Discussion

A league built for Cam Newton

The numbers prove, Cam Newton is more Big Ben or Peyton Manning than you think

Originally Published: March 9, 2011
By Chris Sprow | ESPN Insider

You have to be able to do so many things to be a good quarterback at the NFL level. You need arm strength, solid footwork, you should be a high-character guy, a leader. You need to love studying, because a good NFL quarterback better have a good handle on the playbook, make sound pre-snap reads, instinctively decipher defenses, audible into better plays, and -- as recent drafts have emphasized -- run a pro-style system from under center.

And because of that center exchange, which expands deception, NFL coaches will underscore that a quarterback must be able to do all of this, in the simplest terms, while backpedaling from under center. It's also why those in need of a quarterback this offseason might find it maddening that the 6-foot-5, 240-plus pound scrambling machine who led his team to a title game while tacklers hung from his legs (and character questions dogged him off the field), threw a whopping 63.0 percent of the time from the shotgun formation.

That quarterback was Ben Roethlisberger. Of course.

George Whitfield, noted "Quarterback Builder" by trade, put Cam Newton through what he calls "another semester of football" leading up to his pro day. Twelve-hour days of drills, film sessions and throwing, the latter of which Whitfield insists "is always against some kind of apparatus, some kind of obstacle." Whitfield also has Newton working on his drops, the act of reading the game while backing up, something that NFL evaluators believe many shotgun-based college quarterbacks struggle with the most.

But Whitfield isn't overdoing that stuff. Big Ben -- along with a number of other elite NFL passers who threw a remarkably high percentage of their passes out of the shotgun in 2010 -- is part of the reason why. Just look at the evidence:

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