Easy comparison between Redskins' RG3 and Panthers' Newton, but ...

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Sports,NFL,Redskins,John Keim

ASHBURN -- The comparisons work because they run a similar offense -- to a point. Carolina drafted Cam Newton and started using the option game featuring a quarterback who can run or pass -- and scare defenses. A year later, the Redskins drafted Robert Griffin III, installed the option and watched defenses struggle with his all-around game.

Then again, the comparisons really don't work. Newton is 6-foot-5 and 245 pounds. Players say he's less apt to scramble from the pocket and more likely to try and hit a big play downfield. Griffin is 6-foot-2, 217 pounds, more likely to scramble and less likely to force passes downfield. The offenses have subtle differences, too.

"They have different styles of running," said one defensive coach who has faced both players. "The thing that allows Cam to do it more regularly is the fact that he can take the punishment. Robert can do it, and he does a great job of it, and if he protects himself, he'll be OK. Robert is just more elusive. He has more suddenness."

Redskins nose tackle Barry Cofield said playing vs. Newton is like facing a tight end, while Griffin is more like a receiver.

"Carolina employs Cam more in the red zone," Cofield said. "He's a finisher. But he's not a consistent run threat throughout the field. The dynamic in the run game is different. They use a more traditional run game, and then they have a guy who's athletic who can hurt you in the red zone. Robert's a threat all the time. Robert's a scrambler.

"I just think it's more difficult against our offense because of the deception and knowing who has the ball. In camp I remember not knowing where the ball was. I didn't know if he was taking it himself or throwing it. It's more deceptive, and Robert is just faster and a more explosive athlete."

But they will be linked because of their style of play, running the zone read option game. They also are the last two Heisman Trophy winners. And they will be linked because of Newton's success a year ago that Griffin eventually could match or exceed.

As a rookie last season, Newton threw for 4,051 yards, 21 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. He also ran for 706 yards. Griffin is on pace to throw for 3,556 yards, 16 touchdowns and six interceptions while running for 952 yards.

Not that Griffin wants to be known as Cam Newton Jr. Like anyone else, he wants to carve out his own identity. Besides, the above stats aren't what he's seeking.

"I'd rather be compared to an Aaron Rodgers, someone who has won Super Bowls," Griffin said. "You want to go out there and win."

For Newton, his second season has been more challenging: He has thrown five touchdown passes and eight interceptions for the 1-6 Panthers. But he has rushed for 310 yards. Panthers coach Ron Rivera said one difference is that defenses are playing softer zone coverage to prevent deep plays and also limit how much Newton scrambles.

"As people get to study more and more as to what Washington is doing, it'll make it tougher on them," Rivera said. "Right now they're enjoying the opportunity. It's new. It's fresh."

Perhaps it will stay that way in Year 2 for Griffin. It hasn't for Newton, and now he's dealing with life as a struggling second-year quarterback.

"I've been learning so much about myself," Newton said. "Has it been humbling? Yes, but to a degree. ... This time last year there were a lot of things that were being said about myself. Sooner or later things will work out."

jkeim@washingtonexaminer.com

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John Keim

Staff Reporter - Washington Redskins
The Washington Examiner