INDIANAPOLIS–* *He offers a rare breed of a quarterback built like a tight end, that can run like a running back and yet has one of the strongest arms in the NFL.
For the third time this season, the Colts face a rookie quarterback as the 2011 top overall pick Cam Newton comes to Lucas Oil Stadium this Sunday with the Carolina Panthers.
Newton is on the minds of every Colts defender because of his ability to inflict damage both on the ground and through the air.
Defensive end Dwight Freeney has seen just about every type of quarterback this league can offer, but even he admitted that Newton is a unique challenge just 10 games into his NFL career.
"I've always said that the animal you hunt, the quarterback is that animal," said Freeney. "You have to know what kind of animal he is, and Cam is an athlete. He's a guy that they love to have him have the ball in his hands making plays. They're throwing the ball, running the ball (with) planned runs (and) non-planned runs and he's all over the place with it, which he should be. He's young, he's got all that energy and he's running around. Nothing hurts right now, it's all good. It's definitely going to be a challenge."
Newton already has broken or is on pace to eclipse numerous rookie records for quarterbacks. He is just three touchdowns away from setting the quarterback single-season record for rushing scores. He has tallied nine times on rushes in 10 outings.
In the past, the Colts have faced a similar quarterback in former Titans star Vince Young. When Freeney was asked to compare the two, he gave the slight nod to the Panthers rookie.
"I think he's a little faster, may throw the ball better," Freeney said. "(The Panthers) do a lot of things with him. Some of them are planned rushes, like a QB draw, and then some of them are just him making a play with his feet. You have to treat him like a running back.
"You'd better have 11 guys (running) to the ball. A guy like that, he's throwing people off, he's spinning, he's hurdling. He's doing all types of stuff."
Newton's nine rushing touchdowns rank him third in the NFL, and his 77 carries are 12 more than any other quarterback.
"He's really athletic and he's got a good stride on him, so he's real fast," cornerback Kevin Thomas said. "He's pretty much a part of the run game, so he has a lot of opportunities to run the ball. They have plays called just for him to run the ball. He presents some problems. We just have to tackle him."
At 6-5 and 248 pounds, Newton is not built like a typical quarterback. While he can run by most defenders on the field, his strength to shed would-be tacklers might be his greatest attribute.
"He's a big guy, fast guy, probably stiff-arm you from five yards away," linebacker Pat Angerer said. "It's going to be tough. If everybody does their job, you should be able to stop him. Sometimes when people do their job, he can still outrun you and run you over. He's definitely capable of taking over the game."
In the passing department, Newton has completed 60 percent of his attempts while throwing for 12 touchdowns. He has led an offense that ranks fifth in the NFL with 400.9 yards per game.
"A guy like that at quarterback, it's almost like they are playing 12 guys on the field because you have an extra blocker. It's definitely a challenge this week but week in and week out in the NFL, you are going to have some challenges," safety David Caldwell said.
On Wednesday afternoon Head Coach Jim Caldwell continued to sing the praises of Newton. Caldwell credited Newton's superior athleticism, along with Carolina implementing a few plays that he ran in college while winning the Heisman Trophy in his brief career at Auburn.
"He also gives you a problem because they run sort of a semblance to what he ran at Auburn with an option feel to it," Caldwell said. "Also, (they are) running some true option and he runs a lot of quarterback draws which he's very, very good at because he can run those and he's got great vision, particularly in the red zone. He knows how to get that ball in the end zone.
"He uses every inch of the field. He's a guy that certainly can escape. He can get out and make plays outside of the pocket, and he's not just looking to run."
So far in 2011, the Colts have faced rookie quarterbacks in Cincinnati's Andy Dalton and Jacksonville's Blaine Gabbert. Sunday marks the third first-year signal-caller the Colts will see, and Tennessee quarterback Jake Locker in week 16 could be the fourth.
"It's a good group," Caldwell said. "Obviously it's one reason why they were drafted so high because of the fact that they are guys that are talented guys that are developing and making good strides."
When facing a player of Newton's caliber, Caldwell said no single unit on the defense is more responsible than the other. The key is all three working together and playing through the whistle.
"He does put stress on not only your linebackers because of the run and pass problems that he creates, (but also) your secondary because of the fact that they have to stay in coverage for so long because he can scramble and get outside of the pocket and make plays," said Caldwell. "Not only that, but up front if you're going to rush him, you might want to think about staying in your rush lanes to try to contain him as much as you possibly can. You're not going to be able to contain him completely. He's just so athletic. Oftentimes, you'll see him even bounce backwards where he can get enough room where he can out run you around the edge. You're not going to contain him completely, but you'd better try to keep him under wraps as much as you can."
In other roster news, running back Darren Evans has returned to the club's practice squad. The Indianapolis product from Warren Central High School has appeared in two games with the Colts this season.