Now it's Cam Newton's turn to step up

August, 30, 2013
8/30/13
9:00
AM ET
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Cam Newton was demonstrating a handshake-hug move to a young fan wearing one of his black Carolina Panthers No. 1 jerseys following Thursday night's exhibition finale, but the kid was having trouble getting it right.

"You got to finish it, man," the third-year quarterback told his admirer as they practiced in front of his locker.

[+] EnlargeCam Newton
Jeremy Brevard/USA TODAY SportsAll eyes will be on QB Cam Newton and how he performs with the Panthers' offense in Week 1.
Newton probably wished he'd been on the field to help the Panthers finish the preseason. A team said to have only one threat at wide receiver in Steve Smith, who like Newton was a spectator, all of a sudden had numerous threats in the 25-10 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

None stood out more than Ted Ginn Jr., who caught six passes for 149 yards, including touchdowns of 35 and 87 yards from backup quarterback Derek Anderson.

Ginn was almost five yards ahead of the Pittsburgh defense when he caught the second touchdown.
"Sure, I can do that all the time," he said with a smile. Maybe he can. Said Anderson, who was 10-for-15 for 220 yards, "I don't think you can actually overthrow him."

Newton has to hope so. He'll need all the weapons he can get so he doesn't zero in on Smith as he sometimes has in past seasons if he's to take the Panthers to the next level.

He may have more at wide receiver than many thought. With David Gettis sidelined because of a freak hamstring pull during pre-game warm-ups, Ginn and Domenik Hixon stepped up in a big way.

And they'll need to continue to step up in the opener against the Seattle Seahawks with Gettis, who came into the game with a team-high 11 catches and looking like the third receiver, possibly out for a week or two.

And don't forget Armanti Edwards, who came into the game battling for the third receiver, sat out.
But at least on Thursday, players such as Ginn and Hixon showed the potential to be playmakers even if it was against mostly backups.

"It's pretty impressive," coach Ron Rivera said of his receivers. "...Ted Ginn did a nice job. It was great to see Dominek Hixon out there. That's why we brought him [in]. The guy is a big target that can make some big plays for us.

"Both of those guys will be a great addition to what we want to do as far as our offense is concerned."

In other words, neither will be cut on Saturday.

The potential depth at receiver, along with needing to keep an additional player or two on the injury-plagued offensive line, increases the odds that third-string quarterback Jimmy Clausen will be cut.

Not playing Newton to guarantee he wasn't injured was the smart move, even though it would have been nice to see him orchestrate a touchdown drive or two after getting the first-team offense in the end zone just once in three preseason games.

Now with a more optimistic outlook at wide receiver, the former Heisman Trophy winner needs to do what he told the kid in the locker room.

Finish it, man.

David Newton | email

ESPN Carolina Panthers reporter

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