Purple Pennings

By Matt Austin

Published: Friday, September 23, 2011

Updated: Friday, September 23, 2011

  As we approach week three in the National Football League, one player in particular who has excelled is number one overall draft pick Cam Newton, with the Carolina Panthers. In a summer dominated by lockout coverage, there was not much buzz surrounding the Heisman-winning rookie. Since the labor agreement had been reached and everyone can go back to paying attention to the game on the field, Newton has certainly raised some eyebrows. Despite his efforts, the Panthers are currently 0-2. However, after two games, he has racked up 854 passing yards and five total touchdowns.

   Considering the mess he was in this time last year, Newton has come a long way in rehabilitating his public image. For the better part of his only year at Auburn, he was surrounded in an eligibility controversy, with the NCAA suggesting that his father, Cecil Newton, tried to cut a deal with Mississippi State University which would pay the younger Newton anywhere between $100,000 to $118,00 to play for the MSU Bulldogs. Despite the controversy, Newton's stock has only risen since being declared eligible to play at Auburn; he led the Tigers to 14 wins and an undefeated season, beat out Andrew Luck for the Heisman, defeated the Oregon Ducks in the National Championship, and then was selected with the number one overall pick in the 2011 NFL draft. Other accolades include winning the Maxwell Award, Walter Camp Award, Davey O'Brien Award, and the Manning Award.

   He signed a four year, $22 million contract, leading many to consider Newton the first real "casualty" of the new rookie wage scale, one of the biggest points of contention throughout lockout labor negotiations. Although his salary may be considered average by many, that is the only thing about him that is. He has thrown 422 and 432 yards in his first two games, respectively. To put Newton's performance in perspective, if you consider six of the league's best young quarterbacks (Josh Freeman, Matthew Stafford, Mark Sanchez, Matt Ryan, Sam Bradford, Joe Flacco), none of them have had a game in which they threw for 400 passing yards, while Newton has accomplished this feat in his first two games. This all might sound like heavy praise for someone who has only played two games, however, five of the six quarterbacks that I just mentioned have already led their teams to the playoffs.

   When I see Cam Newton play, I can't really put my finger on it, but he reminds of Vince Young in a way, considering their similar builds and skill sets. However, that's where the comparisons end; Young's career appears to be at a bit of  impasse, as he is injured and number two on the Eagles' depth chart, while Newton's career is ready to skyrocket. Will Cam Newton join the ranks of Matt Ryan, Mark Sanchez, and Joe Flacco? Or will he fade into obscurity like Vince Young has done? While the Carolina Panthers' future looks murky, head coach Ron Rivera is a defensive minded coach, which is what the Panthers need. They do have pieces on offense, like DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart to build around their young quarterback. On defense the situation is a little more questionable; but consider what the Lions have done in Detriot; after going an entire season without a win just three years ago, the team now has a decent shot of making the playoffs after rebuilding their team through the draft by picking up players like Ndomukong Suh. With the right pieces around Newton, who knows, the Panthers could become a consistently winning team, all because they have a special player lining up behind center.

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