. But they also lost Ron Edwards, the big run-stuffing DT they signed to hold down the line. He may not be a stud, but he was a big, competent run stopper that they needed. Losing him has forced them to play rookie DTs. That was not the plan.

    2. Don’t even talk about Andy Dalton as rookie of the year. His stats aren’t close to Cam’s. He has wins, but that is because he has a very good defense, and has played a parade of teams with awful qbs. The teams they beat are a combined 12-23, take out the last second win over the Bills and that record drops to 7-21. This isn’t close.

  35. Deb says: Nov 2, 2011 12:52 PM

    telergy says:

    No one gives Rob Chudzinski any credit. His playcalling ability is unquestioned. This is a guy who made Derek Anderson a pro bowler. If this was any other NFL system, I don’t think Cam would have as much success. It’s not ALL Cam.
    ————————————————-
    Another person who deserves some recognition is Mike Shula. As an Alabama diehard, I have a lot of mixed feelings about Shula. But whatever his failings may be, Mike is a good quarterbacks coach. Cam is a superior overall athlete and doesn’t have the poor throwing mechanics that plague Tebow. And even though they came from similar college systems, he’s found it easier to pick up the pro system despite less prep time. But at least part of Cam’s success can be attributed to landing in the right place with the right coaching staff. He–and Carolina–can be greatful Tebow is stuck with Fox.

  36. glac1 says: Nov 2, 2011 12:58 PM

    Please, don’t compare him to Vick. Cam appears to have morals and shows maturity. Comparing him to Vick is a slap in the face.

  37. lucky5934 says: Nov 2, 2011 12:59 PM

    Cam’s pre-season negativity was derived from two sources. One being people were convinced he was a bad person whose father’s actions prompted bad feelings towards Cam. Secondly, history has taught us that Spread Offense quarterbacks do not fare very well in the NFL. So yes it was a pleasant surprise to all that he would be so successful and poised at this point in his career.

  38. dcfan4life says: Nov 2, 2011 12:59 PM

    Ya know a lot of people said this same thing about Donovan Mcnabb and Michael Vick when they came out. How much better they were than expected because of there running threat. With that ability it changes how a defense has to play them, and sometimes makes the player look better than he is. Teams all eventually figured out Vick. They figured out Mcnabb so he stopped running altogether years ago. They will figure out Cam and he will be good, but not great when that running threat dissappears.

  39. marty2019 says: Nov 2, 2011 1:08 PM

    I thought the Panthers were crazy for spending the first overall pick on Newton. I didn’t think he was even remotely prepared to be an NFL QB, and I wasn’t sure if he ever would be.

    I was very wrong.

  40. scytherius says: Nov 2, 2011 1:09 PM

    I was a naysayer. I was wrong. Not only has he done it, he’s done it with class.

    Well done Cam.

  41. sml1950 says: Nov 2, 2011 1:11 PM

    Maybe Cam WILL be an entertainer and an icon.

  42. slammincamnewton says: Nov 2, 2011 1:13 PM

    I’m not taking anything away from Andy Firecrotch Dalton, but people are saying the Bengals are winning he deserve OROY. Go ahead and flip flop the panthers and bungals schedules and the Panthers would be better than the bungals and the bungals would be worse than the Panthers.

  43. slammincamnewton says: Nov 2, 2011 1:15 PM

    Also people need to stop comparing Cam to bottom feeders like Donnie McNaab, Vick, and Teblow.

    You only need to compare him to Brady and Brees, who he’s better than currently anyways.

  44. vexey says: Nov 2, 2011 1:16 PM

    It hasn’t felt this good to be a panthers fan in a long, long time

  45. terrellblowens says: Nov 2, 2011 1:27 PM

    I knew all along that Newton had the makings of a good QB. Never expected it to be this soon but he’s a part of a new breed of QBs. He makes plays with his arm and his feet.

    Call me crazy but I think he has a chance to be even better than Andrew Luck when it’s all said and done. Cam plays with a chip on his shoulder and like he’s got something to prove. Nothing was given to him. He was so heavily criticized and scrutinized, while Luck is already being touted as the next Peyton Manning or John Elway.

  46. tformation says: Nov 2, 2011 1:38 PM

    I thought most if not all rookie QBs would be struggling with the truncated off-season… Cam & Dalton have proved how bad my football prognostication is!

    Good start, Cam. Keep it up unless you end up playing my Bears again.

  47. tmac4454 says: Nov 2, 2011 1:40 PM

    How can a team with no winning season at all get a tough schedule down the road…Look at the Cowgirls, their schedule is weak..imo is the nfl looking to put Jenny Jones and the cowgirls in the post season with their schedule. You have a rookie/beast in Carolina (Cammie Cam) who is doing what he knows best. If they could place some intermediate players around this guy, he will definitely be in the post season..Continue to do what you do Cam….

  48. nflofficeadmin says: Nov 2, 2011 1:47 PM

    All these young, diverse studz are making the commish excited.

  49. nflofficeadmin says: Nov 2, 2011 1:50 PM

    ICON

  50. qdog112 says: Nov 2, 2011 1:58 PM

    Face it, when it gets down to it – it’s just football and Cam is a phenomenal football player. I’ve said it all along, when he steps on any field, he becomes one of the best athletes, if not the best one on the field. (last time I checked, QBs are still athletes.) I know it’s a bad word when talking about QBs.

    There are only a handful of QBs that I’d take over Cam. He has more tools than anyone to play the spot, in my opinion.

  51. Mr. Wright 212 says: Nov 2, 2011 2:00 PM

    Just give the kid credit. Reading too many veiled shots at him on here.

    He’s making rookie mistakes, but his demonstrated NFL caliber ability is blowing me away, and I didn’t like him at Auburn nor did I think he was going to be much of anything — if ever — until his 3rd year at the earliest.

    That he is doing this well thus far, with a broken defense and making rookie mistakes (throw the record out, it is irrelevant at this point), he gets a B+ in my book.

  52. cropslx says: Nov 2, 2011 2:18 PM

    It is GREAT to be a panthers fan. I have been to every game and it is fun to watch. It was UNBAREABLE last year!! Even if we are down in the 4th quarter I believe the Panthers are going to come back and win. Last year I went to the games knowing we were going to lose.

    I don’t watch college football so I listened to all the “experts”. I was convenienced that we should not take him because of the “experts”. But as soon as the Panthers drafted him, I started teaching my 2yr and 3yr old who the new panthers quarter backs name is…Cam Newton!!

    If you had a team which QB would you want Cam or Andy……If you are honest with yourself Cam would be your pick!!

  53. catman72 says: Nov 2, 2011 2:26 PM

    Give Cam the Bengals defense and schedule and he would be 8-0.

  54. thespeaker08 says: Nov 2, 2011 2:29 PM

    Kinda proud of PFT nation for not slamming him or this article.

    The boy truly has performed beyond anyone’s expectations.

  55. eyeamlegend says: Nov 2, 2011 2:33 PM

    Cam. I’m digging you. Poise in the pocket, big time throws, learning from mistakes, great post game responses. You’re leading the team on the field. Don’t let any off the field activities hinder your production on the field and for the love of God please do not allow them to put you on the cover of Madden….EVER!

  56. herkulease says: Nov 2, 2011 2:44 PM

    Cam and/or the panthers biggest challenge is year 2 and beyond.

    He’s doing great for the flak he’s gotten before even given a chance but will he be satisfied with it and call it a day.

    If he’s like eh, I’ve done good enough then there could be trouble ahead.

    There are plenty of guys across all sports who have the eh attitude. They did good enough and don’t have the desire to work at improving all facets of the game.

    If Cam has the crazy work ethic like Kobe, jordan and others he’s has a bright future ahead.

  57. osage44 says: Nov 2, 2011 3:42 PM

    Any one who watched Cam through last season at Auburn knew he would be a success in the NFL. The guy clearly has what it takes to become a great NFL QB. War Eagle!

  58. granadafan says: Nov 2, 2011 3:44 PM

    Like Tiki, I am flabergasted. To do what he’s doen as a rookie and with no offseason is just stunning. Sure his team is losing, but it’s a team effort and Cam doesn’t play defense.

    I was skeptical, but now I’m a believer in this entertainer/icon AND QB.

  59. jonbeaston says: Nov 2, 2011 3:53 PM

    It cracks me up that now everyone is saying that they knew Cam would be good. I call b.s. Before the season, heck, before the draft, everyone was burrying him, saying he was gonna be a bust. I’m man enough to admit I was wrong about him. I thought he had potential, but didnt’ expect this kind of performance this early.

    It’s ok for you to say Cam is good, but just admit that you were wrong about him too.

  60. snarkzilla says: Nov 2, 2011 4:15 PM

    >You only need to compare him to Brady and Brees, who he’s better than currently anyways.

    Believe what you like, but Cam ranks 13th in Passer Rating and 13th in QBR. Pretty astounding for a rookie but not better than Brady (2,2) or Brees (4,3).

  61. metalhead65 says: Nov 2, 2011 4:24 PM

    ok he is doing a much better job than everyone expected. but next year after teams have film on him and have time to plan against him and he does perform on the same level, I do not want to read how he needs time to develop/adj. or whatever term you wish to use. the experts and the media have already proclaimed him the best young qb in the game. there should be no drop off next year or excuses if there is.

  62. richm2256 says: Nov 2, 2011 4:51 PM

    I will say this about Cam Newton so far:

    He’s no Jamarcus Russell.

  63. raideralex99 says: Nov 2, 2011 4:56 PM

    Wow … when was the last time a QB had a team 2-5 and got all this praise.
    I want to see him in a game … where it actually means something or playoff implication.
    How many QBs look good especially this year until they get to the red zone where the defense bears down and you have a small window.
    Dalton ROY??? Seriously go back and read the posts from the media during the pre-season games where they said he was the worst starting QB in the NFL.

  64. Deb says: Nov 2, 2011 5:50 PM

    @jonbeaston …

    Before the season I posted exactly what I said here: Although I like Tebow, Cam is a superior athlete and doesn’t have his poor throwing mechanics. Said I was excited to see what a guy with Roethlisberger’s size, even more mobility, and a big arm could do.

    But …

    I also questioned whether a QB who’d been playing in a simplified spread could handle a pro offense or quickly learn to read complex defenses. For that reason, I didn’t think he was worth the gamble of first-pick money. Yes, I was wrong :D

  65. jdd428 says: Nov 2, 2011 6:02 PM

    OK, all you people knocking Cam for only having 2 wins while Dalton is 5-2 and Ponder beat him head-to-head obviously didn’t READ THE ARTICLE! And you clearly don’t realize that football is a TEAM game!

    The Panthers are 1-5 in games decided by one score or less, and their defense has been a MESS (plus the loss to Minnesota goes directly to a late penalty and a missed chippy field goal). The losses cannot be pinned on Cam; in fact they’ve been in games – against quality opponents – strictly because of Cam.

    Dalton has been pretty good, but not as good as Cam. The Bengals’ 5-2 record should be credited to an improved defense (and a fairly favorable schedule). I already explained Ponder’s head-to-head win over Carolina. He too has been good, but not as good as Newton.

  66. redbear18 says: Nov 2, 2011 8:28 PM

    I’ll admit, I was one of the guys who was predicting Cam to crash and burn. At best, i thought he would have a steep learning curve to struggle with his rookie year. I never expected this. Eating crow has never tasted this good. This guy is electric, exciting to watch, driven, determined, talented, skilled, and all-around a good player, even better than Sam Bradford was last year. I think Cam is even better than him, only the record doesn’t show it because he plays in a division that had 3 10+ win teams last year instead of playing in the NFC worst- oops, I mean west, where the division winner last year had a losing record. This guy is good, and he could easily be ruling the south in a couple years.

  67. patfic15 says: Nov 2, 2011 10:14 PM

    Year 2 is the one that counts…

  68. urworstnitemare58 says: Nov 3, 2011 10:57 AM

    Why do some you posters always have to something negitive about players not on the team you root for? I’m not a fan of the Panthers, but damn give the kid credit. He is a rookie and one of the best QB’s in the NFL and he will only get better with more expirience. I’ve watched some of his game and he has a strong accurate arm, big, fast, and physical. I just hope he doesn’t suffer the same fate as Archie Manning. A great QB on lousy team.

  69. astarc1 says: Nov 3, 2011 4:51 PM

    I dunno about y’all but cam has been as entertaining as any football player can be and is certainly very quickly becoming my icon.

    People saying that dalton should be ROTY are full of crap cos the bengals are loaded with talent on both sides of the ball and just needed a game manager like dalton to manage the game, besides their schedule is as easy as it gets this year.

    Vote cam for NFC pro bowl squad!

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