RENTON – Seahawks rookie linebacker Bobby Wagner faced plenty of athletic, option quarterbacks during his time at Utah State – but none of them compares to Carolina quarterback Cam Newton, right?
“Like Cam Newton?” said Wagner, smiling. “No, not like Cam.”
That’s the general consensus when talking about the 6-foot-5, 245-pound Panthers signal-caller. No other quarterback in football has Newton’s ability to zip a perfectly thrown deep ball for a long gain, then bull you over on a quarterback keeper on the next play.
Containing the explosive, playmaking ability of the Newton-led Carolina offense will be the top priority for Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley on Sunday.
Bradley said the Panthers have 43 explosive plays in four games – runs of at least 12 yards or passes of at least 16 yards – so he wants to make sure that his players are sure tacklers and keep Carolina’s yards after the catch to a minimum.
So, how do you tackle Newton?
“You just have to have pursuit, and we’ve got to keep him contained, just like everybody else,” Bradley said. “(Aaron) Rodgers was the same way, the way he could get out of the pocket and extend the plays to throw it – but this guy can throw it or run it. So we’ve got to make sure that when he does get outside the pocket, we’ve got some guys that can really track him and try to lead him to the sideline, and use the sideline to help them, and just use our tackling fundamentals.”
Bradley said Wagner’s role has switched from being the pupil to being the mentor for some of Seattle’s older defenders because of his experience playing against read-option offenses in college.
Along with Newton’s ability to create big plays in the passing game, the Panthers have one of the best ground games in the league. Carolina averages 122 rushing yards a contest, No. 11 in the NFL
Newton and running back DeAngelo Williams are tied for the team lead with 167 yards rushing each, followed by reserve tailback Jonathan Stewart (91 yards), the former star at Timberline High School in Lacey and the University of Oregon.
Williams is averaging 5.02 yards per carry for his career, and currently is the second player in NFL history to have at least 1,000 carries and an average of more than 5 yards a carry. The other is NFL legend Jim Brown (5.22).
The Panthers are an unusual offense to prepare for because of their option attack, with the dynamic Newton at the controls.
“You don’t see it every week,” Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor said. “It’s a challenge. And we’re always up for a challenge. We’re going to go out there and give it our best.”
Chancellor said it’s important to have a tackling strategy in dealing with the physical, elusive running style of Newton in the open field.
“(You’ve) got to be aggressive when you’re attacking him,” Chancellor said. “(You’ve) got to tackle him like you want to get him down. Some people go at him lollygagging. You have to be aggressive when you’re tackling him.”
Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson expects about 50 family members and friends to attend Sunday’s game as he returns to play in North Carolina for the first time as a professional.
Wilson played his first three years of college football in nearby Raleigh for North Carolina State before transferring and playing his final season at Wisconsin.
“It means a lot,” Wilson said. “It’s going to be a great experience for me, obviously. It’s another opportunity to play, first of all, and second of all, I know that I have a lot of friends and family there, but none of that distracts me at all. My focus is always lasered in on what I need to do to help our football team win.”
Defensive tackle Brandon Mebane did not practice because of a calf injury. It appears to be the same injury that first cropped up in 2009 and caused him to miss four games in the 2010 season. … Marcus Trufant also did not practice for a second straight day, but Bradley said he’s hopeful that the veteran cornerback can play Sunday. … Offensive lineman John Moffitt (knee) has been ruled out for the game. Rookie defensive tackle Jaye Howard (foot) did not practice for a second straight day.
For Carolina, linebacker Jon Beason (knee), cornerback Chris Gamble (shoulder), offensive lineman Geoff Hangartner (knee), safety Colin Jones (shoulder) and offensive lineman Mike Pollak (shoulder) did not practice. … Defensive end Antwan Applewhite (knee) and defensive end Frank Alexander (back) were full participants.Eric D. Williams: 253-597-8437 firstname.lastname@example.org @eric_d_williams blog.thenewstribune.com/seahawks