Carolina Central: Episode One

Hello everybody, this will be a new series named "Carolina Central" where I will be covering & discussing the team of two states, the Carolina Panthers. I will be sharing my thoughts & might even bring in a guest speaker to give their input in the coming future. Anyways, I hope you all enjoy today's episode!


Week One Review


Well, Week One is officially in the books & as some teams had their fair share of first-season wins. Carolinas wasn’t the performance Panther Fans expected as we struggled heavily in the first half to come back to take the lead late in the Fourth. But unfortunately, lost by a game-winning FG kick by Browns rookie kicker Cade Yorks and was set up by two controversial calls. Overall, there were numerous negatives, but at the same time, there were positives to look upon; I’m going to share in a minute but tell me your thoughts on the game below!


Negatives


Before the game I wrote down “Keys” for what  we needed to do in order to win which was: 

- Stay Discipline On Both Ends 


- Utilize CMC Wisely 


- Carolinas Run Defense Has To Take Hold Of Cleveland’s Ground Game 


- Make Baker Stay Comfortable In The Pocket + No Forced Passes 


-  Smart/Quick Play-Calls 


- Give WRs Opportunities To Make BIG Plays


What did Carolina do for the majority of the game? The opposite, unfortunately, is going from snaps being fumbled to CMC being misused & Carolina's run defense being completely non-existent throughout the game. I know we just finished Week One, where everyone is starting to get settled down into their own, and there are 16 more games left where teams can approve overtime. But there's no guarantee that this won't happen again this season. Adding all these key value players & new additions to the coaching staff would hopefully spark new energy to this team, but then you see the same or worse results coming from last season out of the break aside from Special Teams. Going forward, I want to dive deeper into our run defense and our utilization of our star RB CMC because those two are the main aspects for Carolina falling behind in Week 1.


Run Defense 


Coming into this game, I knew we would be face to face with arguably the best RB room in the league, so I wasn't expecting Carolina to take complete control of both Chubb and Hunt. Since they're known for gaining a good amount of yardage after contact, and as expected, that's what happened on Sunday as Carolina allowed a total of 217 rushing yards. Including the star RB Nick Chubb forcing 10 missed tackles from the Panthers' defense, a negative habit we had last season as we ended the 2021-22 campaign missing a total of 106 tackles. So this is a defensive area the Panthers need to bring more attention to, especially with the young talent on defense they have and the defensive minds we have on the coaching staff with the likes of Steve Wilks, Paul Pasqualoni, and Al Holcomb. Especially when it comes down to the following running backs we're up against, for example, Saquon Barkley, Alvin Kamara, Najee Harris, Joe Mixon, Cordarrelle Patterson, etc. So looking back at how we started the season defensively, teams are going to be looking at taking advantage of our run defense down the stretch now, so hopefully, we go back to looking like how we were defensively early in the 2021-22 campaign with our power-rushing defense. 


CMC Utilization 


Christian McCaffrey is undoubtedly our best player on the team all around; he's everything you want out of a fullback. His elusiveness ability w/ his agility, how good his route running + hands are, including his blocking ability. So when you have a versatile & dynamic player like him that also has a history of season-ending injuries due to being overplayed, the thought process for the Panthers should be to not overplay him but at the same time don't underuse him. Utilize Christian wisely, especially when we signed a power running back during the offseason, D'Onta Foreman, to be our RB2 behind CMC [although only playing 7 Snaps]. But not just with his snaps; create better opportunities for him to get the balls or make special plays for the offense because if there's one player, the offense runs through while on the field, it's CMC. So that's why what happened in the first half against Cleveland can't happen again when he only had under 10 snaps in the first half, which pulled us back a little from achieving that game, that includes having to deal with Cleveland's defensive line, which didn't help either. So hopefully, coming up against New York, both Matt Rhule and Ben McAdoo have a better game plan for Christain McCaffrey. 


Positives 


Although there were some things I would rather forget, there are also some positives from Week 1 that I've noticed; for example, the new Panther, Xavier Woods, who had an impressive debut where he allowed zero catches while being targeted 5 times, one pass deflection, 10 total tackles [w/ zero missed tackles] including allowing a pass rating of 39.6. He is already one of the few bright spots to this team defensively, as a solid pickup as he's coming off an improving season out of Minnesota, where he was seen to be good against the run but average at best in pass coverage. But with Woods now under Steve Wilks, Carolina's defensive pass game coordinator, I expect Woods to be building off of last season to be a more improved man-to-man & coverage defender like what he showed in Week 1. 


The Fourth Quarter Comeback by Carolina is something positive to look upon; yes, it would've been nice to have that same energy for all four quarters but still watching how the offense and defense adjust, Baker Mayfield being more comfortable on the field than he was in the 1st half, utilizing CMC more & setting up great plays for him, getting the receivers more involved, better defensive coverage and looked like to slow down Cleveland's run game. Everything in the fourth quarter looked like what I was expecting coming into this game, but Cade York happened after two controversial flags were called on Carolina, as York banked a 58-yard FG late in the final seconds of the game. But although the outcome didn't go our way, hopefully, coming into New York, Carolina doesn't go back to square one and builds on that momentum and energy they had both offensively and defensively. 


What's Next? 


Well, tomorrow we play the New York Giants, who are just coming off a win against the Tennessee Titans. So we should go into this game with precaution because we can either lead from the last game and dominate from all ends or end up like last season's game against New York. I expect the Giants to use Barkley against our run defense aggressively, so Paul Pasqualoni, Steve Wilks, and the whole defensive staff need to keep their heads on a swivel. Since the Giants cut Blake Martinez recently & Bradberry is now gone, both big pieces are missing from the Giants' defense. However, they still got to watch out for their secondary with McKinney, Adoree' Jackson & Tae Crowder. 






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