EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants' defense faced two traditional pocket passers in the first two weeks of the season.
This coming Sunday will provide a very different challenge.
Big Blue will have to deal with arguably the most unique quarterback in the NFL, Cam Newton, when the Giants take on the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte. And the Giants' coaches and players offered plenty of compliments regarding Newton on Thursday.
"With his combination of size, strength and speed, you’d be hard-pressed to find another guy (like him), not only a quarterback but maybe athlete," safety Ryan Mundy said. "He’s definitely one of a kind."
Newton stands 6-foot-5 and 245 pounds, with a strong arm, but also plenty of foot speed at his disposal. The 24-year-old is now in his third season in the NFL, and Giants defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka said Newton has shown improvement since entering the league.
"He’s definitely gained some ground," Kiwanuka said. "Everybody knows about his speed -- you know when he escapes the pocket that he can still look down the field, and he can make people miss. Our job will be to push the pocket, get people up in his face and make sure we get him down on the ground."
Giants head coach Tom Coughlin and defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said they've spent extra time preparing to face mobile quarterbacks like Newton since OTAs back in the spring. In fact, Fewell said they watched lots of college football film this offseason, looking for ideas to contain the option offense. "The college game is now coming to the NFL," Fewell said. "It was helpful."
"We’ve studied in the offseason and studied a lot of these option-type quarterbacks and we have a plan," Coughlin said. "We haven’t really been tested in that area, but we have worked in training camp on responsibilities. I’m confident we’ll have a guy in the right place, hopefully at the right time."
The Giants' defense didn't have much success against Tony Romo and Peyton Manning in Weeks 1 and 2. New York is giving up 372.5 yards per game, 20th in the NFL, and has given up 77 points, ranking them dead-last.
That said, the Panthers are 0-2 as well. Newton has been OK -- completing 37 of 61 passes (60.7 percent), with three touchdowns and one interception. But the Panthers are third-to-last in the league in passing yards, with just 354.
The Giants have faced Newton before, last September, and the results were impressive. New York pounded Carolina, 36-7, in Charlotte. Newton threw for 242 yards, but had three interceptions, and just 6 rushing yards on six attempts.
The Giants are hoping for a similar result this time around and sound confident. The results could be telling, considering they have several more games against mobile quarterbacks on the schedule.
"We’re definitely more prepared," Kiwanuka said. "I think we have the ability to recognize it more on the field and get the job done."