I may infact stand alone in my opinion here so please have a open mind and a open heart.
Run First Quarterback?
When Cameron Newton was recruited he had to dispell the Myth that he was a stationary quarterback that only passed. Then ONLY at the college level did anyone find out that he could move some. ONLY at Auburn did they discover to what extent his skills as a runner could be utilized. Auburn coaches leaned on that aspect of his game as he gained confidents in himself, the coaches, and the rest of the team as a passer. Noted by the increasing amount of aggressive play calling as the season played out. With any smart coaching staff they allowed their quarterback...first year starter....first year in the program....to get his feet under him in their program.
The reality is that when Cam Newton was being recruited out of Westlake High School, he had to dispel scouts of the complete opposite notion, that he was just a pure pocket passer that didn’t use his feet to hurt teams. Here is a quote dated March 22nd, 2006 in a report about Newton’s recruiting prospects:
Some have labeled Newton as a pure pocket passer but he is quick to discard that assessment. “I used to just sit back in the pocket but now with defensive ends running 4.6 forty’s you have to be able to move around and make plays with your feet," he said. “Now, I consider myself a guy who can run and pass. I really like to sit back and throw the ball but if you give me some space I’ll tuck it and run.”
Consider another quote from a Recruiting Editor for TigerSportsDigest.com, dated May 2, 2006:
Newton, a 6-5, 220-pounder out of Atlanta (Ga.) Westlake, surprised nearly everyone in attendance when he posted a 4.51 in the 40-yard dash.
Everyone was well aware that he had a big league arm that could make all of the throws, but bringing his speed down from a 4.8 to a 4.5 makes him all the more dangerous when things break down in the pocket.
The fact that Newton had to go out of his way to dispel recruiters of the notion that he was just a pure pocket passer is not terribly shocking, if you’ve tracked what Newton did at Westlake High, where they ran the option “maybe twice a game” according to Cam back in 2006.
Additionally, if one were to study what Newton did at Blinn College, they would find a player that was not asked to run the ball as often as at Auburn. As Cecil Newton put it in discussing why they chose Blinn College, “He's going to get to take some snaps from under center out there at Blinn and the coaching staff there is well versed in a pro style scheme.”
To dispell this MYTH that he is a scrambling qb that can "pass ok"...in the last 169 designed pass plays in which Newton drop back to pass he scrambled 15 times...in 6 games!!! So every game he took off and run about 2 or 3 times (that sound like he is running all over the place as a quarterback?) This perception that he is this scrambling QB that can throw it now and then ....is misinformation. When you people throw in the amount of designed quarterback runs they do this with the clear notion of suggesting that he is a run first quarterback. And if you look at the fact that he ran more run plays than he did pass plays then you would begin to have valid question marks. However the real question is when he is asked to pass he has more than "good results". The change in run ratio in the last 6 games while in designed passing plays lends to him reverting back to his natural habit of a "pass first quarterback". Can you really assiocate the offensive philosophy of Auburns coaches with the decision making of their players? In other words ..is it his fault they called read option plays? Would it be assumed that in a pro style offence that he would want to take off and run because that is his "instinct"? I would question this perception with the facts shown here. That not only is he instinctively oriented toward passing from the pocket...but that he is miles ahead of Blaine Gabbert. And in a very underrated way....more NFL ready.
The Pocket passer?
After watching him and his game tape i get a different impression than what alot of main stream media (and fans) percieve of this prospect. He appears to as a pocket passer(who just so happens can run well) who makes goood choices in the passing game and knows what to do with the football...as evidence with his completion 66.1%, as evidence with his highest passer rating in NCAA history of 188 going into the BCS campionship game...as evidence with is 30 TD to 7 int ratio....as evidence with his completion percentage going up to 70% against the blitz....as evidence with not a single incomplete pass the entire season during the first drive of any game....as evidence by zero interceptions in the 4th quarter .........regardless of what TYPE of offence he ran.... he showed good instincts in the passing game (even with a low volume of passes) and very good decisions with the football CONSISTANTLY...
Stats don't mean everything and as impressive as those stats are i would like to dig deeper into his instincts as a passer. I am going to link a video for everyone to follow so that i can point out aspects plays with times on the clips. There are aspects in the details that need to be pointed out. In all of these clips please note how calm and collected Newton is in the pocket....he isn't rattled...feels the rush and slides in the pocket and climbs the pocket without "looking a the rush"
1.On the link listed below first play - Ball placement and timing are important. Newton displays that he can anticapate the route and place the ball in a spot the reciever can catch it (playing to the fact the defender doesn't see the release of the football. This shows advancement as a passer because you have to trust your instincts and sling it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EE_fYORFXa8&feature=player_embedded
2.On the link listed below at 0:32 - deepout where he displays some zip and on time on the money. A pass needed to be made in a pro style offence. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EE_fYORFXa8&feature=player_embedded
3. On the link listed below first play - back shoulder throw/ red zone typical. Throws it with autherity and placement. Only the upper tier quarterbacks in the NFL are even asked to throw this pass. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DzjcvJGWx_M
4. On the link listed below at 01:00. Situation is 4th down and 3 on the road at Alabama down 24 zip. Coaches call for a 8 yard "out pattern". This speaks to the confidence that the coaches and players have in him as a passer. And the pass is excuted with autherity http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EE_fYORFXa8&feature=player_embedded
5. On the link listed below at 1:10. Over the shoulder throw down the sidelines..shows timing and touch. Result is a drop pass.... (note the staggering amount of drops on these Newton Clips). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EE_fYORFXa8&feature=player_embedded
6. On the Link listed below at 4:46. Throws a seam/post play that needs to lead the reciever and needs to get their quick...yet he has to throw it over a defender. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EE_fYORFXa8&feature=player_embedded
7. On the link listed below at 4:53. When evaluating Matthew Stafford when trying to get a feel for his instincts as a passer. I note many plays like this. Leading a reciever down the post with zip. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EE_fYORFXa8&feature=player_embedded
8. On the link listed below at 6:56. Shows the instincts and skill to throw a seam pass that is unique even among the most elite quarterbacks. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EE_fYORFXa8&feature=player_embedded
9. On the link listed below at 7:00. Shows autherity with a deep out (note the reactions of "wow" from the announcers) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EE_fYORFXa8&feature=player_embedded
10. On the Link listed below at 7:22. Another deep out (another wow) Beyond the announcers reaction this displays his knack for throwing to the sidelines which seems to be a knack for him....which is also a repeated theme of NFL offences. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EE_fYORFXa8&feature=player_embedded
11. On the Link listed below at 7:11. Throws with autherity and touch between 3 defenders. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EE_fYORFXa8&feature=player_embedded
Linking the above videos only shows that he does have good ball placement that is consistant with the stats listed above. Note very little ding and dunk.. that most of Auburns passing game is vertical. Now connect the stats with the film and you see a prospect that has above average potiental to be unique in the passing game.
This is a very underrated aspect of Newtons game. As he is not a quarterback that is rattled by pressure. Infact his comp% goes up when he is blitzed. Which gives rise to a few different reasons why.
- he can escape pressure and run (but this doesn't account for the 70 comp% during a blitz)
- teams under estimating him as a passer? (maybe)
Two things...he is very competitive ...and has very good instincts in the pocket. As a Lions fan i learned new found respect for this aspect of a quarterback. Joey Harrington looked so good during his pro day and private workouts. He knew the Lions offence inside and out ..tested out very high...has a good arm...surprizingly accurate. However Joey always seemed to "look at the rush" instead of sensing it and stepping up in the pocket or sliding to either side in the pocket he would lose focus down field and that is all the defence wants you to do...because now he lost timing with recievers and missed opportunities in the passing game....(here is a short Joey Harrington clip displaying this lack of pocket presence....first look at him in college with no pressure >>> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gHwkQtxU-J4 ...now him at the pro level..note the happy feet and the fear .. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3P2J3k-W_q0 )....ok those clips are a joke...but for those that do remember. These clips are a microcosm of his career. At Oregan he had very little pressure and even in the NFL when given time Harrington was decent....but in the NFL there is hardly ever ANYTIME...and so that is the root to Harrintons failure ...not composed in the pocket. Thats all a defence wants you to do. Aaron Rodgers who was sacked a league leading 58 times in 2009 continued to focus down field and make plays and take the hit regardless of weak pass protection. He senses the rush and moves while focusing down the field.... sensing the rush and NOT looking at the rush. This allows him to take advantage of coverages and schemes defences throw at hiim....he is not phased by it and never watches it.
Newton however displays a unique instinct in this regard watch him during quarterback pressures >>> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EvpZyJvmupM&feature=player_embedded note how his focus remains down field. You don't catch him staring at rushers at all...the key ingredient to becoming a very good "pocket passer"
With just a eyeball test it appears that there is really only one difference between Newton and Gabbert ...pocket presence. As i think both are very instinctive passers and can deliever the football. I would warn that ..when you look at the great quarterback in the NFL one aspect of Newtons game this is underplayed is his composure as a passer. Just note how he sets up his offensive line blocks and stands in the pocket...i worry that Gabbert may not be very instinctive in this department. And when a young quarterback is good at this aspect of the game then it makes the game so much easyer to manage. Can you learn to "feel the rush"?..i dunno. I don't think you can...that is like a running back all of a sudden having better vision. It really is a instinctive aspect of a quarterbacks game. You can't just practice it....trust me we tried with Joey Harrington for years and that never played out anywhere he played.
Cam Newton passing from the pocket
Cam Newton responding to pressure
Cam Newton deep passes
Blaine Gabbert highlights
What i note is that Newton looks like what many claim Gabbert is....and Gabbert looks like what many say Newton is
One thing no one wants to talk about with Newton...pocket presence. He isn't rattled ...he isn't scared...when all hell is breaking down around him he is calm. He is very decisive and makes good choices with the football. And against the blitz his completion % went UP to 70%!!!!...watch any video of him and you note that IN THE POCKET he remains calm and focus down the field...now watch Gabbert and you will see a QB that has happy feet and reads one side of the field and takes off...you will see a qb that doesn't "feel the rush" and looks at the rush....Newton doesn't do that his focus is down field the entire time and he feels the rush. This is the difference between being Joey Harrington or Phillp Rivers...infact this is the NUMBER ONE SKILL SET of all franchise quarterbacks. You can't read any defence or apply any of your so called football knowledge if you don't instinctively know how to focus down field with your eyes at all times and "feel the rush" instead of "looking at the rush"....this in my humble opinion is the single most important reason why i think Gabbert isn't ready and why surprizingly Newton is more advance than anyone is willing to give him credit for. This is something that was noted by ESPN as well >>> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DZWc8ZnW0Lw (ok that horse is now dead)
One thing that bothers me is the concept that Newton isn't intelligent. And this is something i really don't know and i venture to say the very spirit of this question mark relates to how he can learn a offence. Based on what i can measure..he played in a offence that is very close to what Gabbert ran. With Auburns offence more oriented toward read option and play action off of it...and Mizz offence oriented toward short passes and screens. Yet scheme wise both concepts are very close. One read system is a word that basiclly means "newton ran a offence that used very little thinking". And to some degree i would have to agree. Yet when i look at the forest through the trees the overwhelming thing that jumps out at me is decision making. You can know the entire play book and have a advance feel for what you want to do with the football pre snap and post snap and still fail. Does this mean that other rookies will be ahead of Newton Scheme wise? This is where i think there is a disconnect. Because you have to have that innate ability to make decisions. My challege is that a quarterback that is instinctive and a good decision maker with the football will have the advantage. So how does one measure this instinct?...well you can't...this is a eye ball test (information and videos i linked above). But from my eyeball test this is what i see from Newton in one season at Auburn...where as Gabbert in 3 seasons didn't progress in a offence he knew inside and out in a system he was in for 4 years. WRAP your head around that concept. That in the time Gabbert had to master that offence he acturally got worse!!!! And in only one year at Auburn he mastered the offence and gained chemistry with his teammates...in one spring training fresh out of junior college......to me that speaks volumes as to his intelligence as a football player(he didn't arrive until the winter of 2010 !!!!)
Spread/ One read system
There is a concept that Gabbert is more advanced. I don't agree here..after witnessing his lack pocket awareness ...As well as noting Newtons instincts in the pocket......running a similar system. Where in this do we have so many that flock to the "Gabbert is more pro ready bandwagon"? Many just say "well because he is"..without anything to really quanitfy this belief. Many say that Gabbert had less to work with. Yet Newton had very little to throw too hiimself with his leading reciever leading the SEC in drops (darvin Adams)....It became a reason to run more because of how unrealiable his pass catchers are.(note in the above videos the amount of drops). Good quarterbacks make their recievers better...however if you don't have a good quarterback you will find that your "outstanding reciever" will simply disappear (as i am sure Steve Smith would be more productive if he had someone to toss it too him...without that element he can't succeed)
The one read system almost sounds like "hey Newton isn't very smart so lets have him look at one wideout and run". Now i am pretty sure we don't have to be rocket scientiest to look at these videos and see that he is doing more than looking at one guy and saying "well i am out of here" (add the fact that he only scrambled 15 times in the last 6 games...which is about only 2 or 3 times a game)...he had to do something with the ball right? And so when you hear that term one read system you conjure up a imagine of Newton looking at one guy and running...when that (proven above) isn't true.
Newton does play in a one read system but this term "one read" isn't reflective of what is acturally happening. The reality is Newton and Gabbert both play in this "one read system". It is fact...but it all depends on what "one read system" means. See the only thing this means is that both quarterbacks have a primary reciever...thats pretty much it. In the NFL you have a primary reciever as well...but this changes pre snap as the quarterback reads the defence...this changes post snap as defences play cat and mouse and switch up their look right as the quarterback snaps the ball. The difference between how a NFL offence engages this situation and how a spread offence at Auburn handles it...they do nothing. If they have a certain pass play called they stay with the play and the only adjustment that is made is by the quarterback...he has to decide on if he is taking the primary reciever. OR does he instead throw it to someone else that has a quicker route release. It is the same concept that both Newton and Gabbert employ...there isn't any audibles at the line to get into a better match up. It is more John Madden esq with only the quarterback responding to changes in the defence. So you don't see Newton or Gabbert doing "Payton Manning" waving their arms and yelling orders and changing plays...they just go. And yes folks Newton and Gabbert are functionally doing the same so called "one read offence". Only "one read" isn't what is acturally happening...it is just a term illistrating that the quarterback is the only one adjusting ....no audibles or switching up formations ...that is however what will be asked at the NFL level.
This is really hitting at the heart of one thing....that Newton may very well be more pro ready than you think. And he may not even have a totally handle on all of the offence till 2012. But with enough to be instinctive and competitive he could surprize. He did more with less time that Gabbert had to perfect his skills in only one season.
With the CBA not done every rookie quarterback in this class will run the risk of no training camp..which by most accounts washes their season. This to me gives a chance for all of them to work as back ups and learn. So don't expect much from any of them if they can't get a CBA done prior to OTA's and preseasons etc. All of that extra work with their teams is the key to why rookie QB's have had some early success. Even though perception is that this class has a bunch of qb's not ready.
As far as a leader Newton is much better than anyone wants to give him credit for. People say with amazement how he won every game. And how he pushed them to win every game. Sometimes it can be a broke record... But observe him talking to his team when they are down at half time (1:00 mark on the clip >>>) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nFBlwqOHTbw&feature=related listening to him speak made me feel like he is really in his element. You can see how his teammates respond to him. To me this is the MOST compelling aspect of him as a player....the defining reason why he did so well at Auburn.
The off the field issues with him buying a stolen laptop...or cheating on a test....or his father doing pay for play (or him)... those are concerning... and can't be just dismissed. However the thing that you have to like is that he is a football guy. He has family that has played in the NFL ...he has worked very hard since pulling his head out of his tail. So to me the latest trends are positive. I am sure that in the modern era of media you will find less and less squeeky clean prospects because of the massive multi media environment we live in...and sad as it maybe....everyone has something going on...even if it is your father or brother or whoever. And it will come out sooner or later. But to be honest i can't stop laughing about the thought of him tossing that laptop out of the window that is pretty funny. ..is he a lost cause?...or was he just a kid acting like a idiot? There have only been 8954825402452 posts about Newton here. But i felt i had to share a different perspective only because i feel like some facts about him are in error on the field and as far as what he is as a player. But this is my opinion :)