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Ranking the top debuts of the 2020 NFL season – Cam Newton, Chase Young, Jamal Adams and more
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Why Stephen A. was so impressed with Cam Newton vs. Seattle (2:27)

Stephen A. Smith argues that Cam Newton’s performance stood out more than Russell Wilson’s despite the Patriots’ loss. (2:27)

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  • Jeremy FowlerESPN Staff Writer

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    • ESPN staff writer
    • Previously a college football reporter for CBSSports.com
    • University of Florida graduate

The list of the top NFL debuts through two weeks barely includes a rookie coming off a 311-yard passing performance. And it doesn’t include one future Hall of Famer at the position.

The draft, free agency and an exceedingly active trade market brought plenty of star power to new uniforms. ESPN combed through performances throughout the league and talked to league evaluators about the top 20 debuts entering Week 3, led by a larger-than-life quarterback who nearly knocked off Seattle in prime time.

The honorable mentions list is almost as good as the real one.


1. Cam Newton, QB, New England Patriots

Status: Free-agent signing

Why he’s ranked here: Newton has ditched his signature Superman touchdown celebration but has played just as confidently while leading the Patriots’ offense to 821 total yards and 51 points. New England has a highly motivated star on a one-year deal and that urgency shows on Sundays. Newton’s 15 completions of 10-plus yards downfield leads all NFL quarterbacks through two weeks, according to Pro Football Focus.

One NFC exec believes Newton’s arm strength hasn’t waned from his peak Carolina days. “He looks like he’s up to his old tricks,” the exec said. “His foot issue used to cause his accuracy to waver and the ball was sailing, but that looks fine now for the most part. He’s never been one with touch and pinpoint accuracy but he can certainly drive the ball and that’s no different.”

Given that Newton has 26 rushing attempts through two games, the Patriots appear prepared to use him on short-yardage plays throughout the year, but some of the rushing workload will be determined by Newton himself on zone-read plays, which he decides whether to tuck or throw.

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