Cam Newton must be shut down for Jags to win


This may come as a shock to you, but Cam Newton is an excellent NFL football players. Whether with his arm or his legs, he forces teams to overcome him if they want to beat the Carolina Panthers.

With a strong supporting cast and a defense headed by Luke Kuechly, that’s a formidable goal.

As the Jacksonville Jaguars gear up to face the Carolina Panthers in Week 1 of the regular season, the defense should have one thing on its mind: shutting down Cam Newton.

The former first-overall selection managed to get his team into the playoffs with just a 7-8-1 record in 2014, but don’t let that sub-.500 record fool you. He is more than capable of leading his team to 10+ wins in 2015.

Entering the 2015 regular season, the Jacksonville Jaguars defense isn’t particularly healthy and the overall mobility and athleticism of Newton will be tough for the unit to cover. Writer Mike Kaye at First Coast News notes, “The unit, missing starting defensive linemen Sen’Derrick Marks and Andre Branch, will have to contain Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton. The former No. 1 overall pick not only has a canon arm (despite it’s unpredictability at times) but the running ability and size that makes him tough to bring down.”

That’s essentially the long and the short of it.

Last season, Newton managed to put together over 3100 yards through the air (with 18 TDs) and 539 yards rushing (with five TDs). He was the second-biggest rushing threat for the Panthers and he was able to do it on both designed runs and when passing plays fell apart around him.

More from Jacksonville Jaguars News

How do you shut down a player who can rack up almost 3700 yards on offense all on his own?

Fortunately for the Jaguars, Cam Newton should be playing behind a relatively weak offensive line. That porous offensive line was a detriment to Newton last season, particularly in pass protection, but the Panthers found a way to work around that, relying on Newton’s athleticism and mobility to produce. They have an inventive rushing attack that hearkens back to the collegiate level and Newton is a primary driver behind it.

The Jaguars defensive line, as injured as it is, must step up to limit him.

However, the real task of bottling up a player like Newton may fall to the linebackers.

Paul Posluszny has spent plenty of years in the NFL and can play successfully against mobile quarterbacks like Cam Newton. Dan Skuta has spent years practicing against players like Colin Kaepernick and playing against Newton twice a year. And Telvin Smith’s athleticism and speed should be invaluable in slowing a guy like Newton down.

If the Panthers continue to get inventive with their offensive attack, this linebacking corps will have to be flexible and quick to react to shut things down.

The Panthers can be shut down and Newton, too. Before their five-game winning streak to finish the season, the 3-8-1 Panthers were averaging just 103 rushing yards per game, per Monday Morning Quarterback, which then shot up to 197 yards per game when they started getting inventive and using Newton.

If the Panthers are wise, they will keep trying to use Newton more as a dual threat and less like a pocket passer (during Weeks 1-4 in 2014, Newton had just 44 total rushing yards). But they will have to know that teams like the Jaguars are keyed in on their quarterback.

With lackluster wide receivers and an offensive line that isn’t among the best in the league, Newton will have to rely on his full athletic ability to get past the Jags. As suggested by others, that is not a way to win in the NFL. It may just be enough for Week 1 if the Jaguars can’t shut him down, however.

Next: Expect T.J. Yeldon to succeed against the Panthers

More from Black and Teal