As James pointed out on Cat Scratch Radio Tuesday night we saw some subtle changes in the player packages and amount of snaps certain players did or did not get against the Cowboys. In light of GM Marty Hurney's ouster these changes might be an indicator of what we might expect this week against the Bears.
We have already heard the rumor that Garry Williams has been dropped from the starting line up while Byron Bell will move back out to RT. I very good move obviously. Jeff Byers has been mentioned as the replacement at RG. Byers is listed as a center on the roster and he only got 8 snaps last week against the Cowboys, I assume on special teams. I was hoping he might have received some snaps last week that we could take a look at but not an option. I guess we have to cross our fingers that Byers is up for the task of taking on Bears NG Stephen Paea.
RB Snaps Analysis
At RB we were not only surprised to see Jonathan Stewart get the start but also play 89% (55/62) of the snaps. Williams on the other hand plays only 5 snaps and carried the ball 2 times. My theory on this change is Williams was being punished for his fumble the game before against the Seahawks. Just ask rookie Joe Adams if you think Rivera doesn't put value on ball security. Considering Williams rarely fumbled early in his career if confident he will correct that provided Rivera even gives him a chance to redeem himself. If there is one guy who might leave Carolina t the trade deadline I bet it would be Williams.
FB Mike Tolbert also saw his snaps drop from a previous average around 50-60% of the snaps to 24% (15/62) against the Cowboys. It 's my impression he made a bigger impact this game with fewer snaps though since the Panthers used more traditional running pre-snap formations. I expect to see Tolbert's numbers back up this week against the Bears as he is used as an outlet against the pass rush.
LB & S Snaps Analysis
LB Luke Kuechly's move to the middle has resulted in his snaps going from 60% to 100% meaning he now stays on the field on 3rd down. That has better continue in my opinion. So which LB came off the field on 3rd down? Actually it looks like in many cases all three stayed on the field as James Anderson (81%) and Thomas Davis (61%) still had significant snap counts. As it turns out when the Panthers brought on corner Josh Thomas in the nickel package (46%) it would appear FS Haruki Nakamura (46%) went to the bench. Sounds like we played a Cover 1 a lot. That or Sherrod Martin (44%) is simply eating into Nakamura's snaps.
DT Snaps Analysis
Up front we saw Andre Neblett finally get some significant action this week with 25 snaps (37%) as he rotated with Dwan Edwards (63%) at RDT. We saw a more even split between Ron Edwards (43%) and back-up Sione Fua (32%) at NT. I thought this group played well so don't be surprised if Frank Kearse is inactive again against the Bears.