TAMPA — The Buccaneer defense has one primary task in Sunday’s season opener against the Panthers.
Keep quarterback Cam Newton out of his comfort zone.
Newton had his way with Tampa Bay last year as Carolina posted two lopsided victories. The No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 draft completed 41-of-61 passes for 484 yards and four touchdowns against the Bucs, adding 118 yards and two scores on the ground.
“He had too much time and got comfortable,’’ Bucs Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said Monday, regarding last season’s effort against Newton. “He’s not a guy you want to get comfortable, because then he gives you those highlight plays, making those Barry Sanders cuts and making people look bad.’’
Newton led Carolina to the NFC South title in 2013, but he will enter Sunday’s matchup nursing a hairline rib fracture.
“What I remember most is how big and fast he is in person,’’ said Bucs second-year defensive tackle Akeem Spence. “We’ve got to keep Cam in the pocket because once he gets out, he can outrun guys. When you see his stride in action and you’re taking 40 steps to catch up to his 10, it’s tough.’’