ASHBURN, Va. -- They’re not worried about being fooled -- not when Cam Newton runs the ball. Rather, Newton won’t do anything other than try to stiff-arm a defender or run them over.
The Washington Redskins' defenders don’t care about him dancing. They do care about him running the ball. At 6-foot-5 and 245 pounds, Newton outweighs six of the Redskins’ defensive starters.
Newton has run the ball 82 times this season for 366 yards. Like Robert Griffin III did for Washington in 2012, Newton provides an already good running game another weapon. And like Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger, Newton's size enables him to withstand hits in the pocket and extend plays for big gains.
It’s not as if Newton can’t be sacked -- opponents have gotten him 18 times this season. But for someone who holds the ball for a while -- his time before pass of 2.61 seconds is eighth-highest in the NFL -- that sack total could be higher.
Also, consider this: Newton averages 1.50 yards after contact, and no other quarterback is above .95. Indianapolis running back Frank Gore, for example, averages 1.51 after contact.
“It might be a tie between him and Big Ben as to who's the hardest to get down to the ground,” Jean Francois said of Newton. “He’s athletic. It will take a lot for him to fall. Ain’t be no arm-tackles to take this dude. You have to put your body on him to make him fall. And make sure you wrap his feet up. He can get out of there. He’s strong enough to do it.
“If everyone tries to get big hits against this dude, he can spin off, put his hand on the ground and bounce back up and continue to play.”
Newton’s running ability makes it difficult in the red zone, too. He’s carried the ball 18 times inside the 20-yard line with six touchdowns, and he has carried the ball at least twice in the red zone in every game but two.
“He’s a huge threat everywhere on the field. That’s why they’re 9-0,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said. “He’s a tough guy to deal with. Just the drop-back passes is where he’s the biggest threat, where your linebackers are dropping or playing man coverage and you don’t account for him, that’s when he is a huge threat. We’ve got to make sure we have eyes on the quarterback and we drive and try to limit his gains to minimal plays.”
Newton’s size comes in handy from the pocket. There are numerous examples when, because of his size, he can still unload a pass while being hit in a situation when another quarterback would have been crumpled or unable to see his target. Newton’s arm is strong enough to sometimes overcome inconsistent footwork in the pocket.
“Besides Joe Flacco, he probably has the strongest arm in the NFL,” Redskins nose tackle Terrance Knighton said. “Even when you have two guys hanging on him, he’s still looking down the field, making passes. We have to gang-tackle him and the line has to get after him.”
“You can’t put eight in the box anymore because he’s making all the elite throws,” Knighton said, “fitting the ball into tight windows. It’s something he’s improved with every year. We’ll have our hands full, definitely.”
And that includes when Newton runs the ball. A big key: Getting enough defenders around the ball so if one man misses, another is there to help. But inside linebacker Will Compton was nonchalant when asked how he would handle tackling a guy four inches taller and 15 pounds heavier. Compton will strike low as he usually does anyway. But there’s no magic formula for him.
Said Compton, “I’m gonna tackle him.”