By Danny O'Neil
Introducing a new weekly feature in which we put the microscope on one player from the Seahawks' upcoming opponent.
Position: Franchise quarterback, potential pouter
Experience: Third season
Physically, Cam Newton is a prodigy in everything from size to speed to strength to the fact he was the first player chosen in the 2011 draft. Statistically, he is unparalleled, having thrown for 7,920 yards in his first two seasons – the most of any player in NFL history – while also rushing for more than 500 yards in each of his first two seasons. The only question about Newton is a big one, though: maturity. Can he weather the ups and downs that come with being the focal point of a franchise. After one loss last year, he answered questions with his eyes closed. "Woe is me," is a routine that doesn't fly in the pros. Not consistently, at least.
Newton isn't in danger of losing his job this year, but he needs a more consistent season to keep from being passed up by San Francisco's Colin Kaepernick as the best quarterback of his draft class.
Seattle will simply seek to replicate the success it had against Newton a year ago when he passed for 141 yards against the Seahawks in Week 5, the lowest single-game total in his career. He completed 41.4 percent of his pass attempts, also a career worst. The Panthers consistently challenged Seattle's defense on the outside, looking to get the ball to Steve Smith. He was targeted 14 times and caught only four passes, none for more than 10 yards.
Newton did lead his team in rushing, but he had only 42 yards. Coach Pete Carroll's nine years at USC gave him exposure to a great deal of read-option, that experience now compounded by the return of Dan Quinn, who was hired to be the Seahawks' defensive coordinators after spending two seasons at Florida.
Carroll: "Cam is an incredible athlete. There is nobody like him. He is so big and so fast and such a tremendous thrower. He's a phenomenal talent. Right from the first game, he threw for 400 and came back and threw for 400 again, first two games ever in the league and on goes the story of him. So we have great respect for what they do and how they style their offense. It's built around a physical running tough guy at the quarterback spot as well as all the rest of the things. He's unique in his style and hopefully we've matched it up."
Question: What's the hardest thing about defending Newton?
Carroll: "The fact that he runs with the football after the normal pass play started. It's not his running plays as much, it's not the pass plays, it's when he scrambles after the normal play, that's the most difficult factor to control in a football game."