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NFC South Rookie Report: Cam Newton Scintillating In Panthers Late Loss

Cam Newton almost had his best day as a pro last Sunday as he threw for 290 yards, completed 63% of his passes and threw for three touchdowns without a turnover against Minnesota. His game has tarnished, however, a usually reliable veteran kicker Olindo Mare shanked a 31 yard field goal wide left at the close of the game which would have sent it to overtime. If you've seen much of Newton play this season you'll notice one constant: he hates to lose. Sometimes this almost borders on petulance, but to Cam the game is a failure if the team doesn't get a W. While this likely means he'll have a depressing 2011 on the Panthers who still have numerous holes to fill, in the long run it bodes well for the organization to have a competitor at the helm of the team.

This week the Panthers have their bye as they prepare for the Detroit Lions on the other side and will likely spend this time instituting and honing their game plan for the remaining 8 games. As it stands Newton needs just 168 yards per game to eclipse Peyton Manning's rookie passing record, and if he keeps up the same pace he's been on he'll have the record in the bag in 4.5 games. It has been an astonishing year for the #1 pick.

All signs seem to point to Julio Jones being able to finally return for the Falcons this week, and what better week to return than against the beleaguered Indianapolis Colts? Thus far Indy hasn't been able to do anything against good receivers and this will be an excellent game to ease Jones back into the offense and get him clicking with Matt Ryan again. Ultimately the Colts DBs wont have an adequate answer for him and as long as his hamstring holds up okay we could see a huge day from Jones. I'm definitely comfortable saying he'll get over 100 yards on Sunday.

Adrian Clayborn has had an excellent start to his 2011 campaign as he reaches the halfway point with three sacks. This Sunday the Bucs face the Saints for the second time in less than a month. Last game he was unable to get any penetration against the Saints OL and struggled getting to Drew Brees, realistically we'll probably see the same thing. Brees' release is so fast, and he finds receivers so quickly that if a DE can at least get in his face a little that's about the best they'll get out of him.

Cameron Jordan is continuing to disappoint. Finishing last game with two tackles and no sacks against a mediocre Rams' OL and with a backup AJ Feeley playing QB there's really no excuse not to get to the quarterback in that game. He reached the halfway point with 21 tackles and 0 sacks. He'll take down ball carriers, but we haven't seen any impact plays from him. That will probably continue this week against Josh Freeman who is skilled at evading the pass rush.

Mark Ingram has had a bad few weeks dealing with his heel injury. He missed last week's game, and will miss this week's. Unfortunately he was just starting to put it all together, so we wait to see what happens next for Ingram. 

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