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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears linebackers Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs marveled at the performance of Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton over the first three weeks, saying those games would still be impressive even if it was a veteran lining up under center instead of a rookie.
The fact remains, however, that Newton is a rookie playing just his fourth NFL game Sunday when the Panthers face the Bears at Soldier Field. The Bears plan to defend accordingly.
"For a rookie to do those things in the NFL is not easy to do," Briggs said. "You never forget that no matter how well a player's played, he is a rookie. He's young, and he likes to put his nose down in it. When quarterbacks are like that -- like to run and get their nose in it -- defensive players need to be licking their chops in order to get their shots in."
So it's apparent the salivating has commenced in Chicago's locker room, despite the considerable heft carried by Newton, who is 6-foot-5, 248 pounds, and plays with considerable mobility for his size, not to mention dynamic arm strength.
Newton has thrown for 1,012 yards through the first three games with four touchdowns and four interceptions.
"Yes, he's a rookie but he's playing at a high level, and better than most quarterbacks who've been in the league for however long," Urlacher said. "He's playing well, throwing the ball over the place. [He's] making plays, keeps plays alive with his legs. There are some things he hasn't seen because he's a rookie."
It's likely the Bears plan on showing Newton a couple of them. But for the most part, the Bears hope to give the rookie a strong dose of their Cover-2 heavy scheme, which will force Newton to play mistake-free football to keep alive long drives.
Against a standard four-man rush, which is Chicago's preferred defense, Newton has thrown four interceptions and suffered two sacks this season according to ESPN Stats & Info, while generating a passer rating of 76.7 and a QBR of 52.4.
Newton has completed more passes (10) of 21 yards or more than any other quarterback in the league.
"We've heard how poised he is in the pocket and how he comes to work," defensive end Israel Idonije said. "He's a big guy. He's a d-lineman. He's a d-end at the quarterback position. You've got to swarm, and he doesn't like going down. You've got to hit him and knock him over. We've faced plenty of mobile quarterbacks so the game plan is the same: Play our system, and [have] 11 guys run to the ball. If we do those things, we'll be OK."
Michael C. Wright covers the Bears for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN 1000.