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Sun., Mar. 08, 2015 1:30 PM PDT
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Chargers' Defense Honed in on Newton
The Chargers face perhaps the NFL’s hottest quarterback this week when Cam Newton leads the Carolina Panthers into Qualcomm Stadium.
Following a white-hot rookie year, Newton had a slow start to his sophomore campaign. But over the last four games, the quarterback has found his groove, throwing for 1,077 yards and eight touchdowns to zero interceptions, while also running for 286 yards and three touchdowns.
“We’re really focusing in on the fact that he’s such a playmaker on his feet,” said Defensive Coordinator John Pagano. “Not only his ability to throw the ball so well, because these last four games have really shown his talent level. His quarterback rating has gone up tremendously, especially in the last three games. I believe he had 11 touchdowns and zero interceptions. He’s really playing at a high level. It’s not only going to be a big challenge for us like last week getting him on the ground, but really being gap-sound and making sure he doesn’t sneak out of the pocket.”
Still, when Newton does scramble out of the pocket, the Chargers know they have to hit the 6-foot-5, 245-pound QB hard.
“It’s scary when he’s running with the ball in his hands,” said Corey Liuget. “He’s dangerous. You’ve got to definitely hit him every time. Even when he doesn’t have the ball if he’s gotten rid of it in the option, we’ve still got to hit him. Because if you let up thinking he got rid of it you’ll get beat. So we’ve got to hit him hard and hit him in the mouth.”
In addition to his ability to scramble free from pressure, the Panthers design running plays for their quarterback because of his unique skill set. Add in his strong throwing arm and pin-point accuracy, Newton truly is one of the most talented and dangerous players in the game.
“I have seen a lot of Cam on TV and he had an incredible year as a rookie last year,” said head coach Norv Turner. “Like a lot of players, he has had his ups and downs this year. The one thing that is constant is that he is going to make big plays. You have to minimize those big plays. He makes big plays running, he makes big plays scrambling and on third down. When I say running, I mean he makes big plays on designed running plays. He makes big plays on improvised scrambles and they are one of the top teams on pass plays over 20 yards. They are an explosive offense. We are going to have to get ready to handle them.”
Like Liuget said, one way to handle the Panthers is to be both mindful and physical whenever the star quarterback has the ball in his hands.
“You don’t want your quarterback to get hit, but he is a bigger guy and if he comes my way, I’ll make the tackle,” said Antoine Cason. “He doesn’t worry me any. I’m out there just like he is. If he comes around, he’s going to get tackled…I’m going to hit him and hit him hard.”