Cam Newton is a special athlete. The man can flat out play the game of football. He’s like Tim Tebow with a football mind, only faster, and an accurate arm. He can play in the pocket, he can gun-sling, and he has happy feet and speed to match. OK, so he’s not like Tim Tebow at all. He has his own level. Besides his big arm, the part of his game that the St. Louis Rams must negate is his running. Newton dials up the run on 3rd down and long yardage situations. Averaging 6.45 yards per run, Newton has converted 48% of those 3rd down plays with his legs.
Stopping Cam Newton’s running plays will be key in slowing down the Panther offense. How can the Rams do this?
The linebackers. Cam Newton loves to run the ball up the middle and off the left tackle. Only 5 plays so far this season have been to the right side, so the defensive game plan naturally calls for St. Louis to have the linebackers prepped for the middle and left runs. I can’t think of a better linebacker corps to combat Cam Newton than Jo-Lonn Dunbar, James Laurinaitis, and Alec Ogletree. The Rams would do well to have Ogletree attached at the hip to Newton, although this would limit coverage of the slot and tight end positions. Another tactic the Rams could utilize is bringing in Will Witherspoon on 3rd down. This would free up Ogletree to get in the face of Newton on those left side runs.
The Rams have the speed at the linebacker position to slide over to stop Newton. Ogletree has displayed his 1st round speed and athleticism throughout the season, and Laurinaitis has vastly improved in coverage. Between the two, and Dunbar’s veteran savvy, the Rams should be able to negate, or at least slow down Newton’s ground game. Of course, the defensive line and the secondary have to do their part. Keeping containment on Newton has to be a number one priority if the Rams are to compete.