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Training Camp Buzz: Cam Newton quietly improves

Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck are the new kids on the block. Peyton Manning is a fascinating all-time great in a new place. The New York Jets quarterbacks sell.

Meanwhile, the most exciting young player to hit the NFL in the last decade quietly goes about improving in Carolina.

It's been a quiet training camp for Panthers quarterback Cam Newton. Perhaps it's the team he plays for or his lack of nationally televised games. Maybe it's because he's started to button up his press conferences like a veteran. Killing them softly is good.

Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com spent some time at Panthers training camp and came away thinking Newton's touch and accuracy have improved markedly. Brandon LaFell is developing into a legitimate No. 2 receiver. Newton's energy and love for the game of football shine through.

There is a train of thought from some fans that Newton hasn't proven anything yet. That he might slide back. I expect him to take a step forward close to the top-five quarterbacks in the game. There is no quarterback, no team I'd rather watch for the next 16 weeks.

The other guys can get the headlines in August. We'll be watching and writing about Newton all year.

A Good Day For ...

1. Football fans can take a deep breath. HBO's "Hard Knocks" is back. It's annually my favorite show, and this year's debut episode rivals any we've seen. You should read Dan Hanzus' awesome recap on it. My biggest takeaway: Miami Dolphins fans should be fired up to have Joe Philbin.

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2. Beanie Wells is off the camp PUP list. It's unlikely he'll play in this week's preseason game, but he has enough time to get ready for the season. We are still waiting to see second-year pro Ryan Williams in game action.

Depth Chart Machinations

In some cases, we don't put too much stock into initial depth charts. LeGarrette Blount is ahead of Doug Martin on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but the practice reps tell a different story. On the other hand, coaches put thought into what goes out there. Joe Philbin was concerned enough about reaction to the depth chart that he told his quarterbacks about it before the news was official. (A great scene you'd only see on "Hard Knocks".)

I wrote up nine things to know from the depth charts around the NFL on Monday, and a few more teams have released them since. Here's what stuck out:

1. Domenik Hixon is listed as the starting receiver opposite Victor Cruz on the New York Giants. Rookie Reuben Randle is back on the third team. Randle should rise, but Hixon has a legitimate chance for significant snaps even when Hakeem Nicks returns.

2. The Jets listed wide receiver Stephen Hill as a starter despite a slow start to camp. They are going to sink or swim with Hill. Sorry, Antonio Cromartie.

3. Kendall Hunter is listed as the backup running back on the San Francisco 49ers ahead of Brandon Jacobs and rookie LaMichael James. Hunter continues to get big kudos from his coaches. He's one of my favorite breakout candidates.

Not a Good Day for ...

1. Brian Urlacher is missing from Chicago Bears training camp for "personal reasons." We suspect those personal reasons reside in his knee. It's fair to be concerned.

2. Evan Royster is ahead of Roy Helu on the Washington Redskins' depth chart and multiple reports suggest the coaches think Royster has a higher ceiling as an every-down back.

3. We're not sure quite yet if it means much that Tarvaris Jackson won't play in the Seattle Seahawks' preseason opener. His practice snaps will decrease leading up the game. But it probably doesn't bode well for him. You don't limit reps for a guy you think is going to start, not matter how you stage a competition.

4. Terrell Owens' signing might say more about Sidney Rice than Golden Tate. The Seahawks need Rice healthy and NFL Network's Michael Lombardi is among those that believe there is concern surrounding Rice.

5. Trent Richardson looks likely to miss the Cleveland Browns' preseason opener. Maybe this means he'll go more cheaply in fantasy drafts.

On the Agenda

I'll be posting our Around the League Defensive Power Rankings later Wednesday morning. We're also doing a mailbag Thursday. Send your questions in. Happy Wednesday and thanks for reading.

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