Coming off a win last Sunday, the Oakland Raiders were back on the practice field Wednesday to prepare for quarterback Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers. Newton provides a challenge for the Raiders' defense with his running and throwing ability. Oakland is looking to build off a shutout and keep their defensive momentum.
Carolina boasts a balanced offensive attack. They are ranked 15th in the NFL in passing yards per game averaging 233.4. They are a top ten rushing team with 121.6 yards per game. Their success in these categories is related to their quarterback. Newton leads the team in rushing with 647 yards and seven touchdowns. He has also thrown for 3,451 passing yards with 18 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. His size, strength, and dual threat ability will test the Oakland defense.
“He creates a lot of other issues that you have to worry about,” Raiders head coach Dennis Allen said. “You have to worry about him in the passing game just scrambling around and keeping the play alive. Obviously, they use him in a lot of different ways in the running game also. He presents some unique challenges. He’s obviously a tremendous talent.”
After a rocky start to the season where Newton threw 10 interceptions in his first ten games, the former number one overall pick and Heisman Trophy winner has really improved. He has 10 touchdowns and zero interceptions in his last five games and has won three of his last four games. The 6-5, 245 pound quarterback has also rushed for 293 yards and three touchdowns in his last five games.
“Obviously, he had a 70-something-yard run the other week that was a designed quarterback read for him that he took off and ran,” Allen said. “I think a lot of it is designed runs, but also he’s getting a lot off of scrambles too.”
One area that Newton and the Carolina offense has been susceptible is against the pass rush. The second year quarterback has been sacked 33 times in 2012. The Raiders have had difficulties pressuring opposing quarterbacks, but have six sacks in their last three games including four last week. Oakland will need pressure from their pass rushers starting with defensive end Lamaar Houston, who has been a bright spot with his hustle this season. Linebacker Philip Wheeler provides a speed rush on the outside and is a relentless blitzer. In order to contain Newton and get him out of rhythm, pressure is the key. It will be difficult for the Raiders to bring more than a few men on blitzes because of Newton's athleticism and strength. Therefore, Oakland must rely on the front four as well as discipline in the secondary to keep Newton at bay.
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