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Posted: August 20, 2011 2:24 p.m.

Rams need work but are on the right path

Newton is a work in progress. Really you can say that about every high school football team. Seldom does a team hit the ground running and look playoff ready in week one let alone the preseason. And after watching the Rams play Rockdale Friday, it's clear they have a lot of work to do. The good news is they have a lot to work with. That and their defense would have scored 26 fantasy football points.

Newton's biggest question mark is at quarterback. We got the first look at Gmatreian Brown and overall, he looked very good in his first start. His receivers didn't help him in the first half as they dropped three passes in which two may have gone for touchdowns. Nevertheless, he had a nice debut.

Perhaps no coach and player have worked as closely and as hard as Brown and offensive coordinator Camiel Grant. Brown has been Grant's pet project throughout the summer and the senior quarterback has been a quick study. There are still flaws to address though.

Talking to Grant after the game, he admitted Brown missed a couple of reads especially when Newton' best playmaker Deshawn McKenzie was matched up against a shorter defensive back. Brown did make several nice throws though. He was particularly effective throwing the seam route. He had one dropped for a touchdown in the first quarter before hitting a long one down to the Rockdale 2-yard line at the end of the first half. He finally found McKenzie late in the third on one for a touchdown.

From a maturity standpoint, Brown has his head screwed on right. He didn't let the early dropped passes affect him. Newton learned the hard way three years ago that you can't throw an underclassman in the fire unless he's a special player. Tyree Williams was unable to handle the job as a sophomore in 20008 and it may or may not have affected his career the next two seasons. Williams never really matured into the quarterback his talent could have made him. With Brown being a senior, he's sat and watched and soaked everything in while waiting for his opportunity. Now that he has it, he's poised to take advantage of it. Of course we won't know how he'll respond until teams hit when it counts against tougher competition. Rockdale posed no threat and Brown didn't feel much pressure at all. That won't be the case against the Stephensons and M.L. Kings the Rams will face in Region 2-AAAAA play. Brown's pocket presence, which he showed to be solid Friday, will be tested when the pocket breaks down.

Newton has always showcased speed at the skill positions and this year is no different. They have another crop of talented running backs with good speed including Eastside transfer Darius Dean who ripped off a nice, long run off a broken play for a score that was called back in the first half, then later turned the corner inside the red zone for a touchdown. Javonte Williams also looked good in the backfield and even fullback BJ Reid showed some toughness in the running game when he saw his chances.

Newton has to be pleased with what they saw from their defense. Granted Rockdale looked like they had their hands and jerseys greased up with Vaseline and the ball was on the turf as much as it was in Bulldog offensive players hands but the Rams defensive line was in the Rockdale backfield all night and three blocked punts is a testament to the effort Cortez Allen and his staff spend on special teams.

One game, a preseason one at that, doesn't mean much in the grand scheme of things. Remember Newton throttled Rockdale in a half of football in last year's scrimmage game only to lose several games late in the year and miss the playoffs. Still, you get a sense that Allen has the players he wants in place and with a full year plus of coaching, has his style of play well ingrained in his team. A win is a win. More than that, Newton looks as good as it has in several years. Now let's wait and see if the Rams can win when it counts.

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