The version of Newton that Chip Kelly’s squad will face this week is a completely different force of nature.
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“Cam was coming off an ankle surgery and he wasn’t really running,” Kelly said Thursday, via ESPN.com. “They weren’t really running him that much. He’s playing different this year. I’ve said it before, I don’t think a lot of the things we did last year are really what we are going to be doing this year.”
Newton has played the best football of his NFL career this season. He’s displayed better precision on intermediate and deep passes and has attempted to get through his reads with more regularity this season before he flees the pocket.
The Panthers have utilized the quarterback keeper and read option with great potency this season. Newton has carried 50 times for 225 rushing yards and three scores. He’s on pace for 160 carries this season, which would obliterate the record for most runs by a QB in NFL history, set in 1972 by Bears signal-caller Bobby Douglas, who had 141.
“The challenge is they are going to try to pound you,” Kelly said, “and they have got a back in Jonathan (Stewart) who is a big, physical, downhill running back. And then you have a quarterback – and it’s different than other zone-read-type teams you face where it’s a quick, agile quarterback that’s going to break outside — in Cam who can pound you, too. He’s got to be the biggest quarterback in the league from that standpoint in terms of rushing — him and (Ben) Roethlisberger. But they don’t run Ben. They run Cam.
“So I think they are just going to try to wear you down and pound you a little bit. I think their offensive line is built that way. Their running game is built that way, so it’s, can we stand in there and go to toe-to-toe with them? (That) is going to be the challenge for us.”
Newton will face an Eagles defense that boasts the eight-ranked unit against the run, allowing 94.2 yards per contest entering Week 7. Philly is tied for second in the NFL, allowing just 3.5 yards per carry.
The Eagles must make the Panthers one-dimensional if they are to slow down Newton. They also must tackle him when they get to the quarterback. Now that he’s not on an injured ankle that will be a much harder task than a year ago.