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|If Cam Newton goes No. 1, he could make his Panthers debut at Arizona. Will Blaine Gabbert be part of the equation?|
For months, we heard about who would be the first quarterback taken, or whether Cam Newton will be better than Blaine Gabbert. Well, in Week 1, we might -- and that is a reach -- get our first look at both when the Panthers travel to Arizona to face the Cardinals.
Now, this is a presumptuous take on a game that should be focused more on the standout wide receivers -- Carolina's Steve Smith and Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald -- that might go through second straight seasons without an ample signal-caller to get them the ball. We're also assuming Carolina will select Newton first overall (I'm pretty sure that will be the case) and Arizona will select Gabbert at No. 5 (that appears to be more unlikely as we near the draft).
Even if those teams take those players, having both start in Week 1 with limited offseason work might be a reach. For the sake of conversation, though, let's just align the stars and have Newton facing Gabbert in Arizona.
Newton would return to the stadium where he helped Auburn win the national title over Oregon (he didn't dominate the game but definitely helped cement his stellar collegiate legacy). He'd also be facing a team that didn't show much interest in him prior to the draft. Newton would go up against a fairly vulnerable defense, but one where new defensive coordinator Ray Horton would turn defensive tackle Darnell Dockett and safety Adrian Wilson loose on a rookie QB.
Gabbert would probably be under more pressure to perform, though. Carolina has a decent offensive line and running game to help Newton adjust to the NFL.
Arizona's offensive line needs work as does its running game. Getting the ball to Fitzgerald is also high on the priority list. Coach Ken Whisenhunt would, of course, diagram a game plan to make things easier for Gabbert. On the other hand, Whisenhunt would also be scheming against Ron Rivera, who helped turn the Chargers into one of the NFL's better defenses when he was their coordinator.
Being drafted in the same class, Gabbert and Newton will always be linked, like Matt Leinart, Vince Young and Jay Cutler, or Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco or Matthew Stafford and Mark Sanchez. Kicking off their careers against each other in Week 1 would jumpstart the comparisons.
Follow Steve Wyche on Twitter @wyche89.