Jaws: On Josh Freeman, Cam Newton

While I was off, Ron Jaworski started Jaws’ QB Countdown and he now is near the midway point.

Two NFC South quarterbacks have been included in the countdown so far and two haven’t. As you might expect, Drew Brees and Matt Ryan haven’t been mentioned yet and that’s probably because they’re headed for spots in the top 10.

But Jaworski has shared his thoughts on Carolina’s Cam Newton, who came in at No. 18, and Tampa Bay’s Josh Freeman, who came in at No. 21.

Jaworski said Newton is one of the more talented quarterbacks in the league, but there’s room for improvement.

“He must become more consistently accurate as a passer,’’ Jaworski said. In 2012, the Panthers committed to the read option as a foundation of their offense. Newton was the Panthers’ leading rusher. That’s nice for SportsCenter, but he’ll never become an elite quarterback because of the way he runs the option – or for that matter – the way he runs at all.

“What prevented Newton from moving up in my rankings from No. 15 a year ago was his passing. Not only did he struggle to read coverage, but he was far too erratic with his accuracy, too scattershot. In fact, the better term for accuracy is ball location. Newton must become more precise. He must better control his throws. But he’s a big-time arm talent, and he improved as the (2012) season progressed.’’

I can’t argue much with Jaworski’s assessment. But I do think that Newton will be better in 2013. That’s because I believe the Panthers will move away from the read option. They’ll ask Newton to be more of a passer. I think the talent is there for him to be successful in that area.

Jaworski called Freeman a frustrating player to evaluate.

“Freeman is an enigma,’’ Jaworski said. “He has a lot of talent, but he should be a better quarterback after 56 NFL starts. He has a lot of snaps under his belt. This is a crossroads season for him. The Bucs drafted Mike Glennon. Freeman is on the clock.”

It’s tough to argue with that. There have been moments when Freeman has looked like an upper-echelon quarterback and there have been moments when he looks like he doesn’t belong as an NFL starter.

This clearly is a huge season for Freeman as he heads into the final year of his rookie contract. Call me an optimist, but I think Freeman will take a step forward this season. He has a good supporting cast and I believe the talent is there. Freeman just needs to show he can play consistently well over the course of an entire season.