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How to tackle Cam Newton (Bring a lasso, maybe?)

October 25, 2012|By Jack M Silverstein | For RedEye

The Carolina Panthers may be 1-5, well below the expectations after finishing last season 6-10. But the Bears aren't about to say they'll breeze past them and rising star Cam Newton on Sunday. RedEye spoke to the Bears defense about containing the 6-foot-5, 245-pound quarterback, who threw for 374 yards and ran for two touchdowns when these teams met in 2011.

What's the difference between preparing for Cam Newton on film and actually playing against him?

Linebacker Nick Roach: [He's] one of the biggest guys that you'll probably play against at that position that can make a move like that. Your focus is just on trying to contain him if he does decide to scramble. And you have to prepare for some of the run plays they have for him too.

Lineman Corey Wootton: It was everything we saw on film. He's a guy who can not only throw the ball but run. He can get outside the pocket and make plays. And he made some really good plays, eluding pressure, getting to the outside, and hitting [receivers] deep. When we were able to get pressure on him [in 2011], he was tough to bring down. I know Matt Toeaina, who's one of the strongest guys on the team, had him in his hands, tried to pull him down, and he shook him off. He's the kind of guy that when you're rushing against him, you're like, "Oh, he's not going to be one of those guys that goes down and takes the sack."

Safety Major Wright: At any time, he can make any play. He can make any throw on the field. But watching film on him first and now playing against him, you see more, you're aware of more. We've had a whole year to know what he do better, and to focus on the things that he does better now than he did last year.

How do you tackle Cam Newton?

Roach: I mean, he's not the biggest guy to ever play football. What is he—he's 240 pounds? So he probably feels like a 240-pound guy.

Cornerback Charles Tillman: I don't think there's a formula of tackling him. Just get him down by any means necessary—legally. If you're thinking too much about how you're going to tackle this guy, you're probably going to miss a tackle.

Wootton: You have to wrap him up and hogtie him, almost. You're not going to arm tackle him. … You gotta basically bear hug him and not let go. [Laughs.]

How have you re-created him in practice?

Roach: Whoever the scout team quarterback is, we can kind of stage a scramble if we need to or something. It's more something that you're aware of, because [Newton is] not going to scramble every time.

Wootton: [In practice we] have Jason Campbell, who's going to be giving us a look. They're similar in arms. Cam's obviously a little faster than Jason Campbell, but Jason does a good job of getting outside the pocket and creating that look for us that we're going to get in the game.

Are there any other quarterbacks in the NFL to whom you liken the experience of defending Newton?

Roach: We've played a lot of mobile guys. We played [Robert Griffin III] in the preseason, we played [Donovan] McNabb a number of times. Pretty much anybody who can move. [Christian] Ponder's a fast guy.

Tillman: Michael Vick. Their elusiveness, explosiveness. The way they run away from defenders.

Linebacker Brian Urlacher: [Josh] Freeman's tall and fast, in Tampa. There's a bunch of tall fast guys. There's not a lot of guys that run a 4.4 [seconds in the 40-yard dash] at 6-6, 245, whatever he is. No, there's not a lot of guys like him.

Wootton: I would say he's very comparable to Joe Webb from Minnesota. We had a tough time tackling and sacking him. … He doesn't have as good an arm as Cam Newton, but similar as far as his ability to run, his ability to escape, his ability to break tackles. [Newton's] so different. He's 6-5, 6-6, and there are not many running backs who are that height, not many tight ends who are his size. He's just a freak athlete.

Wright: Well, you've got Tim Tebow. Oh [pauses, thinking] there's not many [in terms of] his size, his speed and some things that he do bring to the game. He's a special quarterback.

Other than getting a win, what would you consider a success against Newton?

Tillman: Keeping him from scoring. I think that's success. Keeping him from getting in the end zone, putting up points, making big plays.

Wootton: I think the biggest thing is just getting pressure on him, limiting the big plays, and forcing turnovers. That's a successful game for us.

Special contributor Jack M Silverstein covers the Bears for RedEye. Say hey @readjack.

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