CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Reuters)—Cam Newton wasn't spectacular in his NFL debut with the Carolina Panthers - and he may not need to be to win the starting job - but he certainly gave hope that he can be the dynamic player this franchise desperately needs at quarterback.
He entered Saturday night's game against the New York Giants with 14:21 left in the second quarter to a rousing ovation and didn't disappoint on his first possession, leading the Panthers 62 yards in nine plays on his first drive. The drive stalled at the 7-yard line and the Panthers were forced to settle for a 26-yard field goal by Olindo Mare.
In his six other possessions with the second-team line Newton would only lead the Panthers to three points, that coming on an impressive two-minute drill before the half. He finished 8 of 19 for 134 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions.
After the game coach Ron Rivera said he's no closer to choosing a starter for the Sept. 11 regular-season opener against Arizona -- he said that will come after the third preseason game -- but overall was pleased with the play of his young quarterbacks.
Jimmy Clausen struggled early, throwing a pick-six on his first possession and causing the fans to erupt in a chant of "CAM! CAM! CAM!"
But Clausen bounced back on his third possession with an 18-yard touchdown pass to tight end Greg Olsen. Clausen finished 4 for 7 for 69 yards.
"Other than the interception that Jimmy threw, I thought they both played well," Rivera said of his two young quarterbacks. "I like their composure at times and I liked their presence in the huddle from what I could see and they were going through their progressions and their reads.
"Jimmy, on the interception, just threw a little behind. He was early coming out and the back hadn't got into his cut and I think that's what threw him off and why he threw it behind. Cam, on a couple of his reads, stuck with it too long and made a bad throw, but shoot, you watch them and see what they're doing and I think they're making progress. I think they have a lot of growing to do but I thought they both did some good things that gave us some energy."
Newton started his first drive as a pro with a safe rollout pass to Olsen for a 12-yard gain. He went back to Olsen again on the next play, but missed him down the right sideline. After an 11-yard run by Mike Goodson, Newton ignited the crowd by springing David Clowney for an 11-yard gain on a double reverse with a great lead block on Giants defensive end Dave Tollefson.
"I saw him getting up and I thought, 'Oh my God, I hope he's using his left shoulder,'" Rivera said.
Newton didn't run at all as the Giants worked to contain him in the pocket and prevent that.
"If the defense allowed me those yards running the football myself I was going to take it," Newton said. "The scheme was set and they weren't going to let me get out."
The Panthers also didn't use any of the zone-read options they'd worked on in practice.