The Cardinals are saying they won't treat Cam Newton differently than any other quarterback, even though Newton will be playing in his first NFL game on Sunday at University of Phoenix Stadium.
We'll see about that, but the Cardinals could be speaking the truth.
That's because new defensive coordinator Ray Horton has promised to bring pressure by any means necessary on a weekly basis. That is not going to change whether the quarterback is a rookie or in his 10th season.
"I'll treat him just like any other quarterback," said defensive end Darnell Dockett. "He's the first pick of the draft for a reason. Great player, and I don't go into the game underestimating him.
"One thing I know about a quarterback, you give them enough time, no matter who is back there, they'll get the ball out."
Horton has installed a scheme based on the teachings of Steelers coordinator Dick LeBeau. That's been hard to see during the preseason, because Horton showed very little. He brought a few blitzes and dropped Dockett into coverage a few times on zone blitzes.
But this defense is likely to look much different against the Panthers than it has this preseason.
Strong safety Adrian Wilson is expected to play after missing most of the preseason with a torn biceps tendon. Wilson has practiced for the past three weeks, but hasn't had contact.
Newton hasn't seen anyone quite like Wilson, who Horton likely will use often in various blitzes. Newton struggled in the preseason against defenses that didn't show much. He completed just 24 of 57 passes (42.1 percent) for 300 yards and a touchdown.
The Cardinals lack an elite pass rusher, and left tackle Jordan Gross should be able to handle outside linebacker Joey Porter. Look for Horton to find other ways to pressure Newton, however. The Cardinals have used nickel and dime packages that include only two defensive linemen.
They have blitzed out of that formation, but they are likely also to try and confuse Newton with various coverages.
The Cardinals' challenge, however, is to avoid defensive mistakes. Their corners, A.J. Jefferson and Patrick Peterson, are starting their first NFL games. And everyone is learning the new system installed by Horton.
The Panthers have a history of hurting the Cardinals on the ground. They have won seven consecutive regular-season games against Arizona, although they lost the biggest one, a playoff game in the 2008 season.
Last year, one of Carolina's two victories came against the Cardinals. They gained 177 yards on 45 carries.
SERIES HISTORY: 11th regular-season meeting. Panthers lead series, 8-2, including the last seven. The Cardinals beat the Panthers in the playoffs in the 2008 season. The Panthers have given the Cardinals problems because they've been able to get a lead and run the ball in most games. Last year, the Panthers gained 177 yards rushing in a victory over Arizona. Quarterback Jimmy Clausen had to pass just 19 times. The Cardinals gained just 218 yards, and it was the second career start for rookie John Skelton.
Cardinals: No special treatment for Newton
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