Cardinals vs. Panthers: So We Meet Again

Christian Petersen

Sunday marks the second meeting between two high profile draft picks who made their debuts against one another. Cam Newton lit up the score board and broke all sorts of rookie passing records, but in the end Patrick Peterson became the dagger for his first career win. Now we examine how far each has come, and where they may be headed.

The Draft

Prior to the 2011 NFL Draft, the unanimous vote for the first overall pick seemed to be Andrew Luck. However, that all changed when Luck decided to stay in school another year. After that, predictions of the player chosen as the first overall pick got blown wide open. Some were lobbying for Marcell Dareus, some for Von Miller, some for Patrick Peterson as well. Really any of the top prospects made sense. Carolina's defensive line was very week, especially at defensive tackle. A pass rusher like Von Miller or a tackle like Dareus would help this. The Panthers lacked a number two corner or Chris Gamble's replacement, coloring Patrick Peterson as a possibility with high value. Peterson is a ball hawk who has the ability to take it to the house whenever he touches the ball. I wanted Patrick Peterson.

Then, enter Cam Newton. Newton began to increase his draft stock and had made a serious case to be the number one overall pick. But his campaign was littered with critics.

"His accuracy is too spotty"

"He's a run first quarterback"

"His playbook in college was too simple"

"He's got attitude issues"

"He's the next JaMarcus Russell/Vince Young"

Every "expert" except for Bo Jackson (RIGHT?! RIGHT?!?!?!) seemed to believe Cam didn't have what it takes. Some noticed things like his work ethic and intelligence, while others seemed to miss it. In the end, Cam would be selected by Carolina, shifting the direction of the franchise for better or for worse.

Opening Day

I was one of the fans who secretly didn't think Cam had what it took. However, after watching the entire offseason and hearing interviews and seeing the preseason, a flicker of hope has crept its way into my head. I watched in anticipation for Cam's first career start, expecting a big rushing day but little passing prowess. Boy, was I wrong.

Passing: 24-37, 422 yards, 2 TDs. Also ran for a touchdown

Cam lit up the record books and put the whole NFL on notice in one game. His message; "I am Cam Newton, and you all shall remember me."

However, Cam's performance largely overshadowed his rookie counterpart, Patrick Peterson. Peterson played like most rookie corners would, making 5 tackles but failing to log any statistics in the pass defense game. But, he lived up to some of the hype. He took back his first NFL punt return touchdown against Carolina, effectively ending Cam's hope for a fast start and a win in his first game.

The Careers Thus Far

Cam Newton's career has been plagued by misfortune. His team often could not win a game if he made one mistake. He was scrutinized for his turnovers, scrutinized for deficiencies in technique and as a result his accuracy. His social profile tainted by the image national media had created for him. But one thing you have to say about Cam, he's come out every day and worked to make himself better. He now stands at the helm of the Carolina Panthers, looking to right the ship and bring us our first over .500 season.

Patrick Peterson unfortunately has suffered from a mediocre offense trying to score points. Peterson has proven himself to be one of the best at his position. He can take punts, kickoffs, and interceptions to the house. He's even lined up on offense to make some plays. Peterson is stuck in the unfortunate roll of being a star player on a team still finding the pieces required to win. Carson Palmer is a good quarterback, Larry Fitzgerald is an amazing receiver, and the defense around Peterson as a whole seems to play very well. It's just a matter of time before Peterson's impact will be even more felt.

Sunday's Ramifications

Cam Newton started the season off very slow before coming out and lighting up the New York Giants in week 3. Now the Panthers look to try and get back to .500 and right the ship before yet another mathematical elimination from the playoffs. Patrick Peterson and his Cardinals have clawed their way to .500 in four games, three of which were away in that span. They look to try and get ahead of .500 and keep it that way for any real chance of playoff hopes.

What we are going to witness is two players, a little over two seasons later, meeting again. Cam Newton returns to the stadium he started at on a mission to prove the doubters wrong, that he CAN be the franchise guy who CAN lead the Panthers to greatness. Patrick Peterson will stand in the way of this, by locking up one on one with Cam's favorite target Steve Smith. Smith lit the Cardinals up two seasons ago, but I'd bet money they trust Peterson a bit more this time around. Cam may need to rely more on himself and his other targets this time around. The light switch appeared to come on in New York when Smith suffered a hip injury. Cam seemed to realize that he will one day need to win without Smith. The time has come to show he's the biggest threat. Not Steve Smith or anybody else. It's his team, his play dictates how far we go.

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