Panthers' Newton not lookin' so hot

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, left, speaks with teammates as play against the Miami...

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, left, speaks with teammates as play against the Miami Dolphins began during their preseason NFL football game in Miami, August 19, 2011. (REUTERS/Joe Skipper)

MIKE RUTSEY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:06 PM ET

TORONTO - Cam Newton could have closed the deal.

With a good performance against the Miami Dolphins on Friday night, Newton could have stamped his own ticket and ended all debate over who would be the Carolina Panthers starting quarterback for their season opener.

Despite being the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft, Newton has as many critics as supporters and for those who claim he does not have the skill set required to be a quality starting NFL quarterback, Friday’s 20-10 loss to the Dolphins can be put forward as Exhibit A.

In the game where Newton made the start, he completed just seven of 14 passes for 66 yards. The problem is that his performance was far worse than those stats.

Not only did he miss open receivers, but reports from the game suggest he looked confused and rushed when he went back to throw.

And of his completions just one went to a wide receiver, a two-yard gain to Armanti Edwards.

So instead of being able to make an easy selection and tab Newton as his No. 1 quarterback, head coach Ron Rivera will have to waffle between Newton and Jimmy Clausen for another week leading up to the Panthers next pre-season game against Cincinnati.

After the game, Newton expressed disappointment in his performance.

“I’m not going to worry about who’s the starting quarterback and who’s not,” Newton said. “I’m just going to worry about myself and getting better. With this performance tonight, I’m not pleased with it at all.”

Not only could he not hit receivers, he couldn’t move the chains and for his second consecutive game he failed to convert a third down.

“We’ve got to stay out of third-and-eights, just get some push up on the line of scrimmage,” Newton said. “I mean, the offensive line did an excellent job. But as far as when we were hot and when we we’re not, everything has to go extremely more smoother than it did tonight.”

The best news for Newton and his fans this night was the fact that Clausen didn’t perform any better. On the night he was 9-for-15 for 69 yards.

Both Rivera and Panthers center Ryan Kalil told the Charlotte Observer that you couldn’t pin all the Panthers’ offensive woes on the poor play of Newton.

“I think a lot of people are going to try to put it on him,” Kalil said. “But I think we’re all as a whole going through the growing pains of a new offence.

“I think we definitely have a lot of talent on this team, especially on the offensive side. But we’ve got some ways to go. We’ve got a lot of things we have to get right.”

Still, for Newton and his chance of nailing down the No. 1 spot, it was an opportunity missed.

TOP SPOT BECK-ONS

He didn’t hit a walkoff grand slam like the Nationals Ryan Zimmerman did against the Philadelphia Phillies on Friday night but Redskins quarterback John Beck may have did him one better.

Facing a tidal wave of doubters, Beck excelled in his pre-season debut against a lacklustre Indianapolis Colts team and in the process solidified his claim as the Washington Redskins starting quarterback.

Beck is believed to have the inside track on the job from the very start as he is clearly the darling of head coach Mike Shanahan’s eye. But he still has to justify that faith.

However, there was little for doubters to pick on following his 14-for-17, 140-yard performance in the opening half.

Although there were no TD tosses, there were no picks either. Additionally he displayed confidence and the ability to make plays as he was 5-for-5 in third down passing situations.

“I felt pretty good about it,” said Beck, who has not appeared in a regular-season game since 2007. “I’m antsy to see the tape to see things I can improve on because I know there are going to be a lot of things I can take from this and say, ‘All right, let me tweak this.’

“There were a few plays right away on the field I knew, ‘OK, this is the change that’s going to have to happen as we move on.’ ”

To become the starting quarterback, Beck has to beat out Rex Grossman, who has decidedly more experience.

But this night Beck looked completely at home in offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan’s system and was able to move the chains and put up some points.

He led the team to scores on their first four possessions — a TD run from Tim Hightower and three field goals to run up a 16-0 lead.

“I thought he did a good job,” Mike Shanahan said. “It was nice to get him some playing time. You get to see him in practice every day and it’s always nice to get him into game situations. It’s a good experience to run a system you’re not used to and finally get the chance to go live. There’s nothing like playing time.”

Grossman, who came on in the third quarter was good on 7-of-12 passes for 88 yards. He also threw an interception and was complimentary when asked about Beck’s performance.

“I thought he was pretty efficient,” Grossman said. “He took what they gave him. He played well.”

Another solid pre-season performance and the job is Beck’s — if it isn’t already.

No Peyton, no hope for Colts

You want a scary thought?

Here’s one if you happen to be a fan of the Indianapolis Colts.

What happens to the Colts if Peyton Manning hasn’t recovered from his neck surgery by the time the season starts?

Manning has never missed a start in his NFL career but with three weeks to go the jury is still out.

Those fears have been fuelled by a tweet from Colts owner Jim Irsay who said the team has to evaluate its quarterback position and be prepared for life without Manning.

“We r evaluating the QB sitch,#18 healing but we got 2 b prepared 4 early season possibility without him, defence has 2 pick it up, big time!” Irsay wrote.

If Manning can’t start, the job would go to either Dan Orlovsky or Curtis Painter and that is beyond scary.

Manning is on the Colts physically unable to perform list, which means that if he isn’t activated before the start of the season, he’ll have to miss the first six games.

The Colts have been a one-man team for years as they can’t run the ball and can’t stop the run. If there is no Manning there is no offence and the defence under constant stress would get steamrolled.


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