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Tag:Jimmy Clausen
Posted on: September 22, 2011 11:04 am
 

Top Ten with a Twist: Biggest surprises

Wade Phillips has revitalized Houston's defense (US Presswire).

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

Every year, it’s easy to predict how some teams and players will perform. For instance, this year it was easy to see that the Patriots were going to be awesome, the Colts were going to struggle without Peyton Manning, and some unheralded running back somewhere would surprise everyone with his fantastic performances (Houston’s Ben Tate for example, playing in place of last year’s unheralded/awesome running back Arian Foster).

But, as always, there have been some major surprises through the first two weeks that virtually nobody could see coming. Which is why we follow sports (and the NFL, in particular) in the first place. It’d be boring if we knew everything. But the fact we didn’t know just HOW terrible the Colts would be without Manning is what makes watching pro football a good time.

Therefore, this week, we introduce the Top 10 with a Twist list of the players and teams who have surprised us the most in the first two weeks of the season. No Tom Brady mentions in here. Instead, we give you Ryan Fitzpatrick and Jimmy Clausen's replacement.

10. Redskins: Remember how we all laughed at Rex Grossman when he proclaimed he thought that Washington would win the NFC East? Well, look at which squad is at the top of that division. That would be the Redskins at 2-0, ahead of the Eagles, Giants and Cowboys. It’s because Grossman has played well, running back Tim Hightower has had a resurgence and the Redskins rank No. 6 in points allowed (they were No. 21 last season). Hey, maybe, in addition to being a pretty decent quarterback, Grossman is quite the soothsayer. 

9. Dunta Robinson: I have to admit that I was shocked that the NFL fined the Falcons cornerback only $40,000 after his egregious case of head-hunting against Eagles receiver Jeremy Maclin last Sunday night. You’ll recall Robinson was fined $50,000 the first time he was caught head-hunting last season (that figure was reduced to $25,000), and though the NFL will say this case was different and less severe, I don’t buy it. We called on the NFL to suspend Robinson, and I didn’t think we’d see that. But I didn’t think we’d see less of a punishment than the first time he went helmet to helmet. Though we live in a time when Roger Goodell’s disciplinary decisions oftentimes don’t make sense, this was a shocker.

8. Bills: It’s only been a few years since the Bills started a season 2-0, but could you tell me the last time Buffalo started the season 2-0 and then finished with a winning record? You’d have to go all the way back to 1996, so obviously, the Bills aren’t going to start celebrating anything quite yet. But the way quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick continues to play (which, in itself, is a shocker) and the way running back Fred Jackson continues to pile up yards and the way coach Chan Gailey continues to turn around this team, it’s well … a little surprising. And it’s gotten them into first place in the AFC East (well, they’re tied with the Jets and the Patriots, but the Bills alphabetically are at the top of the division, so there’s that).

Johnson7. Kenny Britt: Yes, we knew Kenny Britt had talent, but we didn’t know he’d explode like this after his rather interesting offseason. So far, he’s recorded 14 catches for 271 yards and three touchdowns, and considering, in his best season before this one, he totaled 42 receptions and 775 yards, this is looking like a breakout year for him. Now if he only can stop getting arrested in the offseason …

6. Chris Johnson: You might find this selection strange, considering I placed Johnson in last week’s list -- the top-10 candidates for comeback player of the year. But after a Week 1 in which he was underused (only nine carries), Johnson ran for 53 yards on 24 chances last week. Which means that for a player whose stated goal is to break the 2,000-yard mark again hasn’t even cracked the 100-yard mark for the entire season. Considering he just signed a $54 million contract, his output has been rather disappointing. Maybe we shouldn’t have been so surprised. Johnson did, after all, hold out from training camp. But Johnson has been so good in his career, the fact he’s been so underwhelming is a little off-putting.

5. Chiefs: How do you go from winning the AFC West crown to being absolutely horrible the next year? How do you go from being pretty decent last year to being absolutely atrocious now? Some injuries (Tony Moeaki, Jamaal Charles and Eric Berry), some in-fighting between general manager Scott Pioli and coach Todd Haley (supposedly) and some brutal defense. Whatever the cause, Kansas City has been outscored 89-10 combined by the Bills and the Lions. Considering the Packers, the Steelers, the Chargers (twice), the Patriots, the Bears and the Jets still are on the schedule, the Chiefs might be in for a colonoscopy of a year.

4. Cam Newton: People were split about how Newton would affect the Panthers this season. Some thought he’d be terrible (I’m guilty, as charged). Some thought he would excite the masses in Charlotte with his on-field play and his off-field charisma. But nobody really knew for sure. Remember, about a month ago, we thought Jimmy Clausen might beat out Newton for the starting job (gosh, we were so naïve back then, eh?). But even those who thought he’d be a solid quarterback have to be taken aback by these numbers: a 62.7 completion percentage, 854 passing yards, three scores (we’ll ignore the four interceptions so far) and the record for most passing yards in a pro debut and most passing yards by a rookie. Sure, the Panthers are 0-2, but Newton has been pretty incredible.

3. Bill Belichick: Who would have guessed the Patriots coach would ever allow anybody to film his life for a documentary? The first episode of A Football Life: Bill Belichick on NFL Network was an interesting look at the best coach in the league and what he’s like in the meeting room, the locker room and, interestingly enough, on a boat in Nantucket. Belichick comes off like a cold-blooded SOB around the media, but in this documentary -- the second part of which will air Thursday, and supposedly, he really shows his emotions in that episode -- you can see the guy is actually human. And considering Belichick would be the 32nd NFL coach who I ever believed would agree to something like this, it’s a pleasant surprise.

2. Faking injuries: Did anybody think this stuff wasn’t happening before? Just because Deon Grant might have been faking an injury to slow down the Rams’ no-huddle, hurry-up offense  last Sunday (Grant, by the way, takes GREAT offense that you’d even think so), that’s not to say this tactic hasn’t been used for many, many years. It has; it’s usually just not so obvious. In fact, you can read this brief article from the NY Times in which the Bengals ask the league to look at players faking injuries. That article, by the way, is from 1989.

1. Wade Phillips: He wasn’t the most-respected head coach (I think the second season of Hard Knocks with the Cowboys gave the impression he was kind of a bumbling Texan who let people walk all over him), but as a defensive coordinator, he’s done a wonderful job in Houston. Since changing Gary Kubiak’s defense to a 3-4 and since the team signed Danieal Manning and Johnathan Joseph in the secondary, Phillips has helped Houston become the top defense in the league, allowing 10 points and 271 yards per game (both rank No. 1 in the NFL). Who would have thought that after last season when the Texans secondary was burned in just about every game they played? Phillips, though he might never get another head coaching job, is saving somebody else’s job right now. We knew Phillips would be good. We didn’t think he’d be this good, this soon.

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Posted on: September 14, 2011 10:42 am
Edited on: September 14, 2011 10:43 am
 

Top Ten with a Twist: Comeback players

M. Stafford, if he stays healthy, could be a candidate for comeback player of the year (US Presswire).

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

Some had disappointing seasons last year only to find themselves in a brand-new setting this year. Some had worn out their welcome in one city and were rewarded with a new home in a new part of the country. Some were injured, and some just flat-out stunk.

But this is a new season, and it’s never too early to make predictions about the 2011 comeback player of the year, especially since two-time winner Chad Pennington is out for the season and won’t be eligible for his third award until 2012.

You won’t find Albert Haynesworth on this list, because a man who duped one organization out of tens of millions dollars only to find himself holding a golden parachute to the league’s most respected franchise doesn’t need another reward if he potentially plays well (or, unlike in Washington, plays at all). But pretty much everybody else is eligible for a spot on our latest Top Ten with a Twist: Potential Comeback Players of the Year.

10. Kevin Kolb: I originally wasn’t going to put him on this list, because simply put, I’m not entirely sure he’s going to live up to his $63 million ($20 million guaranteed) contract in Arizona. But after his 18 of 27, 309-yard, two-touchdown performance in the Cardinals win against the Panthers (all while getting sucked into the “Cam Newton is awesome” maelstrom), it’s at least a possibility Kolb will play like Arizona believes he can. Kolb supporters point to an impressive two-game stretch he had in 2009 for why he’s worth all that money. I’m more interested in his 130 quarterback rating from Sunday and where he can go from there.

9. Chris Johnson: You might not know this, but last year, Johnson had a disastrous season. When you compare him to 2009, his performance declined by more than 600 yards and he scored three less rushing touchdowns. If that’s not the sign of a guy who has already become much less effective … wait, what’s that? Johnson still rushed for 1,364 yards and 11 touchdowns last season? Oh, never mind. But here’s the thing with Johnson. He keeps proclaiming that he’s going to rush for 2,000 yards, and while he did it in 2009, he fell woefully short last year. And yes, he won’t make it 2,000 in 2011 either. But he’ll also be better than last year, particularly since he now should be completely happy with the money he’s making.

8. Bob Sanders: We all know Bob Sanders can’t stay healthy. Not after missing 64 of 112 career games with the Colts. And because we’ve barely seen the guy (only nine times in the past three seasons) we always seem to lose sight of the fact that Sanders was once a premier safety threat  mentioned in the same breathe as Troy Polamalu and Ed Reed. One good sign for Sanders’ return to respectability: he didn’t have to spend this offseason rehabbing an old injury. But Sanders also is 30 now, where the aches and pains increase rather than diminish. In his first game with San Diego, he accumulated six tackles. But at least he didn’t leave the game with an injury. Which, with Sanders, is pretty good news.

7. Tim Hightower: You’ll recall that Hightower had a bit of a fumbling problem as the No. 2 running back behind Beanie Wells in Arizona -- he had eight lost fumbles combined in the past two seasons -- and though Hightower had good production in place of the injured Wells, the Cardinals decided they’d rather have Wells than Hightower. The Redskins, who were saying goodbye to Clinton Portis, went after him, and their interest was rewarded this week when Hightower looked solid, rushing 25 times for 72 yards and a score. Just as important, though, is his pass protection and his versatility (he’s a pretty good receiver as well). Just as long as he doesn’t fumble, he could be a really good addition for Washington.

6. Steve Smith (Eagles version): We still don’t know how healthy Smith is, but the fact that he was active for the first game -- much to the chagrin of the Giants, I imagine -- is awfully impressive, considering he was coming off microfracture surgery on his knee. He wasn’t targeted by Michael Vick, and he didn’t play all that much. But the fact he was out there at all was pretty ridiculous. Smith probably won’t be healthy enough to produce the stats that would give him a legit shot at the comeback player of the year, but he’s already gone to extraordinary lengths to return this soon, so why not?

Henne5. Steve Smith (Panthers version): Aside from all those Panthers fans who now have hope, receiver Steve Smith has to be one of the biggest Cam Newton fans around. For a guy who wanted out of Carolina as soon as possible (and as receiver, why would he want to try to field passes from Jimmy Clausen?), the infusion of Newton into this offense was the main reason Smith exploded for eight catches, 178 yards and two touchdowns. Considering he only accumulated 46 catches for 554 yards and two (!) scores in 2010, a little Newton in his life apparently has gone a long way.

4. Chad Henne: Despite Miami fans chanting that they wanted Kyle Orton (who now has to hear the chants of “We want Tebow” in Denver) in the preseason, the popular storyline out of south Florida is that Henne finally will turn himself into a legit starting quarterback. Henne was a major storyline in the offseason -- coach Tony Sparano said “we’ll see” about Henne’s chances of starting and receiver Brandon Marshall laid out in detail why Tyler Thigpen was a better player until Henne began to make believers out of his teammates, who voted him offensive captain. It’ll continue to be a storyline as long as Henne plays the way he did against the Patriots (30 of 49 for 416 yards, two touchdowns and a garbage-time interception) in one of the best performances of his pro career.

3. Rex Grossman: Based on the way he played against the Giants on Sunday, I thought about putting Grossman higher on the list. But I just don’t see him as a top-15 quarterback -- this season or any other. Maybe if he got to play against the Giants shell of a defense every week. But until that happens, I don’t see him taking home the hardware. That said, Grossman surprised many people this week -- including, I imagine, John Beck -- and didn’t look like the same quarterback who was Donovan McNabb’s two-minute offense replacement. At least, he played like a legitimate starting quarterback.

2. Bryant McKinnie: Surely, McKinnie would be the first comeback player of the year award winner to have weighed 400 pounds (allegedly) and gotten released from his old team for it (not to mention earning $75,000 for getting down to a trim 372). But McKinnie, as the new left tackle for the Ravens, helped set the tone last Sunday when, on the first play of the first Ravens drive, he dispatched Steelers linebackers James Farrior and James Harrison, allowing Baltimore running back Ray Rice a 36-yard gain. Baltimore ended up beating Pittsburgh by four touchdowns, and don’t think McKinnie wasn’t a big reason for that. If he keeps it up, perhaps McKinnie can make history as the first offensive line ever to win the award.

1. Matthew Stafford: The Lions quarterback scared the daylights out of just about everybody when he hobbled to the sideline with an apparent injury in Detroit’s season-opening win against the Buccaneers. For a guy who’s missed 19 games the past two years with various ailments, that was not a moment for the weak at the heart. But it was only cramps, and during Detroit’s victory, Stafford showed that he still has the talent to be a top-five quarterback. And considering most of the comeback players of the year happen to be quarterbacks, that doesn’t hurt his chances either.

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Posted on: September 9, 2011 10:53 am
 

Jimmy Clausen to be inactive on Sunday?

Posted by Will Brinson

Things haven't gone well for Jimmy Clausen this offseason. The Panthers drafted Cam Newton first overall and promptly handed him the keys to the proverbial jalopy car in Charlotte.

There was chatter that Clausen ended up falling as far as third on the depth chart -- he's like a homeless man's Tim Tebow! -- and according to our Panthers Rapid Reporter Steve Reed, it's "possible" that the Panthers only activate two quarterbacks for Sunday's game in Arizona.

The idea here is that the Panthers could simply use someone like Armanti Edwards (a quarterback in college) as the third quarterback in the total nightmare scenario where both Newton and would-be backup Derek Anderson are knocked out of the game.

"We have options to look at and I'm not going to tell you," Rivera said.

Well, at least Rivera's being blunt with his secrecy. That's better than coach talk.

Randomly, while we're talking about the Panthers, here's something that I find interesting that might not be interesting: the last time Newton came to Arizona, he was in Glendale for the BCS Championship. He played OK there. (In fact, he won all the Tostitos.)

I guess the potential, but-not-really relevance there is that Newton has traveled a couple time zones for a football game and done just fine.

And, hell, more people watched that game anyway.

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Posted on: September 4, 2011 11:50 pm
 

Bo Jackson says Cam Newton, Panthers 'are scary'

 
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."

Yikes.

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.”

There's more.

“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.

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Posted on: September 4, 2011 12:54 pm
Edited on: September 4, 2011 1:06 pm
 

Panthers waive 2009 2nd-rounder Everette Brown

Posted by Ryan Wilson

Two and a half years after the Panthers gave up a first-round pick to move back into the second round to select Everette Brown, they released the former Florida State defensive end, according to CBSSports.com Rapid Reporter Steve Reed.

Brown appeared in 48 games during his Carolina career, registering 47 tackles, 6.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and a pick, but fell to fourth on the depth chart during training camp on a team coming off a 2-14 season. Brown's just 24, and at 6-4, 250 pounds, should have very little trouble finding work.

When the Panthers selected Brown, general manager Marty Hurney said, “We thought that Everette Brown was one of the better pass rushers in this draft. He’s got all of the intangibles and is a very hard worker. He has a good first step and plays with good strength. I think he helps our pass rush immediately and will work in the rotation with the ends.”

Days before, Pro Football Weekly offered this scouting report on Brown (via Aaron Aloysius on Twitter): "He was not asked to drop much in college and showed too much stiffness in reverse at his pro-day workout to project as a rush linebacker."

Hmm. Either way, Hurney's suspect early-round draft strategy continues. In addition to Brown, there's 2010 third-rounder Armanti Edwards (Carolina gave up a second-round pick to get him). A college quarterback, Edwards has struggled with the transition to wide receiver, which speaks more to the Panthers' personnel process than to Edwards' shortcomings as an NFL player.

Then there's 2010 second-rounder, Jimmy Clausen. The Panthers didn't trade up for him -- he fell so far and so fast they may not have had time -- but his NFL career to date can kindly be described as disappointing. He was forced onto the field last season when Matt Moore was injured and inconsistent, and statistically Clausen was one of the league's worst quarterbacks.

The Panthers and Hurney thought so much of him that they in April they drafted Cam Newton with the first-overall pick, and now it looks like Clausen could fall to No. 3 on the depth chart behind journeyman Derek Anderson.

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Posted on: September 2, 2011 9:37 am
Edited on: September 2, 2011 9:38 am
 

Newton named starter, Clausen could be no. 3



Posted by Ryan Wilson

We've spent much of the preseason focused on the the battle for the backup job in Denver. It became clear early on that Kyle Orton would be the starter, despite offseason speculation that 2010 first-round pick Tim Tebow could ascend to the role. Instead,the storyline was Tebow vs. Brady Quinn with the winner getting the earpiece and clipboard on game days.

Meanwhile a more interesting backup quarterback competition was unfolding in Charlotte, where Cam Newton has been the unofficial starter since the moment he was taken with the first-overall pick in April. (The news became official Thursday night when it was printed on team letterhead and announced publicly by coach Ron Rivera.)

The contestants: Jimmy Clausen, the team's second-round pick a year ago who had about as rough a rookie season as could be dreamed up, and Derek Anderson, a 2007 Pro Bowler who fell on hard times in recent years with the Browns and the Cardinals.

In the Panthers' final preseason game against the Steelers, Anderson got the second-team snaps and took advantage of the opportunity. He finished the night 11 of 19 for 192 yards, including a 41-yard touchdown pass to David Clowney. Clausen, on the other hand, had a forgettable effort. Details via CBSSports.com Rapid Reporter and Carolina Growl writer Steve Reed:
Clausen had a disastrous night, throwing an interception on his first pass of the game and then fumbling a snap from center leading to a Steelers touchdown in the fourth quarter. He threw another pass that should have been picked off and was also sacked three times, including once on fourth down while the Panthers were in the red zone. He looked particularly slow moving around in the pocket after injuring his thigh last Thursday night against Cincinnati.

It was the first time this preseason that Anderson was the second quarterback into the game and could signal the Panthers are more comfortable with him being Newton's primary backup since he's more familiar with (offensive coordinator) Rob Chudzinski's offense.
Anderson came to Carolina from Arizona, but he has experience in Chudzinski's offense during their time together in Cleveland.

"The thing about that is Derek is a guy that doesn't need a lot of reps in this offense," Rivera said, via Reed. "At the same time, if something were to happen, he's a guy that because he doesn't need a lot of reps in this offense could probably help us. So we are most certainly going to take a look at that and see where that fits with what we want to do offensively."

As for the news that Newton will be under center when the Panthers take the field on September 11 at Arizona, Rivera sounded optimistic.

"We are looking forward to him being our starter," Rivera said. "He's going to grow as our starter and we're going to grow as a football team. The thing that has to happen is that we as a football team have to grow and it's not just about him. It's about the rest of growing with our system... I want to make this clear again: We didn't draft Cam to be our savior, we drafted him to help lead this football team. He will be our starter on opening day."

Pretty sure the fans don't see it this way, but that's what happens when the team struggles to go 2-14 the year before. For his part, Newton said all the right things about winning the job.

"That's a big opportunity and a big responsibility," he said. "To be a starter in this league there is so much that goes into it behind the scenes and I've got to be ready for that."

It turned out to be a dreadful night for former Notre Dame quarterbacks trying to climb NFL depth charts. In Denver, Quinn got the start and went 4 for 12 for 26 yards and an interception. If there's a silver lining it's this: because of the new game-day roster rules, teams no longer have to name an emergency third quarterback.

So should Rivera replace Newton, he could use either Anderson or Clausen at any point during the game. In theory, both players are co-backups. The reality -- at least after Clausen's performance against the Steelers -- is that he has the No. 3 job sewn up.

But, hey, the regular season hasn't even started. A lot can change in the coming weeks and months.  After all, the Browns drafted Quinn as their franchise quarterback in 2007 and that season Anderson led the team to 10 wins and he made the Pro Bowl. This game is crazy like that.

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Posted on: August 27, 2011 5:36 pm
Edited on: August 27, 2011 5:37 pm
 

When will Rivera name Cam Newton the starter?

NewtonPosted by Josh Katzowitz

Finally we have our answer. Finally, it’s been put to rest. Cam Newton is officially the Panthers starting quarterback … for the fourth preseason game.

That’s according to Rapid Reporter Steve Reed, who also writes that Carolina coach Ron Rivera still hasn’t said whether Newton will start the season-opener vs. the Cardinals.

Yet, Reed -- like most everyone else who follows the NFL -- appears to know what eventually will happen. He writes: “Newton will start the season opener at Arizona although, quite frankly, he’s still raw and not really ready. But he’s a better option than (Jimmy) Clausen, who still hasn’t shown the ability to make plays and is slow getting the ball out.”

Newton vs. Clausen
It seems pretty clear that Newton, who will start Thursday night’s preseason game vs. the Steelers, would have to suffer some kind of major meltdown in order to lose his hold on the starting job. And considering Clausen’s knee is banged up at the moment, Newton’s only other competition is Derek Anderson.* Now, all Newton has to do is throw a touchdown pass or, you know, convert a third down attempt (neither has occurred yet this preseason).

*Wouldn’t you rather watch Newton flounder around out there than be forced to watch Anderson do anything?

Which leads us to the conclusion that eventually (probably before the season opener), Rivera will be forced to tap Newton as the starting quarterback. But a word of caution. As ESPN.com’s Pat Yasinskas points out, Newton would be the first Carolina opening-day rookie starter since Chris Weinke in 2001.

And we all remember how well his career went after that.

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Posted on: August 21, 2011 5:30 pm
Edited on: August 21, 2011 11:26 pm
 

Cam Newton very close to winning Panthers job

Posted by Ryan Wilson

Quarterback Cam Newton, the Pathers first-overall pick in April, got his first NFL start in Carolina's Week 2 preseason game against Miami. He played the entire first half and completed 7 of 14 passes for 66 yards.

And while Newton is going through many of the growing pains rookie quarterbacks experience as they transition from college to the NFL (the speed of play, better competition, more complex defenses, etc.), there was still reason to believe that he could earn the starting job in the regular season. Partly because the Panthers were just 2-14 a season ago, but also because the organization feels that Newton is the future, even though they drafted Jimmy Clausen in the second round of the 2010 draft.

Well, various reports Sunday indicate that that the future is now in Carolina.

CBSSports.com Rapid Reporter Steve Reed writes that "Newton will be Carolina's regular-season starter providing he doesn't suffer a complete meltdown Thursday night against the Bengals. 'It will give us an opportunity to see how he'll handle the whole game experience, and we'll go from there,' Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said."

NFL Network analyst and former Raiders front office man Michael Lombardi tweets that "Newton will start and play 3 quarters [in Thursday's preseason game], leaving little doubt he will be the opening day starter for the Panthers."

Finally, the Charlotte Observer's Scott Fowler weighs in on his blog:
Coach Ron Rivera edged in that direction Sunday afternoon without going all the way, saying Newton will start and play the first three quarters in the Panthers' third exhibition -- Thursday night at Cincinnati. Jimmy Clausen will likely play all or most of the fourth quarter.

In other words, if Newton doesn't mess things up too badly, he's the starter from here on out. But Rivera isn't saying that yet -- he's hedging a little, which is probably smart given that he doesn't have to make this decision yet. The Panthers will use this week as a dress rehearsal for a real game -- actually game-planning for Cincinnati, which they haven't done in the first two preseason games.
Fowler points out that in roughly four quarters of preseason football over two games, Newton has yet to lead the Panthers on a touchdown drive or convert a single third down.

But at this stage of the proceedings that's not really the point. Newton looks like an NFL QB. And we don't mean that he's 6-5, 240 pounds, and has a howitzer for a right arm. We're talking about the way he carries himself while on the field, in the huddle, under center and staring down a pass rush; Newton seldom appears overwhelmed. Relatively speaking, he seems pretty comfortable, and that will only improve over time.

Fair or not, we never got that feeling with Clausen last season. Perhaps he was thrust into an untenable situation. Or maybe he was overdrafted. Whatever the case, the franchise's future rests with Newton, and it sounds like Rivera isn't going to waiting around to install him as the starter.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com