Even after a loss to the Cardinals, its hard not to have a discussion about the NFL this week without talking about Panthers QB Cam Newton. The No.1 overall pick threw for 422-yards and 2 TDs (plus ran for a score) in his first start as a pro. That’s real production there.
This week? A much different matchup vs. the Packers and a secondary that I consider to the be the best unit in the league. A true (and legitimate) test for the rookie QB. What are we going to see from Dom Capers and Green Bay? I’m thinking the Packers will lead with pressure (both zone and man) with a solid mix of coverage.
But why wait till Sunday? Here’s what I would do vs. the rookie…
Newton played big vs. the Cards, but he gets a true test with the Champs coming to town this Sunday.
- Multiple looks. The goal here is to confuse the rookie with you pre-snap alignment. Align the CBs in a press-look and then “bail” at the snap of the ball playing outside leverage in Cover 1 (man-free). Show blitz man with the safeties and then drop to the deep half at the snap and play some Cover 2. Different looks and alignments will force the rookie to play hesitant and mess with protection schemes.
- Zone pressure. Tough for any rookie to understand where the blitz is coming from. The Packers have to force the Panthers to slide their protection away from the pressure and get free hits on the QB. And with zone pressure (as we have already seen from Capers) defenders dropping into throwing lanes will produce turnovers.
-Take away inside breaking routes. Don’t give up the slant, the option route or the deep dig. Those are the concepts that every QB wants to throw—because they break back to the middle of the field. I would have the CBs play with an inside shade at times—forcing Newton to throw the deep out, the comeback and the 7 (corner) route. Make him earn it.
- Play some 2-Man. Roll with me here for a second, because I know that 2-Man has its faults. However, from my perspective, I am taking Steve Smith out of the play. Let Charles Woodson or Tramon Williams play some inside “trail-man technique” underneath vs. Smith with the protection of two deep safeties over the top to limit the vertical game.
- Use the CB “Cat.” The CB blitz is a great weapon vs. a rookie QB, because the edge pressure isn’t counted in the protection scheme. Plus, if the RB isn’t playing a true “scan” protection, this could be a free shot on the QB with both safeties playing for the ball to come out quickly to No.1 (X and Z). I would dial this up in the first series just to let Newton know that I am going to come after him all day long. And I wouldn't count out bringing the "Double CB Cat" to really force the issue.
- Play with depth in the middle of the field. We all saw what Newton can do in the vertical game vs. the Cardinals. On Sunday, FS Nick Collins has to play with enoguh depth in the Packers single-high safety defenses to take the proper angle vs. the deep ball. Collins has great range and you need to get outside of the numbers vs. the 9 (fade) route. No question Newton will take some deep shots.
- A final thought.... we all know Newton can run. A unique athlete in the open field. You have to rush with contain principles, and I see keeping him in the pocket as a win.
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