Superman Cam Newton: NFL Defences Kryptonite



News broke late on Monday that the New England Patriots, and their genius head-coach Bill Belichik, had signed former-MVP quarterback Cam Newton to an incentive-laden 1-year contract.


The deal which will likely see Newton start over second-year signal-caller Jarret Stidham, both Auburn University alums, is apparently worth in the region of $7.5million according to NFL insider Ian Rappaport.


The revelation came just hours after the league announced that the Patriots would be fined over $1million and deducted their 3rd round draft pick for 2021 having been caught “spying” on the Cincinnati Bengals before the two played last year.


6 foot 5, 240 pound Newton, who carried Auburn to their first National Championship since 1957 in his final year of college football, was drafted with the first overall pick in 2011 by the Carolina Panthers.


In 2015, Atlanta born Newton put together one of the most sensational seasons that the NFL world had ever seen from a single player as he carried his team to Superbowl 50 and collected the regular season MVP, as well as being voted the best player of the year by his peers.


He would eventually lose the Superbowl to Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos hellacious defence, commencing a run of injuries and bad luck that would culminate in “Superman” being released by the Panthers at the end of last season.


But what exactly made Newton so impossible to stop for that brief period of time?

Superman in his Prime



The year is 2015.


Uptown Funk is playing in every shop you go into, there are children dabbing all over the internet and Donald Trump, America's answer to Lord Alan Sugar, is taking an absurd run at the Presidential campaign (don’t worry, he could never win.)


All the while, Cameron Jerrell Newton is heading towards Superbowl 50, having won the regular-season MVP, and posted up one of the most incredible statistical seasons that the league has ever seen.


The issue that Newton is providing defences is that his immense frame allows his Carolina Panthers to run the ball very effectively past most of the formations that a team can play to try and stop him.


The second they over-step the mark and commit too many players to address the run – Newton can then use his impressive throwing arm to locate his receivers down the field who are probably only covered by one defender.


Let me explain the problem with a few hypothetical scenarios.


The Quarterback Draw



The QB draw, in short, is where the quarterback keeps hold of the ball and runs straight through the centre of the defensive line, this can either be designed with a blocking scheme that will create the gaps in the defence that Newton requires, or might be a split-second decision based on what happens after the ball is snapped.


In the play shown against the Atlanta Falcons, Newton spots a gap widening right in the centre of the defence as he waits for his receivers to get themselves open for a pass, he tucks the ball under his arm and charges straight ahead.


For most quarterbacks, the draw is a risky and fumble-heavy play, but at 240 lbs and over 6 foot 5, Newton is able to hold off three separate defenders before eventually being taken down by a mound of wannabe-tacklers.


The Outside Quarterback Run



Following the first play, defences will respond to the threat of a “designed QB draw”, by committing extra defenders into the centre of the line of scrimmage to block the running lanes and make sure that Newton cannot go straight through the defence.


As a result, Newton can use his speed to move laterally towards the sideline where there is now fewer players, and the only ones left are defensive backs, who are on average, far smaller than Newton.


The outcome is almost identical as the QB draw, and results in a large chunk of yardage for the offence or at worse a touchdown.


In the play against the Cardinals from 2015 that is shown above, Newton quickly reaches the outside behind several blockers and allows them to clear a path for him before using his freakish athleticism to hurdle up and over the remaining defensive back that stands in his way.


The Read Option



Having watched Cam Newton first runs carve all the way through the heart of the pass-rush, and then all the way around the outside, teams will often start to commit players whose job it is to take down Newton behind the line of scrimmage and prevent him from building up his momentum.


However, as you can see in the play shown between the Carolina Panthers and San Francisco 49ers, Newton spots the edge-rusher closing him down and simply tosses the ball inside to his running back, Mike Tolbert, who now has a clear lane in behind the defender who has committed to stopping Cam.


By the time the defence realises that Newton no longer has the ball, the running back is now at full speed and well past the first-down markers that they were looking to get to so that their drive can continue further.

The Play-Action Pass



Following the bullying that Newton and his running backs have subjected the defence to throughout the first portion of the game, defensive coordinators will be forced to respond by blitzing everyone who isn’t directly stopping the receivers from catching the ball.


This means that the linebackers now also join the line of scrimmage so that those running lanes are completely secured and closed, but as a result, this all-out blitz leaves huge amounts of space in the centre of the field, as you can see in the example from when the Panthers played the New Orleans Saints.


This is made worse by Newton faking a hand-off to his running back which commits the linebackers even further towards him and presents some easy one-on-one passing opportunities down the field.


Kelvin Benjamin takes advantage of this defensive mistake by separating just enough from the cornerback that Newton can get the ball into his hands quickly, Newton also doesn’t need to pass it over anyone’s head and can throw a low-trajectory, dart-like ball into the end-zone for his receiver to catch for a touchdown.

This article was written exclusively for Golear.co.uk by Alex Lewis.