Someone asked Denver Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib who he’d compare to Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton.
No one, actually.
“Super unique. I’ve never seen anybody who is that size,” Talib said at the team’s training facility Monday. “(He) probably could play any position in the NFL that (he) wanted to. He’s definitely a unique player. Like I said, he’s probably the most dangerous quarterback in the NFL right now.”
The Broncos have the top defense in the NFL. The Panthers have the top offense this season. The Broncos just beat a future Hall of Fame quarterback Sunday in the New England Patriots’ Tom Brady.
But Brady is a relatively immobile pocket passer on a team with no real running game. The Panthers have a top running back in Jonathan Stewart plus an X-factor in 6-foot-5, 245-pound Newton.
As Talib said, no other quarterback plays quite like Newton but the Broncos haven’t played a quarterback even somewhat similar since Week 7 when they beat the Green Bay Packers’ Aaron Rodgers.
“He’s throwing the ball amazing right now and you know what he can do with his legs,” Talib said.
Newton’s uniqueness won’t just test how well Denver’s defense plays in Super Bowl 50, but also how that defense does its job.
“You have to be able to get pressure on him, but you have to be decisive on how you’re rushing,” said veteran outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware. “You can’t be a wild rusher with big, wide B-gaps or let him run in the A-gap and do what he wants to do because he’s actually a running back himself. He can get yards and make big plays so you have to make sure the pocket is tight when you’re rushing against him, but you still have to be aggressive.”
The Broncos demonstrated how aggressive their pass rush is in the 20-18 victory over the Patriots. They sacked Brady four times and hit him a remarkable 20 times among New England’s 77 offensive plays.
The biggest factor in that pass rush was linebacker Von Miller, who had 2 1/2 sacks and an interception. Newton and Miller were the first and second overall picks in the 2011 NFL draft.
Miller has always had exceptional talent, but he lacked the maturity early in his NFL career to maximize his ability. That changed in part because Ware signed with the Broncos in 2014 after nine seasons with the Dallas Cowboys.
Ware became Miller’s mentor, and Miller is now among the top defensive players in the NFL.
“Von was going through some things off the field, but you have to understand that sometimes you’re young for a while and you have to grow up,” Ware said.
“(I) was one of those guys that Von needed to lean on and trust. I treat Von just like my brother. It’s just a great opportunity to play with him. When you get a guy to come to you in the meeting room and say, ‘Hey, remember when you wore those white sleeves and white gloves? That’s the reason why I wore them in college,’ or, ‘That’s the reason why I wear it now in the NFL.’ That means a lot to me.”
Ware said he owed the game a favor of sorts because former Cowboys defensive end Greg Ellis took the same sort of interest in him when Ware was a young pro.
“He was a guy that I really looked up to,” Ware said. “He was showing me how to do a lot of the hand moves and mixed martial arts and he told me, ‘You can be an athlete, but you have to be an all-around leader. You have to be one of those kinds of guys where you have to be a technician.’ He taught me a lot of things. I see how much that helped me out, especially when I was younger.”
Bonnell: 704-358-5129; @rick_bonnell