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The Jeff Falconio Blog

Breaking Down Cam Newton

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All week the buzz around the NFL has been about Cam Newton's smashing debut performance against the Arizona Cardinals. Newton was 24-37 for 422 yards and two touchdowns. Even more impressive was how poised Newton appeared. He certainly didn't look like a guy playing in his first NFL game. Don't expect a repeat of those numbers but Newton has the athleticism to cause problems for the Packers so here's a few things to look for on Sunday:

Max Protection Carolina has Greg Olsen and Jeremy Shockey at tight end and they will use two tight ends regularly. Last week the Panthers made liberal use of protection by keeping both guys in or keeping one in to block along with a running back.

Rolling Out With such athleticism Newton is dangerous when running. Carolina will use play action or will roll Newton out to get him moving. Newton can throw on the run so keeping him in the pocket and taking away that athleticism is crucial.

Balance Not Needed It was clear that coach Ron Rivera wanted to keep things simple for Newton early on to let him get settled in. The Panthers ran the ball four times in their first seven plays but after that they let Newton loose. Perhaps most surprising about Newton's numbers was how little Carolina ran the ball. DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart combined for just 19 carries. By comparison Newton dropped back to pass 20 times in the fourth quarter alone. If Newton is allowed to get comfortable he'll be ready to launch.

Burning The Blitz Arizona runs the 3-4 defense which allowed them to get creative with their blitzes. The Cardinals blitzed frequently, which is necessary, but the execution wasn't sharp. In the first quarter Patrick Peterson blitzed off the corner but Newton not only picked up the blitz but spotted Steve Smith, who was lined up opposite of Peterson, alone due to blown coverage. Newton hit Smith for a 77 yard score. A better defense should have more success. Last season, Arizona's leading sack-getter was Calais Campbell with six which would have put him fourth among the Packers defense. Pressure must come from the corners to keep Newton in the pocket. However, Arizona's outside linebackers, Clark Haggans and Joey Porter, combined for 10 sacks in 2010, meanwhile Clay Matthews had 13 1/2 on his own.

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