It’s been just one week, but do you really feel Cam Newton is the real deal?
A. Yes it has only been one week but I think Newton can and will be a special player. It is amazing what he did in such a short amount of time. He looked confident in the pocket and was extremely accurate with his passes on Sunday and nearly won the football game in his first ever NFL start.
The thing I think Newton has is that ‘It’ factor that certain quarterbacks have. He is a natural leader. Already, this is Cam Newton’s team. His teammates trust him and have confidence in him more so than any one they have had since Jake Delhomme. He is something special and I think the best is yet to come for the Panthers and Newton.
• Do you feel Newton has the intelligence and the skills to handle the multiple defensive looks the Packers will surely throw at him?
I think that this will be a real test for Newton. The Packers are one of the best if not the best defenses in the league and I don’t expect the same kind of game from Newton as last week. Having said that the Cardinals threw about everything in the book at Newton Sunday. They blitzed him every which way with corners, linebackers, from the outside, from the inside and he hung in there and delivered pass after pass with the Cardinals breathing down his neck. I know the Packers have a much better defense then the Cardinals but I don’t expect Newton to get rattled.
To answer your question, yes I feel like he has the abilities to keep the Panthers in the game against the Packers. The Panthers may not win but I think that Newton will be effective even against the Packers defense.
• Will the Panthers go more to the run at the start of the game to set up the pass for Newton? Or do they go the opposite route – put the ball in the rookie’s hands to allow him to make plays and build his confidence?
I think that all depends on what the Packers defense gives them. If they load up the box to stop the run, Ron Rivera isn’t going to just run it right into them, he isn’t John Fox. Instead he will let Newton throw it and utilize a lot of play action to try and catch the Packers off guard, very similar to the gameplan the team had against Arizona. Don’t get me wrong, the Panthers are a run first team, but until opposing defenses begin to respect the passing attack, the Panthers will try and burn teams through the air.
• The Packers gave up 15 sacks in the preseason … though the offensive line played much better in the first game against the Saints, do you feel the Panthers have the weapons on the defensive side to dial up a rush and put pressure on Aaron Rodgers.
The Panthers definitely have play makers on the defensive side of the ball to get to Rodgers. That would be even more so if the team had captain and Pro Bowler Jon Beason on the field but Beason was lost for the season last week and the Panthers will have to replace him. Defensive end Charles Johnson signed a huge contract in the offseason and has earned his money so far this season. Look for him to keep the pressure on Rogers all game lining up at both defensive end and defensive tackle on passing downs.
• The Packers didn’t run the ball much against the Saints, but it seemed the Cardinals had some early success on the ground against the Panthers. Do you expect the Packers to also try to exploit the Panthers with their run packages? And if so, what will the Panthers try to do to stop the run.
If they are smart they will. The Panthers have two rookie defensive tackles starting and the team as a whole has had trouble stopping the run, especially up the middle. In the preseason it was a glaring weakness and that carried over into the game against the Cardinals. This may be the Panther’s Achilles Heel this season. They really get pushed around a lot at the line of scrimmage so I would expect pretty big days out of the Packers running backs.
• Kevin Kolb had success against the Panthers’ defense. Kevin Kolb is no Aaron Rodgers. What will the Panthers need to do to at least slow the Packers’ air attack and do you feel that if they do that, they will have a shot at a win?
Without a doubt. If the Panthers can slow Rodgers and that passing attack down then they will definitely have a shot to win but that is not a guarntee. I cannot stress how bad the Panthers run defense has been. But I do think the Panthers defense actually matches up pretty well against the Packers offense. Chris Gamble will be tasked with staying with Greg Jennings the entire game. Last week they matched him up against Larry Fitzgerald and he shut him down for the most part, limiting him to just three catches. The biggest key will be slowing down Jermichael Finley. More than likeley Thomas Davis will be matched up against him and he should be able to stay with him for the most part. Davis is a former safety and has really excelled in coverage on tight ends.
• It seems the Panthers have made some moves in the off-season to fill some needed holes. What other areas do you feel they have to address to become a complete team and have a legitimate shot at becoming a playoff-caliber team and one that could win a division title?
I think the past offseason was more about keeping their own guys. The Panthers focused on keeping the core group of players together and they did that. Their biggest weakness was at quarterback and it seems that Newton is the answer there. But the Panthers won’t be a legitimate playoff team until it shores up the defensive tackle position and gets a bit more depth at cornerback. I’ve told you about the problems at defensive tackle. They just need time there to learn how to play the position in the NFL. At cornerback, right now Captain Munnerlynn is starting at corner along side Gamble but Munnerlynn is much more suited for the nickle role. He is an undersized cornerback who doens’t play the run very well.
Outside of that the Panthers just need to get experience. They have the third youngest team in the league really just need to let their young players learn and grow in the new system.