PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 09: Cornerback Antoine Cason #20 of the San Diego Chargers breaks up a pass intended for wide receiver Mike Wallace #17 of the Pittsburgh Steelers during a game at Heinz Field on December 9, 2012 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Chargers defeated the Steelers 34-24. (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images)
One of the many things standing between the Chargers and their playoff hopes is Panthers’ quarterback Cam Newton.
Newton has made headlines across the NFL since he joined the League last year, including winning the prestigious AP Offensive Rookie of the Year award.
He, like many of the younger quarterbacks coming out of college, is mobile.
Last year, his Superman touchdown dance seemed fitting. This year, teams have found a way to game plan for the dynamic quarterback and all of a sudden he has come crashing back into the realm of mortals.
The Panthers are sitting at 4-9. Those nine losses have come when teams figure out a way to stop Newton. Simple as that.
The problem has become, how do teams stop him?
Newton has rushed for 640 yards on the season and scored seven touchdowns, including one for 72 yards in week 14 against the Falcons. And, just to add insult to injury: he flipped into the end zone before his Superman dance came out.
It may be that added flair for the theatrics that caused Chargers’ cornerback Antoine Cason to smirk a bit at the thought of getting a chance at him.
“I’m out there just like he is,” Cason said. “So if he comes around he’s going to get tackled.”
Whether it’s Newton, Roethlisberger, or any other quarterback, both Cason and Quentin Jammer, who plays across from him, say there’s a moment when the shift happens. The shift from a designed route to a scrambled play and that’s what they have to pick up on.
Against the Steelers, Jammer said that scramble meant the receivers were running deep. With Newton, that usually means he’s running.
“We definitely do have to contain him,” Cason said. “Running, that’s what he does really well.”
Rookie defensive end Kendell Reyes has made a habit of getting in quarterbacks’ faces this season. He has two sacks, 11 tackles and has pressured the quarterback numerous times.
Newton is a type of quarterback the rookie is more familiar with from his college days. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t a threat.
“He has great poise,” Reyes said. “He has good control over the offense. He is a dynamic player and we definitely have to bring out ‘A’ game this weekend.”
Defensive coordinator John Pagano has done an excellent job all season game planning for each individual team and quarterback. This week is no exception.
“We’re really focusing in on the fact that he’s such a playmaker on his feet,” Pagano said. “He’s really playing at a high level. It’s not only going to be a big challenge for us getting him on the ground, but really being gap-sound and making sure he doesn’t sneak out of the pocket.”