Panthers Notebook

Comparison of Newton, Griffin begins

rgreenjr@charlotteobserver.comSeptember 14, 2012 


NEW ORLEANS, LA - SEPTEMBER 09: Robert Griffin III #10 of the Washington Redskins throws against the New Orleans Saints during the season opener at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on September 9, 2012 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)


The Cam Newton-Robert Griffin III comparisons are being made after Washington’s rookie quarterback engineered a road upset at New Orleans last Sunday.

Some comparisons fit. Some are a stretch.

“It’s hard to say anybody is Cam Newton-like because Cam is so big, so athletic,” New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees said. “There are similarities in the ability to make plays with both his legs and his arms. He can get inside and outside the pocket and throws the ball downfield very well. It’s only one game but he sure was impressive against us.”

In preparing for the Saints on Sunday, Panthers coach Ron Rivera has watched what Griffin was effective doing against New Orleans and fitting it to what the Panthers like to do.

“When you watch their tape, (you say) ‘hey, we do that.’ There are a lot of things that they do that we do. And then there’s some things that we do that they don’t, and vice versa,” Rivera said.

Rivera said the similarities in the Washington and Carolina offensive schemes have helped the Panthers game plan for the Saints. However, what Griffin did and what Newton might do will be different.

“I think their styles are similar only to certain degrees, certain aspects of the game. I think after that it’s a lot more different,” Rivera said.

“They get RGIII more on the edges. They get him outside the pocket a lot more. RGIII makes a lot more throws behind the line of scrimmage than we do. We attack a little more vertically, as opposed to throwing the ball sideways. And our quarterback stays more in the pocket.

“Their skill sets are similar to the degree that both have good arms. They’re both very athletic. They both run very well. The difference is obviously a physical difference. Our guy’s 6-5 and he’s 6-2. So there’s a slight difference and about 40 pounds.”

Stewart improving: By all indications, running back Jonathan Stewart is likely to play Sunday when the Panthers host New Orleans.

Stewart missed the regular season opener with a sprained ankle but he’s returned to practice this week, showing improvement each day.

“He’s looked better and better,” Rivera said.

On Wednesday, Rivera said Stewart showed some hesitation early in practice when he had to make cuts on his sore ankle. That was gone in Thursday’s workout.

“You could see he didn’t think about it,” Rivera said.

The Panthers tied a single-game team record with just 10 rushing yards against Tampa Bay.

Defensive end Greg Hardy was sent home before the team hit the practice field Thursday after feeling ill. Rivera said Hardy took part in morning meetings but became ill and the decision was made to send him home. Hardy is expected to play Sunday.

Receiver Steve Smith practiced on a limited basis while nursing a tender knee. Asked if he expects Smith to play against the Saints, Rivera said, "Without a doubt."

Linebacker Kenny Onatolu remains away from the team after a death in his family.

Learning curve: Rookie offensive guard Amini Silatolu struggled at times last Sunday against Tampa Bay in his first NFL regular-season start. He was called for holding once and for an illegal procedure penalty while dealing with the Bucs’ changing defensive fronts.

“I don’t think I had a good week of practice last week and it showed in the game,” Silatolu said. “This week, I feel like I’ve gotten better.”

Silatolu is making the switch from left tackle to guard and it involves more than just moving one spot nearer the center on the offensive line. While learning new responsibilities and techniques, Silatolu has also had to fight the tendency to drop back into old patterns.

“At tackle, I was real comfortable. Everything was so basic to me,” Silatolu said. “It was about my technique last week. Preparation is real important and if you don’t have a good week in practice, you’re not going to be ready.”

Tackle Byron Bell can relate. An undrafted free agent last year, Bell found himself starting at right tackle when Jeff Otah was injured.

“I was the same way last year,” Bell said. “I told him just to do what he did in college to get him where he is today. Just continue to do that.”

Bouncing back: Running back DeAngelo Williams said the Panthers have been sharp in practice this week and understand the importance of their home opener Sunday against the Saints after losing last week at Tampa Bay.

“We know what we have to get done,” Williams said. “Where it stands right now we’re 0-1, they’re 0-1 so I think it’s going to be similar to a playoff game because both teams are trying to come out of that hole.”

Williams knows how difficult it would be to climb out of an 0-2 start to the season.

“It’s not good at all. It’ll be tough. We know that going into this, they know it going into it,” Williams said. “We just have to do what we do better than they do what they do. We have to come out, play our game, execute. We have to execute on all three phases and get the job done. Whether we win by one or 16-20, a win is a win.”

Security checks: The Panthers are encouraging fans to arrive early to Sunday’s game to avoid long waits as the team implements enhanced security checks at Bank of America Stadium.

The screenings include hand-held, metal detectors and/or pat-downs. Gates will open at 11 a.m.

Joseph Person and Jonathan Jones contributed.

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