|Bo Jackson on Cam Newton: “There isn’t another quarterback in the NFL that has all of those tangibles.” (Getty Images)|
Posted by Ryan Wilson
Cam Newton, the first-overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, and the latest franchise quarterback for the Panthers, has been named the starter as Carolina heads into the regular season. Newton wasn't particularly impressive during the preseason, completing just 42 percent of his passes (24 for 57, 300 yards) and throwing just one touchdown, but he showed glimpses of the future and, well, potential can be a powerful aphrodisiac.
Of course, the NFL QB scrap heap is littered with players who had gobs of inherent talent but couldn't ever do anything with it. The reasons for their professional demises are as varied as the names on the list. Clark Judge, our CBSSports.com colleague, wrote last week that "If Newton demonstrated anything in three quarters of a 24-13 loss to Cincinnati, it's that he's not ready for prime time. He should sit, and he should sit until he understands what he's doing and what he sees -- because that's not happening now."
Judge reiterated those thoughts again Friday, a day after head coach Ron Rivera made it official.
"Normally, [Newton] would have minicamps, OTAs and quarterback camps to pick up the pro game, but all that got flushed during the lockout. So [he] reported in late July and will start in early September, and good luck. He looks no more ready to play the position than Jimmy Clausen did a year ago.
"But the Panthers have little choice. They can't sell their fans on Clausen or Derek Anderson, so give them Newton -- ready or not -- and that might not be good for him or the franchise. Reason: In a lot of respects it reminds me of the Ryan Leaf situation in San Diego years ago, one that Carolina GM Marty Hurney knows all too well."
It's not all gloom and doom, however. Bo Jackson, one of the greatest professional athletes of the last half-century, recently told Jim Rome (via PFT.com) that Newton possesses rare physical gifts that are the exact right fit for the Panthers' offense. (Seriously, we're not making that up.)
“There isn’t another quarterback in the NFL that has all of those tangibles,” Jackson said. “And when you put all of those tangibles together with the quality of receivers and linemen that he’s got blocking for him, and the running backs that he can get the pill to, this guy is scary. The Panthers are scary.”
“When you speak of Cam Newton, I’ll put it to you just like this: He has the arm strength and power of Dan Marino and John Elway combined,” Jackson said. “He is quicker than Michael Vick, faster than Michael Vick. And he will run over you with the power of a Jerome Bettis, Bo Jackson, Earl Campbell. That’s the kind of guy he is.”
Okay, perhaps Jackson's laying it on a bit thick, but he's clearly enamored with Newton's raw skills, something no one could say about Clausen a year ago.
But before we all start making Super Bowl plans, something worth considering: the Panthers' schedule. It's brutal.
A quick recap for those of you who don't have it committed to memory: @Arizona, Green Bay, Jacksonville, @Chicago, New Orleans, @Atlanta, Washington, Minnesota, BYE, @Tennessee, @Detroit, @Indianapolis, @Tampa Bay, Atlanta, @Houston, Tampa Bay, @New Orleans.
After perusing that list, there's a chance the Panthers, without much effort, could again stumble to two wins despite fielding a much better team. We suspect Jackson doesn't share our skepticism.
For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed.