Last week we broke down the Panthers' 1st preseason game by looking at the Panthers offense v. Giants defense and vice versa, so the plan will be much the same for the rest of the preseason. Tonight in Miami the Panthers face another team in flux, the Miami Dolphins. The 'phins seem to be in a similar position as the Panthers, a good team who are more talented than their record shows, often held down in part due to the division they play in, one that includes the New England Patriots and New York Jets. Much like the Panthers they are trying to find answers at their QB position also, waiting for Chad Henne to show he can be a long term answer while also exploring other options, including former Panther Matt Moore.
X-Factor: Mike Goodson vs. Miami Dolphins run defense
Goodson had a chance for significant time against the Giants so that DeAngelo and J-Stew only got a taste of the action. Given that Stewart has been nursing a minor injury this week I expect he'll continue to get a lot of looks at RB. Goodson will be looking to make amends for his case of fumble-itis last week, and depending on how he looks against a rather stout Miami run defense will determine if Goodie remains in the good graces of the coaches and cements himself as the #3, or whether Tyrell Sutton gets more looks at the spot, relegating Goodson to being a specialist.
UPDATE: As it stands both Jonathan Stewart and Mike Goodson are listed as 'questionable' for tonight's game. Obviously if both players miss the game then our X-factor's become Tyrell Sutton and Josh Vaughan who will be responsible for shouldering a lot of the load tonight.
More after the jump
Carolina Panthers passing offense vs. Miami Dolphins pass defense
Your quarterback is always going to have a bulls-eye on his back. When that quarterback was also the #1 pick in the draft that bulls-eye gets bigger, and when your QB is 6'5", 251lbs then it's the size of Miami beach. Dolphins' OLB Karlos Dansby (a former Auburn Tiger) has gone on the record as saying he wants to get a good sized hit on Cam Newton
"Definitely," Dansby said. "I want one. I definitely want one."
Last week against New York the Panthers allowed the Giants to get to the QB with regularity, so it will be curious to see tonight if they can give Newton adequate protection under center. Last week the Dolphins registered 3 sacks, 2 INTs and a FF off the Falcons' QBs, so we know they can abuse quarterbacks if given the opportunity. Running with the 1st team for significant time will be a real test for Newton, one all Carolina Panthers fans should relish seeing.
Carolina Panthers rushing offense vs. Miami Dolphins rush defense
Last week the Dolphins' run defense allowed just over 4 YPC from the Falcons' top three rushers- Michael Turner, Jason Snelling and Jacquizz Rodgers. In the case of Turner and Snelling they typically average more yards, and Rodgers is expected to be a pleasant surprise as a 3rd down back. This should prove a good test to see how Double Trouble look. Meanwhile, Duke Robinson has shown himself to be undisciplined on and off the field for much of his short career, but he has these moments that standout where he steamrolls a defender in the run game, and it's those gems that keeps him around. With the OL to look thin again this week it will be curious to see how Duke steps up for the RBs.
Last week I really thought the Panthers would struggle with 10 starters out, but they found a way to win... much like the Dolphins found a way against the Falcons. The road will not be easy by any stretch of the imagination, but Cam Newton does bring a swagger and confidence to the offense that seems infectious. His first true steps start tonight, and I think he'll fair well.