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NFC South Rookie Report: Cam Newton Continues To Shine

Roger Goodell walked to the podium the night of April 28th, 2011 and announced that the Carolina Panthers had decided to take arguably the biggest risk with the #1 overall pick in the last decade. While teams like Miami and Houston chose to play the draft safe taking Jake Long and Mario Williams #1 overall respectively the Panthers chose to swing for the fences on Newton believing his mechanical issues were fixable, and reports of personal conduct issues were spurious. On draft night Carolina was laughed at by many as they immediately made Jamarcus Russell references, but now seven weeks into the NFL season the Panthers are having the last laugh.

In a word Cam Newton was scintillating last week against Washington. He completed 78.3% of his passes for 256 yards, threw a TD to WR Brandon LaFell and ran in another touchdown in Carolina's 33-20 victory over the Redskins. While the young QB has thrown 8 TDs to 9 INTs it's important to note that six of these interceptions came in two games, games he played poorly in and that's to be expected from a rookie QB. Otherwise, Newton has taken care of the football, allowed the Panthers to be competitive and in running in his 7th rushing touchdown last week he's already tied the record for rushing TDs by a quarterback.

This week Newton faces the Minnesota Vikings and their vaunted pass rush led by Jared Allen. This should provide an interesting test for Cam, but he could very easily prevail and the Panthers could see their 3rd win of the season.

Unfortunately for Julio Jones the last few weeks haven't been kind. Like Newton, Jones was on pace to break all sorts of rookie records but has been slowed due to injury. This week is the Falcons' bye, but he's missed two games straight. The off week couldn't have happened at a better time for the receiver to get healthy and ready himself for the playoff push in the second half of the year.

London was kind to Buccaneers' rookie Adrian Clayborn who had success across the pond; okay, maybe it was more a 'the Chicago Bears OL is terrible' thing, than a 'London' thing, but regardless he was impressive. Clayborn finished with three tackles and a sack to give him three sacks on the season. It's important to note that Clayborn is performing is spite of Tampa missing Gerald McCoy in the middle so he isn't getting the push he needs in the center to make his life easier. What we've seen so far is a lively pass rush from Clayborn and a good motor, it's clear he'll be a force in the future.

The same can't be said for the Saints' Cameron Jordan who continues to look lost on defense. Another sackless game against Indianapolis was his fate as he seems to have very little ability in getting any meaningful pressure. For a defensive end who is 6'4", 287lbs there's simply no excuse to have as little impact on the game as Jordan does. The week the Saints face the win-less Rams in a game that presents another favorable opportunity for him to make an impact, but it doesn't look too good.

On the other side of the ball for New Orleans it looked like Mark Ingram is finally putting it all together. Only carrying the ball 14 times he managed to amass 91 rushing yards and a TD as he abused the Colts run defense for over 6 yards whenever he touched the ball. So far in 2011 he's struggled to hit gaps as he should, but hopefully that has turned the corner now. The Rams don't represent a stout run defense, so he has another opportunity to shine on Sunday.

Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.