COVER 9@9: What's wrong with Cam Newton?

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(Welcome all! With the NFL becoming more of a passing league, the “Cover 9@9” blog will become all of the rage. You can read it here every Wednesday at 9 a.m. throughout the season. We’ll try to get to everything about the Atlanta Falcons from the Hometown Huddle to who blew that coverage against the Lions. -– D. Orlando Ledbetter)

1. WHAT'S WRONG WITH CAM NEWTON?: Longtime observers of Carolina quarterback Cam Newton, the former Heisman Trophy winner from Auburn and Westlake High, believe that he's playing injured.

He appeared sluggish against the Eagles in that Monday Night debacle. He appeared to be a statue as he was sacked nine times.

Carolina quarterback Cam Newton celebrating after scoring a touchdown against the New York Giants last December. (Associated Press)

Newton had left ankle surgery this offseason. Mike Garafolo of FOX Sports reported that Newton has a right foot injury as a result of compensating for the left ankle.

One play showed that Newton is not nearly 100 percent, when he slipped out the pocket to his right and couldn’t accelerate around a defensive end. Normally, he’d be up the field for a nice gain.

Newton also had a rib injury in the exhibition season, which kept him out of the season-opener against Tampa Bay,

Newton may be more injured than the Panthers are letting on. His foot injury hasn’t been listed on the team’s injury report. However, he hasn’t missed practice time due to injuries since September.

Carolina coach Ron Rivera refuted the Fox Sports report in his Tuesday press conference.

“I'm not sure where all that came from,” Rivera said. “But put it to rest. He said it at his press conference after the game, he's fine.

“I'm taking him for his word. ... The doctors have nothing on it. The trainers have nothing on it.”

We’ll have to take Rivera at his word. He’s straight shooter. But he wouldn’t be the first coach to

mask an injury or ailment if that’s what is going on here.

Superman Cam was not present against the Eagles. He needed two late touchdown passes to finish with some quasi-respectable numbers in the blowout.

“I’m great. That’s not going to be a distraction,” Newton told the Charlotte media after the game. “Yeah, I got hit a lot today, but it’s all in the game. We’re not playing ballet. We’re not running track or anything. This is a physical sport. It’s what you sign up for.”

Newton and the Panthers are set to host the Falcons at 1 p.m. Sunday at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte. Since Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan told Newton and the Panthers to “Get the (f-word) off my field” after a thrilling 30-28 victory on Sept. 30, 2012, he has led the Panthers to three straight victories over the Falcons.

Panthers safety Thomas DeCoud. (Bob Leverone/Associated Press)

2. THOMAS DeCOUD UPDATE:Former Falcons safety Thomas DeCoud has started nine games for the Panthers.

He has one interception, three passes defensed and 40 tackles. He led the Panthers with eight tackles against Philadelphia.

DeCoud, 29, went to the Pro Bowl as an alternate in 2012. He started all but two games from the Falcons over the past six seasons before falling out of favor after missing two many tackles and taking poor angles to the ball.

3. POUND AND GROUND: The Falcons are 3-1 when they rush for more than 100 yards in a game.

Against the Bucs, Jumbo tight end Gabe Carimi, tight end Levine Toilolo and fullback Patrick DiMarco played big roles in the run game.

“I thought we did a very good job," Falcons coach Mike Smith said. "We had a good plan, the coaching staff, in terms of how we were going to run the football. Probably one of our most efficient run games that we had this season.

"We got Steven (Jackson) rolling. We wanted to do it with bigger bodies in the game. It was not a thought of trying to spread them out. It was more about putting some big bodies in there and winning the line of scrimmage, and I thought we did a very good job. The guys that you mentioned are integral part of the success we had in running the ball yesterday.”

The Falcons will need to keep running the ball on Sunday against Carolina.

“Well, I really believe if you can stop the run on the other side of the ball, on the defensive side of the ball, and keep the games close you’re going to have a better opportunity to run the ball offensively," Smith said. "You want to win the line of scrimmage on both sides of the football. Yes, it’s key for us to get ahead of the sticks to make sure we’re able to run the ball efficiently.”

4. ALFORD & TRUFANT: Second-year cornerbacks Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford are growing up this season.

Trufant has dropped interceptions in each of the past two games. He's going to make those plays in the future.

Alford is a physical corner who's working his way through the new pass interference rules.

Against Tampa Bay he had a rough day in coverage as he gave up 11 catches on 13 passes thrown his way. Those catches went for 181 and a touchdown.

He needs to ready for some action against the Panthers.

It the two can continue to improve maybe they can anchor the defense in the future like Hanford Dixon and Frank Minnifield.

5. MATCHUP NO.1: Falcons LB Joplo Bartu vs. Panthers RB DeAngelo Williams: Bartu will have to control Williams when the Panthers run their read option plays. He had 15 tackles in the loss to Baltimore. Williams managed just 31 yards on 13 carries as he received the start against the Eagles. He caught three passes for 13 yards. He’s capable of making big plays

6. MATCHUP NO. 2: Falcons S Dwight Lowery vs. Panthers TE Greg Olsen: With William Moore out, Lowery has been a stabilizing force for the Falcons young secondary. He came up with a big interception late against Tampa Bay. Olsen is quarterback Cam Newton’s favorite target. He caught six passes for 119 yards in the loss to the Eagles.

7. MATCHUP NO. 3: Falcons RT Ryan Schraeder vs. Panthers DE Charles Johnson: Schraeder is set to make his third start this season. He’s been steady in the previous starts against Detroit and Tampa Bay. Johnson has wrecked the Falcons’ tackles over the past years. But with Greg Hardy out, he only has four sacks this season and no multi-sack games.

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8. COMMUNITY CORNER: Coach of the week -- Corey Jarvis of Benjamin E. Mays High School has been selected as this week’s Atlanta Falcons High School coach of the week presented by Ford. Coach Jarvis enters his second season at Mays and is coming off a 29-6 victory over Miller Grove High School last Friday night.  The Raiders are 8-2 on the season and will play at South Paulding High School in the first round of postseason play.

Each week of the season, the winner of this award will receive a personalized certificate from the NFL, a commemorative game ball and a $1,000 grant from the NFL’s Youth Football Fund to his school's athletic department.

To submit a nomination for the Atlanta Falcons Coach of the Week program, please visit:

Captain in the community -- The Atlanta Falcons Captain in the Community presented by Ford is Arrington Farrar, a free safety at the Woodward Academy in College Park. Farrar has made several contributions to his community, including working on the Service Leadership Board and the Five Points Diversity Club at his school. He also serves as a mentor to youth through the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

The Captain in the Community program recognizes outstanding high school football student-athletes around the state of Georgia that demonstrate strong leadership skills both on-and-off the field.  Winners are selected by USA Football, the Official Youth Football Development Partner of the NFL. Additionally, each winner’s high school will receive a grant in the amount of $1,000 to support community initiatives courtesy of the Atlanta Falcons and the NFL’s Youth Football Fund.

To submit a nomination for the Atlanta Falcons Captain in the Community Program, please visit:

Cheer winner -- The Youth Team /Cheer Squad of the week presented by Ford are the 8U Cane Cuties, a youth cheer squad from Jonesboro.

This program recognizes outstanding youth and cheer squads around the state of Georgia through mid-November. Each winning squad’s organization will receive a grant in the amount of $1,000 courtesy of the Atlanta Falcons and the NFL’s Youth Football Fund.

To submit a nomination for the Atlanta Falcons Cheer Squad of the Week program, please visit:

9. DEPTH CHART: The Atlanta Falcons (3-6) released their official depth chart for the game against Carolina (3-6-1) which is set for 1 p.m. Sunday at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte.

Falcons linebacker Joplo Bartu making a stop. (Associated Press)


WR 84 Roddy White, 83 Harry Douglas, 14 Eric Weems

LT 70 Jake Matthews, 68 Gabe Carimi, 65 Cameron Bradfield

LG 63 Justin Blalock, 69 Harland Gunn

C 62 James Stone, 69 Harland Gunn

RG 75 Jon Asamoah, 69 Harland Gunn

RT 73 Ryan Schraeder, 68 Gabe Carimi, 64 Jonathan Scott

TE 80 Levine Toilolo, 86 Bear Pascoe

WR 11 Julio Jones, 17 Devin Hester, 18 Freddie Martino

QB 2 Matt Ryan, 13 TJ Yates, 12 Sean Renfree

RB 39 Steven Jackson, 32 Jacquizz Rodgers, 35 Antone Smith, 24 Devonta Freeman

FB 42 Patrick DiMarco


DE 71 Kroy Biermann, 50 Osi Umenyiora, 90 Stansly Maponga

DT 99 Tyson Jackson, 77 Ra’Shede Hageman, 98 Cliff Matthews

DT 96 Paul Soliai, 91 Corey Peters

DE 95 Jonathan Babineaux, 94 Jonathan Massaquoi, 93 Malliciah Goodman, 54 Tyler Starr

LB 55 Paul Worrilow, 52 Nate Stupar

LB 53 Prince Shembo, 59 Joplo Bartu

CB 23 Robert Alford, 28 Javier Arenas

CB 26 Josh Wilson, 27 Robert McClain, 28 Javier Arenas

S 36 Kemal Ishmael, 30 Charles Godfrey

S 20 Dwight Lowery, 41 Dezmen Southward

CB 21 Desmond Trufant, 28 Javier Arenas


K 3 Matt Bryant

KO 5 Matt Bosher

P 5 Matt Bosher

KR 17 Devin Hester, 14 Eric Weems

PR 17 Devin Hester, 14 Eric Weems

LS 47 Josh Harris

H 5 Matt Bosher

FALCONS FAN MAILBAG: We take your questions from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Friday.


GAME STORY: Falcons beat Bucs, end 5-game losing streak

NOTEBOOK: Jackson powers rushing attack with 81 yards

QUOTEBOARD: What the Falcons were saying after the win over the Bucs

PHOTO GALLERY: Falcons at Buccaneers 

Falcons victory by the numbers

COLUMN BY JEFF SCHULTZ: Falcons' bad news: no more games vs. Bucs

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About the Author

D. Orlando Ledbetter
D. Orlando Ledbetter
D. Orlando Ledbetter is the Atlanta Falcons beat writer for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.