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Top 100 piece on Newton misses mark


What do you think about the top 100 spot on Cam Newton? It was edited in a way that was not good for the player or the organization. – Fred in Asheville, N.C.

The NFL Network series commonly includes dissenting opinions about a given player's position among the "Top 100 Players of 2013," and I have no problem with that. I was, however, disappointed by the overall tone of the Newton piece, especially with how it ended.

If you haven't seen it, watch it here before reading on.

As a journalist for two decades now, I certainly understand the decision to make cornerback Champ Bailey's comments a part of the piece. For one, Newton's No. 46 ranking is based on balloting of the players, so you want their perspective. And in the producer's position, would you leave this on the cutting room floor?

"He's definitely not in my top 10 quarterbacks," said Bailey, whose Broncos beat Carolina 36-14 in Week 10 last season. "I remember playing him. He didn't impress me."

While I understand that being included, I don't understand how a show designed to celebrate the top 100 players in the NFL handles the Newton vignette from there. It simply trails off with footage of Newton's unsportsmanlike conduct penalty during a Week 16 victory over the Oakland Raiders. Simply put, it leaves a bad taste in the viewer's mouth.

Compare that to the piece on Eli Manning at No. 43. The narrator pointed out with both Manning and Newton that they had slipped a few spots in the rankings from last year, but while Newton's piece featured Bailey and his penalty from there, Manning's went like this.

"Eli Manning dropped 12 spots to No. 43 on the players' list despite establishing himself as one of the league's most clutch quarterbacks," the narrator said. "To paraphrase the immortal words of Rodney Dangerfield, 'Eli gets no respect.' Perhaps a third Super Bowl MVP is needed."

Actually, the narrator went out of his way to impart all due respect. Established himself as clutch? What, with some late heroics in a playoff-less season following a Super Bowl season? And wasn't he already established as clutch with the two titles and all?

Newton does have a long ways to go, and he'll be the first to admit that. Still, he's thrown for more yards in his first two seasons than any quarterback in NFL history. Perhaps that would have been worth mentioning.

All this talk about Cam being a captain is cool, but don't you think Luke Kuechly should be a captain? He does run the whole defense playing middle linebacker, and he is a beast!!!!!!! – Johnny in Charlotte

Kuechly, who led the NFL in tackles as a rookie, is worthy of being a captain. But it's a similar situation to Newton on offense in that there are several worthy candidates. 2012 captains Jon Beason and Thomas Davis are worthy, as is Charles Johnson, who took over Beason's captaincy after his injury.

Davis did nothing in 2012 to diminish his value as a captain. Johnson had another strong season, and while he's not a rah-rah kind of captain, it's good to have a mix of personalities. Perhaps Beason's consecutive injury-plagued seasons could lead some players to cast votes for others, but he was the defense's undisputed leader before the injuries.

We won't find out until a few days before the season opener when the players vote for their captains (hope that answers Seth's question in Bath, N.C.).  But to quote the immortal words of Rodney Dangerfield, "It's a good problem to have."

OK, so Dangerfield didn't say that, but the point is having lots of players worthy of wearing the "C" is obviously better than having none.

What do you think of the condition and quality of the Panthers offensive line? – Josh in Shelby, N.C.

I really like the starting offensive line. You can't overstate the importance of the return of a healthy Ryan Kalil (a potential captain in his own right) at center. Geoff Hangartner is a proven, solid right guard, and fellow guard Amini Silatolu is an immensely talented left guard that came on strong during the second half of his rookie season. Jordan Gross is the definition of a reliable veteran at left tackle, and undrafted but unflappable Byron Bell continues to progress at right tackle.

If anything I would say that depth is a concern, but I continue to marvel at what the Panthers managed to do on offense with a makeshift line late last season. Jeff Byers found his home at center, and Garry Williams and Thomas Austin filled in admirably at tackle and guard respectively. I'm also excited to see what rookie guard Edmund Kugbila can do.


Why no talk of Josh Thomas as a potential starter at corner? I think he is our best corner. – Darian in Orangeburg, S.C.

Who said Josh Thomas isn't a potential starter? Not me. Despite starting just four games in 2012, he ranked second on the team with seven passes defensed. Thomas is right there with returners Captain Munnerlyn and Josh Norman as well as newcomers Drayton Florence and D.J. Moore. And don't forget about James Dockery, who started the final two games of 2012 opposite Thomas.

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