Cam Newton’s Record-Setting Rookie Debut Gives Panthers Reason for Optimism
Cam Newton has gone from a guy who people didn’t think was good enough to win the Heisman Trophy to putting together one of the best performances by a rookie quarterback in his NFL debut. The Panthers quarterback went 24-37 for 422 yards, two touchdowns, one interception, and a rushing touchdown in a 28-21 loss to the Cardinals Sunday. His 422 yards set the rookie record for an NFL debut, and the 422 yards ties Matthew Stafford for the most by a rookie in any game. His team may have lost the game, but there is little doubt the Panthers have many reasons to be optimistic.
Cam looked like a quarterback who had two years of pro experience. He navigated his way around the pocket with confidence, made plays to get first downs, and showed incredible accuracy with his passes. His first touchdown pass to Steve Smith may have been the result of a broken coverage, but his second TD pass was a beautifully thrown ball few quarterbacks can make. He took charge of the Panthers and looked every bit like a quarterback fully capable of leading them to victory.
Detractors may point out that Arizona doesn’t have the best defense in the NFL. They are right, however, the Cardinals have some good players in their secondary (namely Kerry Rhodes, Adrian Wilson, and Patrick Peterson). Cam’s performance was one for the ages, and even if it didn’t come against Baltimore, Green Bay, or Chicago, it’s enough to tell us he can be a legitimate quarterback in the NFL.
All quarterbacks experience struggles at some point in the season so there is little doubt Newton will face his problems, but his debut went better than almost anyone could have hoped. It has only been one game, but it already appears as if the Panthers made the right choice by selecting Newton first overall in the draft.