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McDermott: Newton 'was an MVP of the league for a reason'

The Buffalo Bills' defensive front had little trouble dealing with New York Jets quarterback Josh McCown in last Sunday's season-opening victory.

No surprise there. McCown is, at best, a journeyman for a team that has very little in the way of options at the most important position.

All of that changes Sunday when the Bills face the Carolina Panthers and Cam Newton, one of the top quarterbacks in the game. The Bills' defensive linemen and linebackers must cope with Newton's considerable size (6-foot-5 and 245 pounds), strength and overall talent as a passer and runner.

"I mean, all you've got to do is look at just the physical attributes, the talent that he has," veteran defensive tackle Kyle Williams said Wednesday, as the Bills began preparing in earnest for the Panthers. "The tough thing about playing a veteran like McCown is he knows what's going on, he knows where to go with the ball and different things like that. And Cam does as well, but it's a different challenge and it's a big challenge.

"There are so many challenges that come with facing him and playing against him, and then you add in some of the weapons they have, it's a great challenge. We've got a lot to prepare for and we've got a lot of work to do."

No one knows that better than Bills coach Sean McDermott, who routinely dealt with all that Newton had to offer as a player while McDermott served as the Panthers' defensive coordinator the past six seasons.

"He was an MVP of the league for a reason a couple years ago, and I had a front-row seat to watch him on a day-to-day basis, and watch his strengths," McDermott said. "The size, the speed, the power, the arm strength. That's what we're up against. And then you add the other weapons that they have, that'll be a huge challenge for us.

"Each quarterback brings a little bit different skill set to the table. Cam has some uniqueness to his skill set. He has the ability to pull the ball down and run, so we have to be mindful of that ... with the arm strength, we have to be mindful of that. He can extend plays, so there's just some different things that Cam brings to the table that maybe other quarterbacks don't."

For defensive end Jerry Hughes, the primary focus is keeping Newton contained and watching his every move because "he can make every throw on the football field." With highly talented pass-catchers such as tight end Greg Olsen and wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin at Newton's disposal, Hughes is gearing up "for a four-quarter battle."

Williams is well aware of the Newton's tendency to extend plays with as much mobility as any QB this side of Tyrod Taylor but with the added dimension of a much larger physique and raw power to either muscle away from would-be tacklers or get rid of the ball when they're draped all over him.

Williams also knows what he and the rest of the Bills' defenders must do to prevent Newton from turning an extended play into a big gain.

"We have to gang tackle, we have to get a lot of people to the ball," he said. "And with him playing quarterback, it's not just (something that has to be done with) receivers or backs. Now you have to include him in it to be able to get him on the ground."

"Eleven hats to the football," said defensive end Shaq Lawson, who is looking forward to his first encounter with Newton. "If one guy misses him, we've all got to be around him to make sure we get him to the ground."

Newton, who only played one series during the preseason as he recovered from shoulder surgery, looked rusty through the first half of the Panthers' 23-3 season-opening victory against San Francisco last Sunday.

He found his groove in the second half, however, and then the Panthers leaned on their running game to put away the win.

Still, Panthers coach Ron Rivera was among those who publicly pointed out that Newton didn't have the smoothest showing through the first two quarters against the 49ers, noting that the quarterback was late on some throws. As far as McDermott was concerned, however, Newton looked very much like his old self.

"I thought he did," McDermott said. "They put up 23 points and any time you can do that in the NFL, that's saying something. So I thought they were productive offensively. They moved the ball and spread the ball around and I thought he did a good job."

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