Carolina Panthers  

 

Starting Newton right away would present dilemma for Panthers

NFL.com analyst Bucky Brooks solicited questions from fans on the NFL's Facebook page this week. After reviewing the submissions, he tackles the posts that grabbed his attention.

Should the Panthers open the 2011 season with Cam Newton as the starting quarterback or should they let him learn from the bench? John O.

In a perfect world, Newton would spend a season or two on the sidelines learning the game while a veteran quarterback leads the team. However, the Panthers don't have an established passer on the roster and it's difficult to see him playing behind Jimmy Clausen for an extended period of time.

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Ultimately, the team will likely make it a quarterback competition with both guys vying for the job during training camp. I've heard from team officials that the Panthers will not play Newton extensively until he shows a firm grasp of the offense and they build a supporting cast that will enable him to have success as a starter. They have some of those pieces in place with their strong offensive line, deep stable of running backs (Jonathan Stewart and possibly DeAngelo Williams) and an established No. 1 receiver in Steve Smith. They still need to find a quality second option and hope that tight end Jeremy Shockey can re-emerge as a legitimate threat over the middle.

Newton's running ability and improvisational skills make him more of a run-first QB at this point. He has an exceptionally strong arm and shows solid throwing mechanics. Still, sloppy footwork on occasion has led to some errant throws. He improved his fundamentals leading up to the draft and will need to continue to do so to be an effective drop-back passer in the NFL. He's also coming from a spread offense at Auburn and needs to adjust to a pro-style system. The footwork and vision required on conventional drops is completely different than that out of the shotgun formation he primarily worked out of during college, so he must acclimate to working from under center. Throw in his relative inexperience (only 14 career starts), and it's easy to see why there is reason to doubt if he can start as a rookie.

The goal is to allow Newton to function as a game manager while the team relies heavily on the running game and a strong defense. If the Panthers can limit his pass attempts to less than 25 per game, Newton can develop at a rate that will allow him to minimize his inexperience and have success.

Follow Bucky Brooks on Twitter @BuckyBrooks.

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