|Carolina Panthers rookie QB Cam Newton|
threw for a rookie debut record 422 yards
in a 28-21 loss to the Arizona Cardinals Sunday.
Arizona eventually took control of the game with a pair of fourth quarter scores, putting them up by a touchdown with minutes to play. The Panthers had a chance for a tie with a 1st-and-10 opportunity at the Arizona 11, but couldn't come up with the right play to score. Regardless of the outcome, Newton looked like he belonged in the league.
In the weeks leading up to the start of the season, everyone expected the Panthers to ease Newton into their system by primarily keeping the ball on the ground. Instead, Newton threw the ball 37 times while their running back tandem of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart notched a combined total of only 19 rushes for 56 yards. So much for easing in the rookie.
The impressive thing about Newton's official debut wasn't the numbers he put up or the throws he made, but instead it was the poise he showed. The No. 1 draft pick showed he was worthy of that distinction, stepping into the starting quarterback role with almost no problem. He did throw an interception into double-coverage earlier in the game, but everything else Newton did on Sunday looked almost like it was exactly what he wanted to happen.
At times he looked like a veteran quarterback, sticking in the pocket when protection broke down instead of forcing unnecessary scrambles or bad passes. Although Newton has the ability to get out and run, he stuck to the game plan and it made him look like a star. Some of the passes he made - especially the two TDs to Smith - looked effortless.
Don't get me wrong, I don't expect Newton to put up 400+ yards every single game or to become the league's top quarterback overnight. He's still a rookie and there's still a lot of learning that he needs to do. But for now, the question of whether or not he's really that good has been answered.