Eagle eye view on the enemy: Carolina Panthers
12 October 2017 Opinion
The Carolina Panthers may just make the Philadelphia Eagles meet their match. Both teams have a lot of the same strengths and weaknesses from what I can see. With mobile quarterbacks, pass rush success week to week, solid wide receiving corps, versatile RB field, some concerns due to injury on their respective offensive lines and weaker secondaries… this a a very interesting matchup.
Through week 5, the Panthers have a total of 1,636 offensive yards (for perspective: the Eagles currently have 1,989). Needless to say, the Panthers are moving the chains and holding the ball successfully on offense so far this season. The Eagles defensive strength has been shutting down the rushing game for the opposing offense but the Panthers only have 493 yards rushing. Their main offensive threat is in the passing game. It will be imperative of the Eagles defensive front to shut down Cam’s ability to extend plays and tackle these big-bodied receivers in Charlotte.
Starting center Ryan Kalil hasn’t play since week 2 of the season and has already been ruled OUT for Thursday night’s game. Considering they lost to the Saints but then beat the Patriots and Lions in that time, they are okay without him in there (although I do not think Patriots posed a pass rushing threat and the Lions lost DT Haloti Ngata during Sunday’s game, so we shall see how much an impact this truly has Thursday night).
Safeties Kurt Coleman and Demetrious Cox are also out for the prime time matchup. Coleman has been out since an injury during their week 4 victory over the Patriots. Cox is depth at the SS position behind Mike Adams, per the team’s website.
With injuries to two of the Panthers secondary players and no true CB1, I view this secondary as a weakness of this team. The Eagles have faced much stiffer competition in the secondary and produced. The Panthers have one interception this season and it was by none other than their star LB Luke Kuechly.
The Panthers pass rush is legit. They have 17 sacks compared to Eagles 12 so far this season. They got to Matt Stafford all day on Sunday vs. what many consider to be a solid offensive line in Detroit. At 37 years old, Julius Peppers still has it. He leads the Panthers DL with 5.5 sacks so far this season. He will be true test for Big V Thursday night. From the snaps Big V has played so far this season, I truly think he has grown and is up for the challenge ahead.
Devin Funchess is having a successful season so far. Following Sunday’s game in Detroit he was dealing with a knee injury but is expected to play Thursday night. He will be a prime target for Cam in game action along with Kelvin Benjamin. The Panthers have dominated in moving the chains via the air with 1,254 passing yards on offense. The Eagles secondary will need to be on alert whenever the ball is snapped. I suspect Jim Schwartz will try and eliminate that threat by getting to Cam with the 4-man rush and some blitzing action. With their starting center out, having Fletcher Cox back in the game (which we still don’t know is happening or not) would be a huge boost to our chances winning.
The Panthers have a versatile running back corps in Jonathan Stewart, Christian McCaffrey, Fozzy Whittaker and Cameron Artis-Payne. Eagles have struggled versus the shifty smaller backs like McCaffrey and it seems he is finally starting to be utilized by that offense after his performance vs the Lions Sunday. Eagles will need to be aware of all the tricks and misdirections the Panthers backfield has going on as well. They use a lot of screens and jet sweeps with a mobile QB? Nightmare for defenses trying to be on alert to shut down the play from the start. I think the Eagles have the personnel to handle it. They see a lot of those threats in Eagles practices. I have confidence they will approach this game like they did vs the Chiefs. Although we lost that game, Eagles held the league-leading-rusher Kareem Hunt under 100 yards in that game. It will be important to do that tonight.
The Panthers are a powerful, passing team. They tend to start off slow in games but once they find a rhythm, good luck. The Eagles must not allow Cam and company to find a rhythm. Keeping Cam off the field is a very significant aspect for Eagles winning this prime time away game. If the Eagles defense can be as dominate as they were in Philly this past Sunday and the offense is able to control the clock, I believe the Eagles will win.