RENTON – The Seattle Seahawks don’t know which Cam Newton will show up Sunday when they take on the Carolina Panthers in Charlotte, N.C.
Will it be the quarterback who threw a potential, winning touchdown to tight end Ben Hartsock in the dirt on his way to finishing with a season-low in passing yards (141) and completions (12) in Seattle’s 16-12 win over the Panthers last season?
Or will it be the signal-caller who compiled a 94.7 passer rating in the last nine games, completing 143 out of 240 passes (59.6 percent) for 1,920 yards, 14 touchdowns and three interceptions?
Newton also rushed for 441 yards and five touchdowns during the final nine games last season. The Panthers finished 5-4 in those contests, winning five of their last six games to finish 7-9.
Seattle linebacker Bobby Wagner said he believes his defense can have a repeat performance if the Seahawks make Newton throw instead of allowing him to run.
“I don’t think we let Cam run on us like that,” Wagner said. “We’ll let him throw the ball, try to beat us throwing, which I don’t think he can do.”
Newton, at 6-foot-5 and 245 pounds, was the first overall selection of the 2011 draft and has the athletic ability to take over the game. But questionable decision-making and a lack of maturity have held him back from developing into one of the top quarterbacks.
However, Carolina coach Ron Rivera said the Panthers simplified the offense so Newton could play with more freedom. And it paid off.
“We took a lot of things out of our offense,” Rivera said. “We said that we needed to simplify certain things, take some things out of his hands. We need to take some decision-making processes out of his hands at times, and let him just wing it. And he really seemed to play a lot more loose, a lot more natural.”
Rivera also mentioned other players around Newton stepped up, including receiver Brandon LaFell, tight end Greg Olson and running back DeAngelo Williams.
Part of the reason Seattle played Newton so well last season was the team’s ability to make open-field tackles when the athletic quarterback scrambled or ran the option.
“We played that read option well, but last year is last year,” Seattle cornerback Brandon Browner said. “He’s a heck of a football player, and he’s had the whole offseason to try and get better, just like we’re trying to get better. So we’ve got to bring our ‘A’ game, week in and week out. And it starts with Cam Newton.”
Cornerback Richard Sherman said it will be important to keep Newton off balance.
“If he gets any kind of momentum, he’s hard to stop,” Sherman said. “So just keeping him uncomfortable, that’s always the plan – we force them to make a decision, and then we have to make a tackle.”
Wagner said that’s not as difficult as it looks.
“It’s not hard to tackle Cam Newton,” Wagner said. “The dude is 6-6 and like two (245 pounds) or whatever. He’s a big dude, so you can grab him.”
BROWNER SITS OUT
A day after appearing on the injury report as a limited participant with a hamstring issue, Browner did not practice Thursday.
Browner was one of four Seattle players who did not practice because of injury.
The others were offensive lineman Michael Bowie (shoulder), defensive tackle Jordan Hill (biceps) and defensive end Chris Clemons (knee).
But Seattle did get some good news, with defensive tackles Brandon Mebane (groin) and Tony McDaniel (groin), and defensive end Cliff Avril (hamstring) all full participants in practice.
Receivers Sidney Rice (knee) and Stephen Williams (head) also were full participants for a second consecutive day.
For Carolina, running back Kenjon Barner (foot), defensive tackle Dwan Edwards (thigh) and safety Mike Mitchell (calf) did not practice.
Linebacker Jon Beason (knee), cornerback James Dockery (thumb), wide receiver Domenik Hixon (hamstring) and guard Amini Silatolu (hamstring) were limited.
Hartsock (foot) and fullback Mike Tolbert (hamstring) were full participants.
The Seahawks elected team captains this week. And it should come as no surprise which players were chosen – Russell Wilson on offense, Red Bryant on defense and Heath Farwell on special teams. “It’s a tremendous honor,” Wilson said. “We have so many leaders on this football team, from guys like Max Unger and Russell Okung, to Marshawn Lynch, to Sidney Rice to obviously the DBs and Bobby Wagner – so many different guys. So it’s a tremendous honor.” … The Seahawks made a minor roster move, bringing back Jameson Konz to the practice squad, this time as a “Leo” defensive end, and releasing offensive lineman Ryan Seymour, a seventh-round pick from Vanderbilt.Eric D. Williams: 253-597-8437 firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/seahawks @eric_d_williams