Schwartz Believes Panthers Will Go ‘Spinal Tap’ on Designed QB Runs
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - It's not easy replicating the only 6-foot-5, 260-pound quarterback in captivity but the Eagles have been trying to do exactly that in practice this week.
The issue isn't just size of course because there is no shortage of big men in NFL locker rooms but guys that size, coupled with the athleticism of Cam Newton don't exactly grow on trees.
With the former league MVP and his Carolina Panthers on deck for this Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field in an important game that could have playoff implications down the road, Philadelphia eschewed the 6-6 Nate Sudfeld as the scout QB and instead looked to practice squad receiver Braxton Miller, who once played the game's most important position in college at Ohio State.
“I'm just getting back to my old roots,” Miller said of his role this week. “I'll just be myself and go out there and do the same thing I’ve been doing since I’ve been playing football – get the ball out of my hands, make plays and be explosive.”
At 6-1 and 205 Miller can't duplicate Newton's physical presence but he can serve as a doppelganger when it comes to athleticism and that was more important to Jim Schwartz in order to get his defense ready for the rare running game that will devise plays with the QB in mind.
"Cam Newton has opened up every designed run that you can imagine, and they've really ramped up their designed quarterback runs this year over anything they have done in the past," Schwartz said. "It certainly makes it difficult."
As for Newton's physicality that can't be quantified until game day but the Philadelphia defense can rely on the win in Charlotte last season and a four-game history with Newton overall in addition to Miller as well to create a template to understand what's coming.
“Whatever they want me to do, I’ll do it," Miller said. "I’ll never complain."
There is a change around Newton in Carolina, however, and the move from Mike Shula to Norv Turner at offensive coordinator has tweaked things.
"I think there are significant changes," Schwartz said when discussing the Carolina offense. "You see some familiar faces, [WR Devin] Funchess, [RB Christian] McCaffrey, [TE Greg] Olsen, obviously Cam Newton. Significant changes on their offensive line, significant changes at their other wide receiver positions, drafting DJ Moore, getting him in there, different tight ends, bringing [RB] CJ Anderson in.
"So it's not just a new coordinator, but there is significant different dynamic of players there."
The biggest difference of all though is going back to what makes Newton one of the best dual-threat QBs in NFL history.
"Like I said, they just, to go spinal tap on you, they just turn their quarterback runs up to 11," Schwartz joked. "That's really probably the biggest difference. Credit to a guy like Norv Turner who has had a really long career and he's embraced that and puts a lot of pressure on the defense by doing that."
973espn.com Prediction: Eagles 24, Panthers 20
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen