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The Dallas Cowboys will face a very talented quarterback when they roll into Carolina this Sunday. Cam Newton hasn't fully replicated his rookie season so far in 2012, but he is still just a big play waiting to happen.
Cam Newton is one of the more polarizing players in the NFL. Even before Newton entered the league, there was a lot of buzz generated by the media circus who amplified anything Newton did. There were doubts about Newton becoming a good quarterback in the NFL primarily because of the character concerns that came with him. Newton was immensely talented, but there were some red flags that came with him.
Newton didn't have any trouble grasping an NFL offense and had a breakout year in his rookie season. The Panthers now have a franchise quarterback who can change they dynamic of their team. With the rest of the NFL witnessing what Newton did for the Panthers as a rookie, the Redskins made their move to get themselves a similar quarterback with athletic ability. Robert Griffin III may be the next big thing in the NFL, so it's going to be a bummer knowing we have to play that guy twice a year for the next decade.
Moving back to Newton, the Cowboys will be in for an interesting and difficult test this Sunday. The Cowboys have a good defense, but they haven't played a quarterback like Newton yet. When you can throw and run the football equally, then you have a dynamic weapon that changes the game. That is what the Panthers have in quarterback Cam Newton.
"He’s a whole different breed," Ware said. "He’s a running back, a guy that can play quarterback. The thing is he doesn’t make a lot of decisions. They’re one of the least penalized teams in the league, so they’re fundamentally sound and they run the ball well. I don’t know the ratings, but they’ve got three running backs in(Jonathan) Stewart (DeAngelo) Williams and then you got Cam Newton. It’s a three-headed (monster). They’ll stick all three of them in there."
Newton presents the biggest challenge for the Cowboys when he gets out of the pocket. Newton is a big and strong (6'5", 245) quarterback who has the speed to make things happen with his feet. The Panthers are basically running a college offense now. Offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski is allowing Newton run his patented read-option offense, very similar to what Newton ran while he was at Auburn.
The Cowboys cannot afford to make mistakes on their defensive assignments. Beating this type of offense requires your defensive players to be in the right spots and keep their contain. Freelancing and roaming away from your assignment will allow Newton to get the big play in the running game. If Newton can do this on third down and keep the Panthers on the field, then it could become a long day for the Dallas defense.
New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin had a lot of success against Newton when they met back in Week 3. Coughlin emphasized that you must stay disciplined when you play a quarterback like Cam.
"You have to be disciplined. You have to have people in the right spots or [Newton] will take full advantage of it. He scares the heck out of you when he does have time.’’
Coughlin is a pretty good football coach, so I would take his advice on anything related to football.
Gil Brandt wrote a very interesting article about Newton on NFL.com. Brandt states his case as to why Newton isn't replicating the success he had last year. It's a very good article, so be sure to go and read it when you get the chance. But in a nutshell, Brandt believes that teams are adjusting to Newton and the read-option offense. NFL players are just stronger and faster than what Newton was seeing in college.
While Newton remains a serious threat running the football, he is also dangerous when throwing the football. Newton has the arm strength to make any throw on the field, but his accuracy is much better than what people believed it would be when he entered the league.
Newton hasn't had a lot of success throwing the football yet this year and he is struggling in nearly every statistical category.
- 58.8 completion percentage (25th in the NFL)
- 4 passing touchdowns (29th in the NFL)
- 80.9 passer rating (23rd in the NFL)
It's clear that Newton doesn't have too many weapons on offense. Wide receiver Steve Smith is the best offensive weapon Newton has, but the two have lost the chemistry that they developed in Newton's rookie season. Other than Smith, Newton's best weapon would be tight end Greg Olsen.
The Cowboys need to put their best cornerback (which is up for debate right now) on Smith and attempt to eliminate him from the game. The New York Giants probably had the perfect game plan when they met Newton a few weeks ago in Carolina. Their defensive line created a lot of pressure and got after Newton early in that game.
Justin Tuck talked about why hitting Newton early on set a "tone" and gave the Giants a lot of momentum.
"We hit him early and it set a huge tone,’’ Tuck said of Newton. "We wanted to take away at least one of his options. He knew he was going to get hit all night — and on a short week. You have to be disciplined with him because if you’re not against him he can embarrass you.’’
The Giants have a lot of speed on their defensive line, and that allowed them to keep up with Newton all game long. Newton beat pressure a lot during his rookie season, but this year he has been having more difficulty with it. Newton is taking more hits and being sacked more, and he doesn't hide his frustration on the field. Smith recently accused his quarterback of "sulking".
Cam also had a rough outing against the Seattle Seahawks because they pressured and hit him. While Newton is very talented, it's becoming clear that you can beat him by overwhelming him with a swarming blitz. Until the Panthers get the offensive weapons, Newton will have to do too much by himself.
Cam Newton is a dangerous player who can unleash a big play at any given time in a football game, but his emotions can get the best of him. The Cowboys need to get after him early and hit him. Even if the Cowboys just manage to keep Newton under control from running wild and don't allow him to shred us in the passing game, Newton could become frustrated and make some costly mistakes.
It's time for Rob Ryan to scheme accordingly and bring the heat again. You don't beat Cam Newton by sitting back and not pressuring him, you attack him, but you do it smart. If the Cowboys smother him and play their assignments correctly, then Dallas can dominate this game.