When the Vikings defense and the Panthers offense take the field this Sunday, each side will have a dynamic weapon at its disposal. The Panthers will trot out Cam Newton, a true dual-threat quarterback who poses a challenge to any defense. To defend Newton, the Vikings will deploy Anthony Barr, a sensational rookie linebacker who fills up the stat sheet each week and is a perfect fit for Mike Zimmer's defense.
The back and forth that will ensue Sunday between Barr and Newton is the subject of this week's Ticketmaster Hot Matchup.
Weapon: QB Cam Newton Strengths: Power and Speed
Because of his combination of power and speed, Newton can make many kinds of plays to extend drives, stress defenses and put points on the board. Newton's power manifests itself in two primary ways. First, he has a powerful arm that allows him to launch passes down the field and fit throws into tight windows. This arm strength allows Newton complete passes to receivers who are covered well. Secondly, Newton's power makes him a tough quarterback to bring to the ground. It's common for defenders to get to Newton in the pocket, only to see him break their tackles and bound away to make a play. Newton's speed is dangerous once he does break from the pocket. He has the ability to evade rushers to buy time to make throws down the field, and he can use his speed to pick up yardage on the ground to extend drives.
In his rookie season, Newton accounted for 35 touchdowns (21 passing, 14 rushing) and has since remained a dual threat at the quarterback position. He has dealt with injuries this season and that has hampered him a bit, but he has still accounted for 14 touchdowns (12 passing, two rushing). Carolina had a bye last week, so Newton will be fresh and ready to take the field today against the Vikings.
Weapon: Anthony Barr Strengths: Quickness and Versatility
The first draft pick of the Zimmer era in Minnesota appears to have been perfection. Zimmer is known for employing aggressive and versatile defenses. And in first-round pick Anthony Barr, Zimmer has a young, impressionable and versatile athlete he can mold to fit his defense perfectly. Barr, who stands at 6-5, 255 pounds, has the combination of size and speed that allows Zimmer to use him as a pass rusher, in coverage and against the run. Through his first 11 games, Barr has filled up the stat sheet, leading the team in tackles with 94 and also notching 13 quarterback hurries, 4.0 sacks, three pass breakups, three fumble recoveries and two forced fumbles. Barr has several dominant physical traits, but the one that allows him to contribute in so many ways is his quickness. He is quick to buzz out to the flats to cover a running back or tight end. He is quick off the edge or through the A gap to rush the passer. And his quickness combined with his strength makes life difficult for offensive linemen moving to the second level in an attempt to block him.
Barr's athletic ability and his perfect fit in Zimmer's defense are yielding impressive numbers for any player in the League, let alone a rookie. If Barr continues at this pace over the final five games of the regular season, he will be a leading candidate for Defensive Rookie of the Year honors.
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