The number jumps off the page, and it jumped out at Mike McCarthy, too.
“Four twenty-two,” McCarthy said on Monday, his immediate response when asked his impressions of Carolina rookie quarterback Cam Newton, whom the Packers will face this week. “That was impressive.”
Yes, it was. Newton passed for 422 yards on Sunday against Arizona, the most ever by a rookie quarterback in his NFL debut. His final pass, on fourth-and-5 inside the Arizona 10, came up one yard short and his team fell, 28-21, but all the talk afterward was about Newton’s sterling performance and where the Panthers could be headed with the former Auburn and BCS national champion QB at the controls.
After giving his players the weekend off – many came in on their own to use the weight room and training room – McCarthy had the team come in for meetings on Monday morning. The most extensive meeting was a film session reviewing the Carolina-Arizona game, the first step in preparing to face the Panthers in their home opener next Sunday.
Newton completed 24 of 37 passes, threw for two touchdowns and compiled a 110.4 rating. His 422 yards were three more than the Saints’ Drew Brees threw for against the Packers at Lambeau Field last Thursday.
Veteran wideout Steve Smith was Newton’s favorite target, catching seven passes for 178 yards and both TDs, including a 77-yarder. Newton didn’t run much, gaining just 18 yards on eight carries, but that’s a dimension the Packers will have to prepare for, too. He did have a rushing touchdown, on a 1-yard dive. Surprisingly for such a mobile quarterback, Newton was sacked four times.
“He looked like he was in control of their offense,” said McCarthy, adding that Newton’s outing was all the more impressive considering the rookie had no offseason program prior to training camp.
The Packers will return to the practice field on Wednesday, when McCarthy said he’d have a further update on injured cornerback Tramon Williams.
After a cramped training camp and the Thursday night opener, McCarthy will be happy to get his team on the normal seven-day regular-season routine. That routine features practices Wednesday through Friday, game on Sunday, film review and meetings on Monday, and the players’ off day on Tuesday.
Green Bay will play six consecutive Sundays between now and the bye week at the end of October, and that’s the kind of schedule McCarthy appreciates.
“This gives us a chance to get us into that regularity that I feel is very important in your preparation,” McCarthy said. “Rhythm and timing are not always about just during the game.”
One potential irregularity the Packers will have to watch for is the early-season Carolina weather. At this point, Green Bay may be catching a break, as the forecast calls for temperatures only in the mid-70s on Sunday in Charlotte. It’s expected to be in the high 80s and low 90s down there early this week before cooling off a bit.
On Sunday, Detroit played in Tampa, where the heat index hit triple digits and Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford had some cramping issues, though the Lions prevailed, 27-20. The Packers haven’t played an early-season game in a true southern climate since late September of 2008, down in Tampa.
“Unless it’s extraordinary, I don’t think it’s a big deal,” McCarthy said, referring to the weather. “Our hydration is the most important thing we have to do. Now, if we have to roll players and be more conscious of substitutions, we’ll do that. Those are the types of things we’ll talk about as a staff and make sure we’re ready.” Additional coverage - Sept. 12