NFL: Gabbert vs. Newton today
Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 24, 2011
CHARLOTTEó Jacksonvilleís Blaine Gabbert will make his first NFL start against the team that seriously considered making him the No. 1 pick in the draft and the player who eventually got the nod ahead of him.
The Panthers are happy they took Cam Newton, but Carolina did extensive research on the Jaguarsí rookie quarterback when he was coming out of college. They sent six members of their staff to Missouri to get to know Gabbert prior to Aprilís draft.
On Sunday, Newton and Gabbert will square off.
ěTheyíre the same type of athlete ó big, tall and physical guys with great arms and great running ability,î Panthers coach Ron Rivera said.
But Rivera said there was ěsomethingî that attracted the team to Newton, a certain hard-to-explain moxie about the Heisman Trophy winner out of Auburn.
ěI donít want to say the other kid doesnít have the ëit factorí but there was something about Cam that I havenít seen from a lot of guys in this league,î Rivera said.
Now the coach hopes Newton gets his first win before Gabbert does.
Gabbertís potential aside, the Panthers certainly arenít second-guessing their decision to go with Newton.
Theyíre seeing some impressive returns from Newton on their $22 million investment in a player who has electrified the Charlotte area with an exciting brand of play not seen before in the organization.
Although the Panthers have lost by a touchdown to both Arizona and Green Bay, Newton has been extremely productive ó throwing for an NFL rookie record 854 yards and three touchdown passes in his first two games. He also leads the team in rushing and has scored twice on the ground.
Newton dismissed the notion that heís the more experienced quarterback after two games.
ěI donít look at it like that,î Newton said. ěThereís no timeline on success. I think thatís where people get it wrong. You canít just say, ëWell, who has the crystal ball to say heís not going to come into his own until this particular game?í No one does. Thereís no such thing as being a rookie in this league. Everybodyís in the same league. Itís no Hall of Fame League.î
Thereís certainly potential for Gabbert to have a big debut, much like Newton did when he threw for 422 yards and two scores on the road against the Cardinals in Carolinaís season opener.
Carolinaís defense has been struggling, surrendering four touchdown passes of 49 yards or more. Theyíve also lost starting linebackers Jon Beason and Thomas Davis in consecutive weeks, leaving holes at those positions. Strong safety Charles Godfrey also could be out this week with a concussion.
Unlike Newton, who was thrown into the fire from the beginning, Gabbert started the season on the bench, although he did see some mop up duty in last Sundayís 32-3 loss to the New York Jets.
ěIt gave me a chance to get my feet wet,î Gabbert said.
Gabbert and Newton formed a relationship while going through the NFL draft process, which began at the NFL Scouting Combine. Gabbert said thereís a mutual respect between the rookies.
ěItís going to be fun,î Gabbert said. ěCam is a good guy and heís had great success this year. Theyíre a great football team. Theyíre a couple of plays away from being 2-0 and we know that. Theyíre a good, talented defense and theyíve got an explosive offense so weíve got to come ready to play.î
Said Newton: ěI wish him the best in his career. I heard heís getting the opportunity to start. Hopefully he does well.î
The Panthers find themselves a game behind everyone else in the NFC South and realize they canít afford to drop another, especially in a game theyíre favored to win at home.
Offensive tackle Jordan Gross said itís a little too early to call Sundayís game a must win situation, but admitted, ě0-3 would be a terrible start, but 1-2 gives you a chance.î
The Associated Press