Carolina's Cam Newton is growing as a quarterback on the field in a big way.
I felt all along the Panthers stunted his growth by using all the read-option stuff they used early this season. They can still mix it in now and then, but Newton is improving big time from the pocket. He has to do more of that.
His footwork is much better than it was early this season when the read-option principles often left him off-balance on his throws. Here's a look at his touchdown throw to Greg Olsen against Atlanta last week.
Newton was in the shotgun with Olsen (yellow circle) lined up in the slot to the left inside of Steve Smith. It appeared Smith was the primary on the out, but Newton made the right decision to take a shot to Olsen, who was in man coverage with safety Thomas DeCoud. Newton fired a perfect pass over DeCoud's head for the score.
The biggest play Newton made was with his legs. And it came on a read-option play. It was perfectly designed and the Panthers blocked it well. Here's a look.
The key to the play is Falcons end Kroy Biermann (yellow circle), who made a hard charge inside when Newton faked inside to DeAngelo Williams. Newton pulled the ball out and Olsen, who was lined up in the backfield, got a move block on Thomas DeCoud (red circle). Jordan Gross got out on linebacker Sean Weatherspoon (blue circle). Those two blocks created a lane for Newton, who turned it up the field. Falcons corner Dunta Robinson (black circle) took a hard inside pursuit angle and Steve Smith blocked him as Newton ran by for the big play. Here's a look at the screen shots from the run.
Newton can still kill with his legs, but the Panthers need him to continue to grow from the pocket. I see it happening. Now 2013 has to be about that becoming more of his way on offense, with some running sprinkled on top.
Weddle stuffs the run
I mentioned Chargers safety Eric Weddle in After Further Review Thursday. He was impressive for the Chargers last week against the run game of the Steelers. Here's a look at two of those nice plays.
The first one is a run to Jonathan Dwyer. You can see below that the Steelers blocked the play pretty well. That left Dwyer to only make Weddle miss in a one-on-one situation to gain some yards. But Weddle broke down and made a nice tackle for no gain.
The second nice play Weddle made came on an end around to speedy Mike Wallace. Weddle was playing the left side in a two-deep zone when the Steelers brought Wallace around to his side on the end-around. Weddle did a nice job diagnosing the run and made a nice play to duck under a block and drop Wallace for no gain. For a former corner, Weddle does a nice job tackling.
Willis holds Bush in check
Back on linebacker in the open field is usually a big win for the back. When it's Reggie Bush, it certainly should be. But San Francisco's Patrick Willis is no ordinary linebacker. He made a great play in coverage against Bush last week. Here's a look.
Bush was lined up on the left side with Willis playing him in off-man coverage. At the snap, Bush ran at Willis and had an option route. He could either go inside (yellow line) or outside (blue line), which put a lot of pressure on Willis. Willis took an outside position and was able to make the play. I still think if Bush had gone inside, he would have had an easier chance to make a play. Instead Willis dropped him for a short gain.