Let's not make excuses for Blaine Gabbert, but how many rookie passers compared favorably to Cam Newton last season? Not Andy Dalton, they aren't the same guy. The Carolina Panthers quarterback set the earth on fire and rocked expectations for first-year signal-callers.
Gabbert's problematic rookie campaign with the Jacksonville Jaguars is further defaced when placed next to Newton's body of work. Cam made the game appear easy at times. He wasn't perfect, but he was the engine behind Carolina's point spike, going from a league-low 12.2 points per game in 2010 to 25.4 last season. Newton was larger than life; Gabbert was a man feeling around in the dark.
"Cam Newton was the No. 1 pick of the draft. He's a special type of player, but so is Blaine," Mularkey told reporters, stressing the importance of repetitions for a young passer.
Where Newton was seen as the only option at quarterback in Carolina, Gabbert came out of the NFL lockout as David Garrard's backup. Then the floor fell out. In what must have felt like a fever dream for Gabbert, Garrard was released in September, Del Rio was fired in November and the rookie found himself starting by Week 3.
"Cam Newton was obviously going to be your starter going into the season, whether that gave him an advantage over Blaine, I don't ... I really don't want to talk about players on other teams," Mularkey said. "The repetitions in camp are important, every one of them is important that you get. And I don't know the amount that Blaine got compared to anyone else in this camp last year, but I'm sure it wasn't the amount he would have liked ... or the coaches would have liked."
With the addition of rookie wideout Justin Blackmon and a full offseason under his belt, Gabbert must show progress out of the gate. Asking him to play the way a functional quarterback would is not too much. Asking him to duplicate Newton's growth -- that's a different, possibly for anyone.