- Chris Sprow, ESPN Insider
In a start last week versus the Bengals, rookie Panthers QB Cam Newton finished Carolina's first drive by scampering for a 16-yard touchdown. There was nothing special about the play, particularly if you've seen Newton play football for more than 15 minutes. On third-and-11 he took a shotgun snap, and at a hint of pressure he started to glide into Cincinnati's secondary, appearing slow, yet somehow faster than everyone else. He rolled off a hit from a safety he outweighs by 30 pounds and landed in the end zone. Fifteen minutes later, on third-and-8, Newton scrambled again, this time for 26 yards. Again, this seemed like nothing odd -- unless you're talking about the National Football League.
Over the last four seasons, NFL quarterbacks have run for touchdowns of 15-plus yards four times a year on average, according to Elias. That's about once per 8,100 plays. (Minus Michael Vick, it would be more like once per 12,000 plays.) And last year, NFL quarterbacks ran for 25 or more yards 17 total times, about once per 1,900 plays. Newton did something within 15 minutes of football that, statistically, should happen about once per 12,222 NFL games (approximately 48 years).
Find a sample size small enough, and you can argue anything. But that's just the point. This didn't seem odd at all, it was just typical Newton -- only the statistical improbablity looks odd. The quarterback looks the same. The question is whether this rare gift, combined with just average passing ability, can make him elite. The evidence says it might. It also says there's no reason Newton shouldn't run like crazy.
22hMel Kiper Jr.
2dEric D. Williams