CHARLOTTE — Still stinging from the thrashing they took from Robert Griffin III, the New Orleans Saints turn their attention toward defending another dual threat quarterback this Sunday in Carolina’s Cam Newton.
Like Griffin, Newton is capable of breaking down a defense with his feet as well as his arm, and presents many of the same challenges for the Saints defense that the Washington rookie did.
In fact, the Saints may even see some of the same plays this week.
Carolina coach Ron Rivera said the Panthers may borrow a few pages from the Redskins game plan because they run some similar plays.
“It’s funny because when you watch (the Redskins) on tape you say, ‘Hey, we do that,’ ” Rivera said. “There are a lot of things that they do that we do. And there are some things we do different ... We’ll look at the success they had and go from there.”
The Saints were expecting as much.
Interim coach Aaron Kromer knows the NFL can be a copycat league and that when a weakness is exploited other teams will pounce on it. Griffin found plenty of success against the Saints last weekend, throwing for 320 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for 42 yards.
But he also thinks that having played against Griffin will help his team better prepare for Newton.
“I would think that for sure,” Kromer said. “Obviously, we would have liked to have more success against (Griffin). Any simulation that we try to do in practice wouldn’t be the same with the talent that RGIII has. It definitely is a benefit.”
Newton said he was excited to see Griffin’s success against the Saints.
“If anything it’s going to help me to see what worked and what didn’t work,” Newton said.
Coming off a rough offensive performance in which the Panthers scored just 10 points in a loss to Tampa Bay, Newton is looking for his team to rebound. And he hopes some of the clues to jumpstarting the offense will come from watching what RG3 did last week.
“We’re going to take what the film gives us,” Newton said. “Watching that film helps us being that we run a lot of things that they do and how successful they were, things that were working and things that weren’t working.”
Kromer said Griffin and Newton have similar athletic skills “although Cam is bigger.”
Much bigger, in fact.
The 6-5, 245-pound Newton has Griffin by three inches and 40 pounds.
“Of course everybody knows that he’s a great athlete,” Saints linebacker Jonathan Casillas said. “He can run with the football, but I think his priority is to pass the ball. I think he gets the ball down the field very well. He stretches the field very well and at the end of the day when he doesn’t have any option, that’s when he becomes even more dangerous when he uses his legs.”
The Saints had mixed success in two games against Newton last season.
In the first meeting in Charlotte Newton threw for 224 yards and combined for three touchdowns. The Saints needed a late touchdown drive from Drew Brees to pull that game out 30-27.
However, the Saints defense manhandled him in the season finale, limiting the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year to 158 yards passing and one touchdown. They sacked Newton three times and intercepted him once in a 45-17 rout.
But a lot has changed since then.
The Saints have a new defensive coordinator with Steve Spagnuolo and will be without middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma, who’s on the PUP list.
“I think they look like a team that’s trying to figure out the new system,” Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith said. “Everybody goes through that transition period at some point and they’re in that transition period.”
Notes: Smith was limited in practice after developing some soreness in his right knee, but Rivera said the five-time Pro Bowl receiver will play Sunday. ... Defensive end Greg Hardy was sent home early Thursday with an illness. ... Running back Jonathan Stewart practiced full and Rivera said he looked more confident running and cutting. ... Reserve linebacker Kenny Onatolu missed his second straight day of practice following the death of his mother earlier this week.