The San Francisco 49ers face numerous challenges when they head into Charlotte on Sunday, and one of the biggest, both literally and figuratively is quarterback Cam Newton. The Panthers quarterback is an absolute physical specimen, listed at 6’5, 245 pounds. I have a hunch that does not fully do him justice.
Newton is coming off a Week 1 matchup that saw numerous big hits not get flagged. As a quarterback who will run, issues can arise with referees unable to to sufficiently enforce some of the roughing calls because of the move between the pocket and scrambling. It creates a mess, and it only gets worse when you add in a quarterback the size of Newton. At times, it reminds me of when Shaq was dealing with foul calls that refs made because they just could not comprehend the size and natural power he brought to the court.
Chip Kelly discussed this in his conference call with Panthers media. He talked about how once quarterbacks become a runner, they become a different player. But in describing Newton later in the call, he made an intriguing comparison. He Newton was like Eddie George, but with throwing ability mixed in. I have never heard that reference, but it kind of makes sense. Newton has so many tools at his disposal that he combines the skills of so many different types of players.
The 49ers shut down Todd Gurley this past week thanks to strong tackling and assignment discipline. They’ll need that and more when they face Cam Newton on Sunday. The Panthers offense has a strong ground game in Jonathan Stewart, but few teams can mix in the passing/running option Carolina has in Newton.
Here’s a full transcript of Kelly’s conference call.
On what team did well to shut out Rams:
I think overall we played really good team defense. Whenever you’re defending a team with Todd Gurley, gonna take all 11 guys. And I think our entire team on the defensive side of the ball did a really good job of keeping the ball in front of them, and I thought we did a really good job with tackling.
On Cam Newton and QBs being sufficiently protected in pocket, behind the line of scrimmage
Behind the line of scrimmage, yea I do. But when they become a runner, they become a different player.
On concerns when Gabbert starts running outside the pocket:
Nah, I think Blaine does a good job of understanding what we need to do. We talk about touchdown, first down, get down. Not to take the hit, and he’s done a good job by and large of keeping himself out of harm’s way.
On Panthers defense now vs. last year with Josh Norman:
Nah, I thought they played well in the first game vs. Denver. Obviously Josh Norman is a very talented player, and you understand that you can’t keep all your guys, but as long as they still have 58 (Thomas Davis) and 59 (Luke Kuechly), they’re a really good defense.
On Panthers offense with return of Kelvin Benjamin:
Yea, I mean, obviously Kelvin is an extremely talented receiver, but everything they do still revolves around the quarterback. There was a little bit more quarterback run than I thought we were gonna see (vs. Broncos), but obviously when you have someone like Cam, you want to try and run him. It seems like that was part of their game plan in the Denver game; the designed quarterback runs, the quarterback counters, the quarterback powers. You saw those. And you really have to be prepared for it because Cam is unlike any other quarterback in the league; he’s a second running back back there. The size of him, It’s like Eddie George that can throw. It’s a tough task for any defense.
On element of surprise initially with his offense:
I don’t, I think you change depending on who your players are, the personnel you are, just like everybody does. You just asked me two questions of what is an offense different when Kelvin Benjamin’s in there, what’s their defense different when Josh Norman’s in there. So I think part of it, for any coach in this league, or in the college level, or whatever, is, we’re all driven by the personnel that’s available to us. What we’ve done here in San Francisco is different than what we did in Philadelphia because we have different players here.
On Blaine Gabbert thus far:
I think Blaine did a nice job in our first game. And even through the preseason, he’s done a good job of protecting the football. We as a group, for us to win, we’ve got to win the turnover battle, and we won the turnover battle on Monday against the Rams, and obviously came out victorious. So, I think Blaine’s doing a really good job in terms of what we’re asking him to do.