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Josh Portis helping Seahawks prepare for Panthers

By Bill Swartz

While fans and media debate whether Russell Wilson or Matt Flynn is the best man to lead the Seahawks offense, the most important quarterback in practice this week might be Josh Portis.

He’s the guy imitating Cam Newton in practice.

Cam Newton’s rare combination of size and speed allows the Panthers to incorporate some read option into their offense, which is otherwise uncommon in the NFL. (AP photo)

Seattle’s defense faces an enormous challenge containing Newton and the Panthers’ explosive offense, which includes a variety of read-option plays.

Portis, the Seahawks’ practice-squad quarterback, ran some option offense in college and told me about the ingredients to make it a success.

“You just key on one person coming off the line,” he said. “If he comes up the field, give the ball up. If he crashes on the running back, just keep it, or pitch it.”

It sounds simple, especially when you have an incredible athlete like Newton at the controls.

“He’s 6-5 and 250 pounds now,” Portis said of Newton. “Not only is he a giant, but he can run. It will be a great challenge for us, but we have one of the best defenses in the league, and my money is on them.”

Portis believes excellent running quarterbacks like Newton and Wilson are tempting more and more NFL coaches to install some sort of option or run-spread formations like the Oregon Ducks use.

“I think the NFL is evolving with more of the mobile quarterbacks,” Portis said. “Most of the guys you see go in the first or second round are not stand-still, pocket quarterbacks. They can move around a little bit.”

To pull off the perfect option play, a quarterback must be willing to occasionally take a violent hit as he’s pitching the ball. Portis said he’s fine with impersonating Newton as long as he doesn’t have to take the same punishment Seattle’s defense is preparing to dish out Sunday against Carolina.

Note: The Seahawks have ruled out guard John Moffitt (knee) for Sunday’s game.