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Carolina Panthers’ Cam Newton says he needs to be better avoiding rush

Carolina Panthers offensive linemen Travelle Wharton and Jordan Gross said it was tough watching the film of Sunday’s loss at Arizona, which consisted of a steady stream of plays showing Cardinals defenders sacking Cam Newton.

But Newton said Wednesday he needs to do a better job of self-preservation, as well.

“We’re in it together. And a lot of those sacks, let’s be quite frank, I could have been better,” Newton said. “I could have stepped up in the pocket, I could have thrown the football away, I could have scrambled and made a play. It’s not just pointing those guys out.”

Newton has been sacked 15 times in four games – an average of 3.75 sacks a game that is tied for the fourth-most in the NFL. Thirteen of those sacks came in two games – at Buffalo, where defensive end Mario Williams was nearly unblockable, and at Arizona, where the Cardinals used blitzes and a five-man front to confuse Newton and overwhelm the offensive line.

If the Panthers (1-3) don’t shore up their blitz pickups, Newton will be seeing them in his sleep.

“Teams are going to blitz us,” Gross said. “Teams have had success blitzing us. The Buffalo game, this (Cardinals) game are examples of that. So I would expect that we’d see more and more of that. We’ve got to be good at picking up the stuff that we’ve seen them do, and the stuff we haven’t seen them do and fix it and adjust on the fly.”

The Panthers will try to fix the protection issues with a new starting combination along the line. Wharton, the 10-year veteran in his second stint with the Panthers, will replace Amini Silatolu at left guard after Silatolu tore knee ligaments at Arizona and was lost for the year.

“Thank God we signed him earlier,” Gross said of Wharton, his neighbor and carpool companion. “You never want anybody to get hurt, and Amini has really come a long way and is turning into a really good player. We’re going to miss him.

“But to have Travelle to be able to step in there, there’s no worry on the left side of the line because we’ve played together so much.”

Panthers coach Ron Rivera said Wharton struggled initially after stepping in for Silatolu last week, but believes he’ll benefit from a full week of practice with the first-team offense.

“Travelle will get an opportunity to work with the other four guys. There won’t be any rotating,” Rivera said. “We’ll have five guys that will have practiced all week together so we’ll be ready to go with those guys.”

Wharton missed the 2012 season – his only one in Cincinnati – after blowing out his right knee in a preseason game. The Bengals cut him in July, and the Panthers signed him in late August.

He’s played limited snaps in the first four games behind Silatolu and Chris Scott, who shifted to right guard in Week 2 after Garry Williams went down with a season-ending knee injury.

Wharton said he’s excited to be a starter again.

“That’s what you prepare for,” he said. “Any given play anything can happen. I’ve been a part of that. When I signed, I was fully committed to coming back and playing football. There wasn’t any other reason to come back if I wasn’t ready to play football.”

The Panthers face a Minnesota defense this week featuring a four-man front headed by defensive end Jared Allen, who averaged 13 sacks over his first nine seasons. Allen has 3 1/2 of the Vikings’ nine sacks this season, a total that ranks 29th out of 32 teams.

Newton is confident the line can keep him clean against the Vikings’ rush.

“We’ve got some guys who can play good football,” said Newton, who named the five offensive line starters. “All those guys are playing with a chip on their shoulder, and we’re going to continue going out and getting better.”

Wharton doesn’t want a repeat of this week’s film session.

“You want your quarterback to be feeling great on Monday. That means you’ve done your job on Sunday. For him to get hit – and the whole feel of Sunday’s game – doesn’t set well,” Wharton said. “So you get another opportunity, fortunate for us, to come out here and put on the pads and get ready for Minnesota.”

Person: 704-358-5123; Twitter: @josephperson
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