“Well, you’d like to be able to eliminate the run game and the option game, but he’s a very accurate passer as well and when he stands in there, he obviously does a very good job and he certainly spreads the ball around, so it’s a challenge…….He’s powerful and he can run through an arm tackle, no doubt, and he’s physically strong enough to withstand the blows that come from rushing the football. Yeah. Sure. There’s different-sized athletes. This guy is big and strong and fast.” - Giant head coach Tom Coughlin on Panthers’ QB Cam Newton
Newton creates problems for every defense, not just the Giants. He is a 6’5″, 245lb QB that can move. Last week vs the Saints, he rushed 13 times for 71 yards while completing 70% of his passes, one of which went for a 66-yard gain to speedster Steve Smith.
The Giants are coming off games against Dallas and Tampa where their defense has looked porous and disorganized. Thus far this season, they have surrendered nine plays of 20 or more yards and three over 40 yards. The secondary has been exposed because the pass rush has been neutralized. The Giants have four sacks in their first two games with only one coming from a defensive end (Jason Pierre-Paul).
In Week One, Dallas’ Tony Romo was flushed from the pocket, but that is to his advantage. He is a much better passer when he is on the move. The additional time created opportunities for Dallas down the field, which Romo took advantage of. Last week, 6’6″ Josh Freeman released the ball quickly, negating the rush. When he did get pressure, he stepped up in the pocket and, using his height, simply threw over the defensive front.
“Quarterbacks are really getting the ball out fast, quick three-step or quick five-step,” said DC Perry Fewell this week. “They haven’t allowed us to rush them like we did in the past. We have to change our approach a little bit based on what the team’s doing. We’ll make adjustments based on what the offense is giving us right now.”
Newton is a combination of Romo and Freeman. The Giants will need a special plan to bottle him up. They currently do not have the corner strength to press wideouts close to the line. That is why they give receivers such a large cushion. They rely on the pass rush to apply pressure and force the QB to either release the ball too early or go to a check-down option. If the pass rush fails, the secondary is downfield leaving a swath of wide open space for the QB to work with.
Newton can be sacked. Tampa Bay got him three times the first week and New Orleans (whose defense is the league’s worst right now) got him once. But on the plays you don’t get him, you have to try to limit his options. The most logical thing for the Giants do is to employ a spy.
“If it’s necessary, yes, I’ll use a spy,” said Fewell. “Versus an athletic quarterback like Cam Newton, or Michael Vick, there’s no doubt about it.”
But who will that spy be? The lineman aren’t fast enough (don’t tell that to anyone who has tried to escape from JPP) and the guys in the secondary might be too small. Antrel Rolle usually spies Vick when the Giants play Philly, but Newton is built like an NBA power forward where Vick is built like a point guard. Rolle is a bit undersized for this task. The job would have to go to a linebacker.
“I do like our athletes at backer. There’s no doubt about that,” Fewell admitted. “When we face a guy like Cam and a guy like Michael, you have to have 11 guys, not just the linebackers alone, but I do like our linebackers and the speed of our backers and the way that they can run and be able to defend these guys. You have to have all 11 guys looking at these guys and really know where these guys are, because they can bust out at any point in time.”
Looking at those linebackers, the Giants can use any number of them. If Michael Boley or Keith Rivers are healthy enough for the task (both have been battling hamstring issues) then they would draw the short straw. If not, the Giants could sick Mathias Kiwanuka on Newton, but chances are they will turn to Jacquian Williams, the most dynamic talent they have at linebacker. Williams closes quickly on the ball and has the agility to move laterally along with Newton.
Fewell may use a four LBs instead of five DBs to hem Newton in. The team does not normally use this type of scheme, but if they don’t get their best combination of power and speed on the field, Cam will eat them alive. The Giants don’t have a lot of depth in their secondary, so that is why Williams must be the integral part of the plan tonight.
Tampa Bay was able to push the Panthers line around in Week One and trap Newton into throwing the football. He did (23/33 for 303 yards), but Tampa made life difficult for him in small spaces, holding Carolina on eight of their ten third down chances and stonewalled them on their only opportunity in the red zone.
They accomplished this by utilizing five DB formations on over 75% of their snaps.
The Giants can’t do that. They just aren’t built that way. They do not have physical corners, but they do have physical linebackers who can run. Time for Fewell to show us how good a coach he can be here….