The NFL season is only two games deep but Cam Newton appears to be the front-runner for the 2011 Offensive Rookie of the Year Award.
The Panthers have lost both their games this season, but Newton is compiling some impressive statistics. In his debut with Carolina, Newton threw for 422 yards, and completed 24-of-37 passes against the Arizona Cardinals. In Sunday's game against the Green Bay Packers, Newton threw for 432 yards, and completed 28-of-46 passes.
Newton became the first NFL quarterback to throw for over 400 yards in his first start, and that doesn't just include rookies.
Many first-year quarterbacks handle the clipboard in their first NFL season, but Newton has made the big jump from college quarterback to opening day NFL starter. It's been a successful transition for the Heisman Trophy winner, and the first overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, as he has thrown some nice-looking passes, and hasn't shown much hesitance.
However, Newton has some work to do. He already has four interceptions, and makes the mistake of not throwing the ball out of bounds when he's under heavy duress.
Against the Packers, he was outsmarted by Charles Woodson, who stepped in front of a pass intended for Steve Smith. It was the play of a veteran cornerback easily reading a young quarterback's target.
What makes Newton so dangerous is his ability to scramble. He already has 81 rushing yards this season. Newton won't be able to accomplish the same type of runs he had at Auburn in the NFL, but he may already be among the best running quarterbacks in the game.
The more I see it, the more I know, it's not college no more, said Newton, who conceded that NFL teams don't use gimmicks, and that opponents know how to capitalize on turnovers.
Though the Panthers have two losses, they kept both games close, which may be a testament to Newton. They lost both games by a combined 10 points, and accumulated more yards than their opponents.
He's learning and it's a process, said head coach Ron Rivera, about Newton. The young man's gonna develop. And as he goes, we go.
Newton appears to have the confidence and poise to move forward from his past errors. He will have competition in a trio of wide receivers which include the Raiders' Denarius Moore, the Bengals' A.J. Green, and the Falcons' Julio Jones. Meanwhile, running back Mark Ingram has shown signs of promise with the Saints.