The Dallas Cowboys have a real football game coming this Sunday. Just like every game, there are key matchups that the team must win to ensure victory. Heading to North Carolina to play the Carolina Panthers there are several areas that you could focus on, but the key to victory is containing Panthers Quarterback Cam Newton.
Yes, this is an obvious choice as the play of quarterbacks typically determines who wins and who loses. However, as Cam Newton goes so go the Carolina Panthers.
The Dallas Cowboys finally have a defense ready to help carry the team.
When was the last time we said that? 2009? 2007?
They have pressure players on both sides of the defensive line with DeMarcus Lawrence and the return of Randy Gregory. They have the makings of the best linebacker corp that we’ve seen since their switch to the 4-3 in 2010. The secondary looks to have several playmakers. They’re going to be good.
We’re believers that this defense can take a big leap to potentially elite status. Now it’s time to prove it against one of the more difficult quarterback matchups in the NFL.
Cam Newton is an above average to good quarterback in the NFL. Newton’s not really going to light your defense up with his arm, but his legs give him an advantage that has helped him win a lot of games in the NFL.
Like many NFL quarterbacks, if your defense can make an opposing quarterback do things they either aren’t good at or aren’t comfortable with, then you’ll have a good chance to win the game.
In order to beat Cam Newton, the Dallas Cowboys will need to make these three things happen.
1. Make Cam Newton Throw Deep
As I mentioned in this week’s Inside The Numbers, Cam Newton is not a very accurate deep-ball passer.
He doesn’t throw deep very often and he’s not very good at it.
In 2017, Cam was 19th in “deep ball attempts,” which Pro Football Focus has defined as pass attempts that traveled more than 20 yards down the field. Last season Newton was 22nd in deep ball completion percentage at 35.1%. Cam Newton’s quarterback rating was 60.6 on deep attempts, which was 19th in the NFL among players with at least 45 deep attempts.
He prefers to get the ball out of his hands quickly in the short to intermediate areas of the field. With a player like Christian McCaffrey catching passes out of the backfield, Newton will have options underneath.
If the Dallas Cowboys can cover well underneath, the Carolina Panthers will be forced to try to go over the top, which will give the Dallas Cowboys defense an edge.
2. Getting and Sustaining Pressure
Cam Newton was one of the least pressured quarterbacks in the NFL in 2017. Newton was only pressured on 32.7% of his drop backs, which was the 10th lowest percentage in the NFL among quarterbacks with at least 360 drop backs on the season.
Though he wasn’t pressured often, he wasn’t good under pressure. He had a 61.5 quarterback rating when under pressure — 21st in the NFL — and three touchdowns and five interceptions. On the flip side, his 50.8% completion percentage was the 11th best number in the NFL when under pressure.
The Carolina Panthers offensive line is really struggling with injuries. They are down three tackles and a guard as they head into the week one matchup with your Dallas Cowboys. That’s a huge advantage for the Dallas Cowboys front seven and one they have to take advantage of. They need to get Cam Newton under pressure and sustain that pressure for all four quarters.
Keeping Cam Newton protected is going to be a difficult task week one. The Dallas Cowboys have to take advantage of the Carolina Panthers injury woes.
3. Tackle Cam When the Opportunity Arises
Cam Newton is a big body who is difficult to bring down in the open field. It’s what has made him as successful as he’s been. Not only can he move well and run for yards, but he can break tackles and make defensive players miss when on the move.
Among players with at least 100 carries last season, Cam Newton had the ninth best elusive rating in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus. That includes running backs as well.
His 3.19 yards per carry after contact ranked sixth in the NFL among players with at least 100 carries.
He’s one of the more difficult players in the league to bring down, so when the Dallas Cowboys defense gets a crack at Cam Newton, they have to make the tackle.
The Dallas Cowboys are going to have opportunities to sack Cam Newton with the injury difficulties that their offensive line is facing, but if the Dallas Cowboys don’t wrap him up and tackle well, it’s not going to matter.
In order to win the game, they are going to have to tackle Cam when they get a hand on him. Missed tackles could lead to big runs by the big Carolina quarterback.
✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭
Cam Newton may not be the best quarterback in the NFL, but he’s been good enough to help his team get to a Super Bowl, have deep playoff runs, and win a lot of games in his NFL career. A lot of what makes Cam Newton as good of a quarterback as he is are the intangibles that don’t show up in his passing numbers. Cam Newton has the legs to make things difficult for the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday. Finally, though, the Dallas Cowboys defense has the players in place to make Sunday a very long day for Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers offense.