The Cards plan on pressuring Panthers quarterback Cam Newton much like Giants linebacker (and ex-Cardinal) Alex Hall did in the preseason.
"Luck of the draw," safety Kerry Rhodes said with a smile, after considering the Cardinals, for a second straight season, will open against a quarterback who was just the No. 1 overall pick in the draft.
There are many differences in the approach against the Rams' Sam Bradford last year and the Panthers' Cam Newton this year – not the least of which is the Cards' own change in defensive coordinators. Newton may be a 6-foot-5, 250-pound physical specimen, and a raw passer. None of that particularly matters.
"We're going to pressure, that's what we do, and I don't care if they know it," Horton said Wednesday. "We're coming after him.
"Young, old, the kid out in Green Bay (Aaron Rodgers), the guy in New England (Tom Brady) is a good quarterback, but we're going to come after people. We make no bones about it."
Last season, under then-coordinator Bill Davis, the Cardinals played coy in the week leading up to seeing Bradford the first time. They never did really come after him, instead choosing to force Bradford to throw and make his own mistakes. He did – safety Adrian Wilson had his best game of the year with a pair of interceptions and a sack, and the Cards added a third pick and second sack – and Arizona won on the road.
Newton obviously adds an element the Cardinals didn't have to see with Bradford – a runner. How much Newton does of that is open to debate.
The Panthers want Newton to polish his pocket skills, but he is so good running with the ball, it would seem foolish to tell him to stop, especially at his size. That mobility also could work for Carolina if and when the Cardinals bring the pressure.
"I just want to keep having the same mentality as far as taking what the defense gives me," Newton said. "If the play allows me to extend it, I will. But I'm not going to pre-determine (anything) because that's when sacks happen."
Cardinals rookie cornerback Patrick Peterson knows all about Newton's running ability. When the two met last year while Newton was at Auburn and Peterson at LSU, "he only had to throw five passes, he was running all over us," Peterson said with a chuckle.
That's not completely true. Newton was 10-of-16 passing for 86 yards that day, but Auburn won, 24-17, in large part because Newton piled up 217 yards and two touchdowns rushing on 28 carries. "He and I didn't have too much of a clash," Peterson added.
Certainly, the Cards don't expect Newton to run that many times. Nor will there be any boasting or guarantees. The unit was stung enough times last year that it hasn't forgotten; the Cards did lose to the Panthers and rookie quarterback Jimmy Clausen in December, a result still fresh in their collective head.
"I treat him like any other quarterback," defensive tackle Darnell Dockett said. "He's the first pick of the draft, and I don't go into it underestimating him. One thing I know about quarterbacks, doesn't matter who it is, you give him enough time, he'll get the ball off."
Horton said the Cards have installed "enough" of the defense to be able to pressure like they want, although the whole playbook has yet to be installed. Horton said he is pleased where his defense is right now, and insisted their opposing quarterback – even though he is a rookie – will be a good test.
"This kid has a big trophy on his bookshelf, somewhere, from the Downtown Athletic Club," Horton said. "The kid is talented. If you let someone, he's going to beat you, I don't care who you are. Ben Roethlisberger in his rookie year went undefeated (in the regular season). Just because he is young, doesn't mean he can't play."
But just because Newton is talented or has some unique skills and size doesn't mean the Cardinals aren't equipped to handle him either.
"We go make sure all our screws are tight," said safety Kerry Rhodes, "it really doesn't matter who is the quarterback."