One touchdown was enough for No. 1 overall pick Cam Newton to lock up the Carolina Panthers starting quarterback gig.
One 10-yard pass to Jeremy Shockey on the first possession of a relatively meaningless fourth preseason game against a Pittsburgh Steelers defense resting most of its top players.
The touchdown was Newton’s first as a pro, but coupled with his highly-mediocre performances in two previous contests, the Panthers decided they had seen enough to know Newton would give them a better chance to return to mediocrity this season than last year’s draft choice, Jimmy Clausen.
Newton completed 24 of 57 passes for 300 yards and the lone score in the preseason, and he rushed for 86 yards and a touchdown on nine carries.
The the announcement came after Carolina’s 33-17 loss on Thursday night, at which point Panthers coach Ron Rivera stressed the expectations for Newton’s first year are not astronomical.
“We didn’t draft Cam to be the savior. We drafted him to help lead this football team.”
Clausen, who the Panthers drafted No. 48 overall in 2010, was abysmal again on Thursday, completing 7 of 17 passes with an interception. He finished the preseason with 58.2 quarterback rating and appears to have lost the backup job to highly-mediocre veteran Derek Anderson.
For a team that finished a dismal 2-14 last season and had the worst offense in the NFL, Newton doesn’t need to do a whole lot to make the team better. But his strong arm and ability to break tackles when running the football give the Panthers a new dimension for 2011 that should at least get people excited again in Charlotte.
“Even with this position given, it doesn’t stop here,” Newton said. “I can’t just sit back and say, ‘I’ve arrived,’ because we’ve got a long way to go. ... The record begins now.”
Newton’s already impressed some outside of the organization, including Bo Jackson, who raved about the big QB’s potential and even went so far as to compare him to Michael Vick, Dan Marino and John Elway on the Jim Rome Show :
“There isn’t another quarterback in the NFL that has all of those tangibles. And when you put all of those tangibles together with the quality of receivers and linemen that he’s got blocking for him, and the running backs that he can get the pill to, this guy is scary. The Panthers are scary.”