It's safe to say that this offseason has been the most unique in recent memory. With the lockout and subsequent uncertainty and confusion, things that have been constant for as long as I've been following the league have been turned on their head. Free agency, usually in March, has yet to occur, and only close insiders even know who will be free agents. Will it be players with four, five, or even six years of accrued experience? Teams aren't allowed contact with their players, including drafted rookies. While this is tough for most teams, the Carolina Panthers are hit especially hard. A combination of a new coaching staff, and a highly drafted rookie QB with expectations to start immediately mean that we have a harder road than many other teams. Every minute Cam spends with the new coaching staff will be vital. So what will the end result on the field be?
Cam is different from many other QB's in another way. He doesn't really have an analog for what he will become as a pro. He is a unique prospect, with the potential to change what we look for in QB prospects. He's an interesting amalgation of Josh Freeman, Ben Roethlisberger, Daunte Culpepper, and Vince Young. He's got a rocket arm, immense size, excellent mobility, and an innate ability to make plays and win games. He also has inconsistent accuracy stemming from raw pocket passer mechanics and has a long ways to go as far as reading NFL defenses. Below are the stats from Freeman's, Young's, Roethlisberger's, and Culpeper's rookie seasons. We'll see what we might have to look forwad to.
Freeman: 10 G, 9 started, 158/290, 54.5 cmp %, 1855 yds, 6.4 YPA, 10/18 TD/INT, 59.8 QB rating.
Roethlisberger: 14 G, 13 started, 196/295, 66.4 cmp %, 2621 yds, 8.9 YPA, 17/11 TD/INT, 98.1 QB rating.
Young: 15 G, 13 started, 184/157, 51.5 cmp %, 2199 yards, 6.2 YPA, 12/13 TD/INT, 66.7 QB rating.
Culpepper: 1 G, 0 started, did not attempt a pass.
Statistically we've got good (Roethlisberger), average (Young), bad (Freeman), and did not play (Culpepper). Basically evey result in the book. So since we can't nail down a result objectively through stats, I'm going to go subjective. Which is more fun anyways.
I personally think that Cam should sit on the bench for a few games at least. Ideally we'd have a vet in place that knows Chud's scheme so we don't have to scale down for Cam. Derek Anderson perhaps? But given the recent history with #1 overall selections there's a very good chance Cam will be the starter from day one. That being the case, I see Cam's season going more along the lines of Freeman and Young's. His current lack of polish will hurt him, and I see him making some mistakes early on as he gets used to the speed of the game. I expect Chud to utilize plenty of bootlegs and short passes to get Cam comfortable and establish him as a mobile threat. And of course opposing teams will be getting a healthy dose of Double Trouble. Eventually, as his footwork improves and he gets used to the responsibilities expected of him pre and post snap, he'll develop into a more complete, and lethal, QB.
Prediction: 16 G, 11 started, 145/250, 58 cmp %, 1700 yds, 6.8 YPA, 10/16 TD/INT, which should come out to about a high 50's/low 60's QB rating. 75 rushing attempts, 400 yards, 5.3 YPA, 8 TD's.
If Cam's rookie season goes like this statistically I will be pleased. Assuming the rest of the team plays like we think they will, 5 wins or more is definitely within reason. I doubt we'll be blowing teams out, but we'll be difficult matchup for sure. This team may not be the Cardiac Cats of 2003 as far as winning, but they very well could be just as fun to watch.