Miami Dolphins

Why facing Cam Newton might actually be a good thing for the regressing Dolphins defense

Cam Newton’s style of play creates big plays — for both the Panthers and their opposition.
Cam Newton’s style of play creates big plays — for both the Panthers and their opposition. AP

If Josh McCown, Joe Flacco and Derek Carr have lit up the Dolphins defense, what is the 2015 NFL MVP going to do?

Cam Newton, on paper, is a nightmare matchup for the Dolphins. They were terrible against mobile quarterbacks in 2016, allowing them to break contain and extend plays.

Heck, they haven’t even been great against stationary ones this year, sacking McCown, Flacco and Carr a combined six times in four games.

The Dolphins have the league’s richest defensive line, but their 16 sacks were tied for seventh fewest entering Sunday’s action.

Only Cameron Wake (who leads the team with six) and Ndamukong Suh have more than three on the season.

So Monday night could get ugly, right?

Perhaps not.

Rather, this could be the week the Dolphins’ pass rush gets back on track. The Panthers have allowed 23 sacks in 2017, 13th most in football, and here is a big reason why:

“[Newton] does hold onto the ball a little longer I think,” Wake said. “I guess that’s him trying to make a play? At the end of the day, I guess it is risk [versus] reward. I don’t know what’s in his head. If you hold the ball longer and receivers are further down field, you probably have a better yardage type play; but then you’re also vulnerable to guys like me and mis compadres.”

So unless he changes his game, Newton is vulnerable to Wake, Suh, Andre Branch and Charles Harris in a way that McCown, Flacco and Carr were not.

Those three rarely took deep drops, instead getting the ball out of their hands before Dolphins defensive linemen could barely get out of their stances. Dolphins defensive coordinator Matt Burke defended his front four in recent days, saying they are playing at a high level despite the disappointing sack totals.

Rather, the responsibility falls to those in coverage to clog up passing lanes long enough for the Dolphins to get to the passer.

“I think some of the quarterbacks we’ve played and offenses we’ve played have probably been in the top tier in the league as far as getting the ball out of their hands,” Wake said. “I don’t know where [Newton] ranks but I don’t pay as much attention to that as a pass rusher because I fight every play like it’s the play he’s going to have the ball in his hand when I get there and if he does, then finish the play.”

Miami Dolphins quarterback Jay Cutler speaks to the media after the Miami Dolphins are defeated by the Oakland Raiders at Hard Rock Stadium on Sunday, November 5, 2017.

Adam H. Beasley: 305-376-3565, @AdamHBeasley