For the second straight day, the Carolina Panthers practice gates closed with Cam Newton noticeably absent.
The Panthers’ starting quarterback re-aggravated his left foot sprain in Thursday night’s loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, thrusting his status for Sunday’s road game against Arizona into doubt. But after teammate Eric Reid said Newton was in a boot on Tuesday, it was no surprise that Newton missed practice Wednesday, as well.
Coach Ron Rivera said he didn’t have much to offer on Newton’s progress.
“No (updates) other than the fact that he didn’t practice today, but is getting his treatment, getting all the information he can in terms of meetings and all that good stuff,” Rivera said.
If Newton does end up missing Sunday’s game, Rivera has already said that the team will start second-year quarterback Kyle Allen instead.
But Rivera said he isn’t yet ready to make a determination on Newton’s status for Sunday.
“I’m not ready to, but I do know Kyle had a good day,” Rivera said. “(Kyle) has been in all the meetings, obviously, working hard, studying up and obviously taking the practice reps he needs to take.”
Rivera also declined to say when his timetable is for making a decision one way or the other on Newton’s availability.
On a conference call with reporters, Arizona coach Kliff Kingsbury said the Cardinals are preparing for both quarterbacks.
“Obviously, Cam brings a lot of dynamics with his athleticism. He’s been a dominant force in this league for a long time and played through injuries and done some amazing things, so we have to prepare as if he’s going to play,” Kingsbury said. “Kyle is a guy I recruited in high school, watched his tape in high school. ... Last year when he played, he played his tail off. ...
“If they go with him, we know we’re going to have to bring our best game to find a way to win.”
The Panthers will release their final injury report on Friday, but the team doesn’t have to officially declare Newton active or inactive until hours before Sunday’s game.
Newton is clearly the most notable name on the Panthers’ injury report, but he’s far from the only one.
For the third conseciutive week, outside linebacker/defensive end Bruce Irvin was listed as dealing with a hamstring. He did not participate Wednesday, but Rivera said to his understanding, it is still a pulled hamstring and not a tear.
Other than Irvin, safety Rashaan Gaulden (groin) and tight end Greg Olsen (back) were repeats on the injury report. Gaulden did not participate Wednesday, and Olsen was limited, although he said he is feeling better now than at this time last week. Olsen had more than 100 receiving yards against Tampa Bay, his first time doing so since fall of 2017.
As for new additions, neither defensive tackle Kawann Short (shoulder) nor tackle Brandon Greene (neck) practiced Wednesday. Rivera said he was under the impression that Short injured his shoulder in the Bucs game.
“I assume so,” Rivera said. “The biggest thing, more so than anything else, is that it’s sore. He’s getting treatment and we’ll go from there.”
How to counteract Cardinals’ pass-heavy sets?
Although either Newton or Allen could start for the Panthers, there’s only one man who should be lining up under center for the Cardinals:
Arizona quarterback Kyler Murray, the No. 1 overall pick in April’s NFL Draft.
Murray spearheads the Cardinals’ Air Raid-esque offense, which features more four receiver sets than any other team in the NFL. According to NFL Next Gen Stats, the Cardinals have run 91 plays in two games this season with four receivers — no other team has run even 20 such plays.
So counteracting that scheme will be critical to Carolina’s success on Sunday. Just, how exactly do you do that?
Defensive coordinator Eric Washington explained that more than any specific packages or blitzes, there’s one common thread to defending an offense like that.
“This is how I look at it. When you have a spread concept, what really happens is you have 1-on-1’s,” Washington said. “The downside in my opinion, for the offense, is we’ve got a bunch of guys who are (fine playing) 1-on-1 as opposed to having a tight end who’s close enough to the core to be able to chip an edge rusher or utilizing a back.
“The ball’s coming out quickly. It puts a lot of pressure on everyone to win 1-on-1, whether you’re a coverage 1-on-1 guy or a rush 1-on-1 guy. So I look at it more as an opportunity than a disadvantage.”
Rivera said after the Tampa Bay game that Carolina had lost certain 1-on-1 matchups that proved to be critical. That’s not something that can happen again if the Panthers hope to avoid falling to 0-3.
“It’s one of those things where you’ve got to win. That’s all I can tell ya,” Rivera said of winning those individual matchups. “How do you do it? You go out, you line up and you win.
“At the end of the day, if you’ve done everything you’re supposed to do, then you should come out on top.”