Ever since Cam Newton burst onto the national scene at Auburn in 2010, Lamar Jackson has been watching.
Newton was the first overall choice of the Panthers in 2011 and spent nine seasons there before he joined the Patriots. And for the first time in his career, he’ll face Jackson as a starting quarterback.
The Panthers played the Ravens in 2018, but Jackson hadn’t taken over as the starting quarterback just yet. Now, Jackson will face the veteran quarterback he first saw when he was in middle school.
“Just game recognize game,” Jackson said Wednesday. “He the OG. He’s Superman.”
In a lot of ways, Jackson and Newton are similar in their makeup. Both are mobile quarterbacks that can beat teams with the ground game — Newton and Jackson both lead their teams in rushing attempts this season. Both are former Heisman Trophy winners in college and have won an MVP award in the NFL.
Jackson, 23, will square off against Newton, 31, Sunday night in a matchup of the NFL’s newest face for mobile quarterbacks against last generation’s.
“I watched Cam since Auburn,” Jackson said. “Everyone in the country did. Everyone knew about Cam, Superman doing his thing. And a lot of us looked up to him. He’s a mobile quarterback. He do his thing, he won the Heisman, he won the college championship, won MVP, went to the Super Bowl, stuff like that, so I followed him a lot. Want to get to where he’s at, and now I’m here. Now I got to play against him. Just can’t wait to do that.”
Through seven games as a Patriot, there’s been ups and downs for Newton. He’s played well, like he did early in the season against the Seahawks. But he’s also struggled mightily at times and through the first half of the season has just two touchdown passes with seven interceptions, averaging 202.4 yards passing per game — on pace for the worst mark of his career.
He’s rushed for 314 yards on 69 attempts, good for 44.9 yards per game. He might not be the same quarterback he was during his MVP season, the year he faced the Broncos and now-Ravens defensive lineman Derek Wolfe in the Super Bowl. But he’s still got the same threat he’s always had.
“He’s a big body guy that can move, so you gotta tackle him like a back,” Wolfe said. “You have to be aware of him at all times. People forget that he won the MVP not too long ago. That wasn’t too long ago. He’s still got it, he’s still a good football player, I’ve got a ton of respect for him. I’ve played against him a bunch.”