The Cardinals and defensive end Calais Campbell (93) have to make life tough for Panthers quarterback Cam Newton.
Logan Thomas came on the practice field this week sporting not his normal No. 6 jersey but instead a No. 1.
The Cardinals often put black practice jerseys on certain players sporting the numbers of key offensive or defensive personnel on the scout team. Since the quarterbacks always wear black in practice, it just looked like Thomas had changed numbers.
But there was definite purpose this week as the Cardinals prep for their Saturday Wild Card playoff game against the Panthers in Carolina. There is no more crucial part of the Carolina offense the Cards must watch than quarterback Cam Newton – he of the No. 1 jersey number – because he is so different than what the Cards normally see.
(Coach Bruce Arians said Thomas looked "almost identical" to Newton. "He made some guys look silly out there and did a really good job of showing it.")
The Cards have had their issues with the scrambling Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick the past two games, but Newton isn't about scrambling as much as he is simply running. The Panthers have moved back to Newton's college roots a bit, turning Newton into a virtual running back on some plays and literally using power, in-between-the-tackle runs with their QB. At 6-foot-5 and 245 pounds, Newton is a load.
"I think Cam is the best pocket passer out of those (recent) quarterbacks," defensive end Calais Campbell said. "He can sit in the pocket and throw for 400 yards – I've seen him do it – so he's a little more patient with his running. He's the most physical runner of those guys too.
"No matter if you are going against Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick or Cam Newton, if you give them chances to make plays, they are going to get you. We've got to hit Cam early and often."
What's amazing is that Newton has been playing well after suffering a scary car accident in December. It only kept him out a game with a back issue, but he's playing like it never happened. In his two games since returning, Newton has 114 yards rushing on 18 carries.
"I'm lucky just to be alive," Newton said. "When you look at an event like that, of course, it scars you for the time being. But, good thing I was alright."
Now the Cardinals have to find a way to slow him down. Last season, the Cardinals sacked Newton seven times in a win, although that was a game in which linebackers Daryl Washington and Karlos Dansby shined – and both of them aren't around anymore.
"Ever since his car wreck, it seems like he's really turned into Superman," cornerback Patrick Peterson said. "You guys all know we're coming after the quarterback.
"It seems like he's getting back to his Auburn days, with the quarterback draws, the quarterback powers. He's looking like his old self. We don't want to make him look like Superman."
STANTON WILL NOT PLAY, SO LINDLEY STARTS
In news that should surprise no one, Arians said Drew Stanton will not be able to play with his bad knee and that Ryan
Lindley will start at quarterback Saturday. Stanton did not practice again Thursday.
The good news is that Arians said everyone else is ready to play. That includes linebacker Larry Foote, who sat out last week with a sore knee.
"It did a great deal to help him get fresh," Arians said.
Defensive tackle Dan Williams (foot) was upgraded to limited. Guard Jonathan Cooper (wrist/knee) and defensive end Frostee Rucker (ankle) remained limited. Even though the Cardinals are done with their week of practice – a walkthrough remains Friday at the hotel in Carolina – the final injury report doesn't come out until Friday.
For the Panthers, safety Thomas DeCoud (hamstring) was downgraded to DNP.
YOU PLAY LIKE YOU PRACTICE
Arians was thrilled with the practices the Cardinals had this week, particularly the one in pads in the chilly and wet weather of Wednesday.
"It was as good as any playoff practice I have ever seen," Arians said. "You had to say, 'Whoa.' You didn't have to say 'Sic 'em.' "
COOPER FIGHTS ANOTHER LOST SEASON
Cooper remained limited with his casted wrist that has prevented him from playing the past two games and now also a knee issue. It's been a difficult second season for the 2013 first-round pick, who lost his entire rookie year to a broken leg and then was supplanted in the lineup during training camp because he was slow to recover and also was dealing with a turf toe.
Cooper finally got in the lineup for two games, and the Cardinals happened to have their top two rushing games of the season. But against the Rams, Cooper hurt his wrist and it has kept him off the field again.
"(He's learned) more maturity, understanding the offense, understanding what I want as a coach and just growing as a man," offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said. "It's tough on him. He wants to be out there, and he was in the groove. He was playing well the couple games he did play and I can't wait to get him back. I'm excited for his future."
ANOTHER "FUTURES" PLAYER ADDED
The Cardinals signed another player to a "futures" deal Thursday when they inked tackle Cameron Bradfield for the 2015 season. Bradfield started 27 games in four seasons with Jacksonville before he was released earlier this season. He then had a brief stay with the Falcons before being cut.
Images from the 33-13 victory over Carolina in the NFC divisional round following the 2008 season