It’s been three years and a fired NFL offensive coordinator — sorry, Rob Chudzinski — since Panthers QB Cam Newton won a Heisman Trophy and led Auburn University to a national championship, but the emotional, dual-threat signalcaller still presents numerous headaches for a Seahawks defense preparing for its season opener Sunday in Charlotte.
“He really taxes you as much as a quarterback can do it, because he’s a terrific quarterback in the pocket,” said Seahawks coach Pete Carroll. “His presence there is good. He can make all of the throws. He’s as dangerous as you can get when he takes off and runs.”
Carroll can turn press conferences into his version of a filibuster, heaping what communication professors refer to as “verbal fillers” between long sentences about Seattle’s opponent. On Wednesday, he was succinct in describing how Newton can torment a defense.
“He gives you as many problems as the quarterback position can possibly give you,” Carroll said.
But Carroll and the Seahawks showed during last year’s ugly 16-12 win in Charlotte that they could rattle him. They sacked Newton four times, limited his ability to freely move in the pocket and held him to 12 completions in 29 attempts. Some Panthers followers say it was his worst game as a pro. The Panthers were held without out an offensive touchdown.
“We got under his skin a little bit,” said S Earl Thomas. “Hopefully we can try and do the same thing.”
The defense was able to make up for two interceptions of their rookie QB, Russell Wilson, by keeping Newton to a career-worst 141 yards passing.
The game served as a sort-of breakthrough for Wilson, who had yet to play well away from CenturyLink Field. He threw for 221 yards and a go-ahead third quarter touchdown. For Newton, it was one of many early-season low points.
But coach Ron Rivera’s team won five of their final six games, finishing 7-9 and recapturing hope that a successful 2013 season was a possibility. Newton did throw for 4,051 yards and 21 TDs in 2011 and was named NFL Rookie of the Year, while showcasing unnatural speed for a six-foot-five, 245-pound quarterback.
“They were just more efficient. They took care of the ball really well during that stretch,” Carroll said. “If you turn the ball over, it’s really hard to win. And they didn’t do that. They were great at it, and they gave themselves a chance to get on a roll.”
No stranger to a colorful quote, Panthers WR Steve Smith was quick to throw Chudzinski, the Panthers coordinator in 2011-12, under the proverbial bus. When asked why Carolina stumbled out of the gate in 2012, he told Seattle reporters on a conference call Wednesday, “I think it was a a power move of the prior offensive coordinator really positioning himself to kind of show, ‘Hey, I’m capable (of being a head coach). I really believe that he was applying for that head coaching job. Our offense kind of suffered a little bit because of that.”
RB DeAngelo Williams was the most obvious example: He rushed for 737 yards in 2012 — the final 210 came in Carolina’s 44-38 win against the Saints in its regular season finale.
Carroll indicated that limiting Williams and Newton will hinge on his defense’s ability to stay disciplined within defensive coordinator Dan Quinn’s schemes, limiting Carolina’s read-option offense.
“It’s so often in the option game, a guy just comes out clean (because) there’s nobody there, because somebody made a mistake,” Carroll said. “We just have to stick to the plan.”
Beyond the Sunday game plan, the Seahawks as a whole have to stick to the plan to resist the unprecedented preseason hype. ESPN NFC West writer Mike Sando picked Seattle to win the Super Bowl. Sports Illustrated predicted the Seahawks will win the NFC West, then lose to the Packers in the NFC Championship. SI’s Peter King said the Seahawks will lose to New England in the title game.
As the Seahawks enter the regular season, injuries to members of the defensive line continue to be a concern.
DE Cliff Avril, DT Brandon Mebane and DT Tony McDaniel all were limited during Wednesday’s practice. DE Chris Clemons didn’t participate (recovering from off-season surgery to repair a torn ACL), nor did DT Jordan Hill (strained biceps). It’s looking like newcomer O’Brien Schofield, a fourth-year vet cut by Arizona, will be the starter at the Leo linebacker spot.
Harvin itching to return
Perhaps disheartened that he won’t be joining the Seahawks for their regular season opener, WR Percy Harvin sent out a pair of tweets before practice indicating he could return before the season’s halfway point.
What’s goin 12th man just checkn in …I’m making serious progress …keep an eye on week 7…don’t hang them 11’s up…..we workn
— Percy Harvin (@Percy_Harvin) September 4, 2013
I’m starving so bad to get on this field my ribs showing….there’s nothing worse then watching ur boys battle and u can do nothin.just wait
— Percy Harvin (@Percy_Harvin) September 4, 2013