This year, the Giants head to Carolina in Week 3 as an 0-2 team, so they’ll try to get into the win column against an electric young quarterback: Cam Newton.
But through two weeks, Newton has been anything but electric, but that hasn’t stopped Giants’ defensive coordinator Perry Fewell from preparing his defense to face the Panthers’ offense.
“Definitely have to stop the run,” Fewell said. “That’s what we have to take out of it and have the opportunity to rush him (Newton). They’re a very diversified offense. They have a new offensive coordinator (Mike Shula), so the offense changed just a little bit, not a whole lot, but it has changed some. You have to make sure we can handle two of their guys, (Steve) Smith and the tight end (Greg Olsen), their primary targets.”
In last year’s matchup, the Giants held Newton to just six yards rushing on six carries. He threw for 242 yards but also had three interceptions in a 36-7 loss to Big Blue. But Fewell was quick to point out that Newton’s play improved significantly as the season progressed.
“I think he (Newton) just gets better as the weeks go on,” Fewell said. “It seems like he’s somewhat of a slow starter. I know we watched him the last four games last year and he was on fire. I’m saying wow. That’s a good offense. That’s a good football team. Man, that quarterback is really growing.”
What makes Newton so effective is his ability to run the option. Fewell said that focus of defenses around the league has been on what’s happening in Washington and Philadelphia, where the option is heavily emphasized. With these teams coming up on the Giants’ schedule, Fewell said this week’s game against the Panthers would be a good test run for his defense.
“The college game is now coming to the NFL,” Fewell said. “It is somewhat backwards, but I always think it’s healthy when you can have a conversation with someone outside the box and get ideas from them. It was helpful.”
As for the lack of a pass rush, this might not be the week where Justin Tuck, Mathias Kiwanuka and Jason Pierre-Paul get going. Newton is a viable part of the Panthers’ running game and has shown he can escape pressure in the pocket.
“I think because of the style of quarterbacks that we have coming into the league now, the RGIII’s, the Newton’s, that litany of quarterbacks, it is very difficult,” Fewell said. “In old pro football, you didn’t account for the quarterback because he was going to stay in the pocket. Now you have to account for the quarterback, so it changes your thinking and your mentality a little bit.”
Another reason why the Giants’ pass rush has struggled is that the two opposing quarterbacks they’ve faced – Tony Romo and Peyton Manning – were each getting the ball out quickly. That means no pressure, but it also means the Giants’ secondary has been able to contain big plays.
“If you look at yards per catch right now, it’s under seven yards a catch,” Fewell said. “The ball is really coming out quick. So you can pressure, but if the ball is coming out fast you’re negating the pressure part of it.”
The stage is looking awfully similar to last season in Carolina. Just like in last year’s blowout, the key for the Giants will be containing Cam Newton.
Follow Jim Mancari on Twitter @JMMancari.