x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Theory on Cameron Newton is falling flat

After two games, the rookie quarterback has silenced his detractors who said the Carolina Panthers should not have taken him with the top pick in the NFL's 2011 draft.

It has been a noisy two weeks, with crowds roaring at high-voltage games and controversies igniting heated debates.

But a certain segment has gone quiet. Call them the Sceptics of Cameron Newton, united by pre-season doubt that the rookie quarterback could fulfil the expectations attached to the top pick in the draft.

Incoming quarterbacks often need years to offer incontrovertible evidence that they belong.

Newton needed only two games. He already has passed for 854 yards for the Carolina Panthers, with a 62.7 per cent connection rate. At that pace, they can begin carving his bust for the NFL's Hall of Fame.

"I knew he would be good, but if I told you I knew he'd be this good this early, I'd by lying to you," BJ Raji, the Packers nose tackle, said after Green Bay, the Super Bowl champions, held off the rebuilding Panthers 30-23.

Green Bay intercepted Newton three times: once in double coverage, once when he was under pressure and once from an overthrow. But, "for the most part, he handled himself with the type of pose and composure you would not expect", said Ron Rivera, the Carolina coach.

Newton disbelievers suggested he would struggle while operating from behind centre; in college, at Auburn, he ran almost as much as he passed and operated out of a shotgun-style system.

Others wondered about issues of maturity and character, as he bounced around three schools. At one, the theft of a laptop computer led him to a diversion programme, after which charges were dropped.

Later, an investigation concluded that Newton's father sought a six-figure payment from Mississippi State in exchange for his son's enrolment.

Newton avoided suspension but could not shake the unproven suspicion that he was involved in the solicitation.

Newton talks less about his smashing debut than the Panthers' 0-2 start.

Others are bragging for him.

"I don't even know how old he is," Omar Gaither, the Carolina linebacker, told the Charlotte Observer. "But a lot of rookies come in, regardless of position, and they act like kids right out of college. He carries himself like he's a professional, a grown man.

"All the numbers are great, but that's what I'm most impressed about with Cam."

Newton had much going for him: arm strength, athleticism, expert tutoring and confidence from having led his last two teams to national titles.

"He doesn't get frustrated," Raji said. "We threw a lot of stuff at him, and he was able to sit back there and make some of the plays they needed."

sports@thenational.ae