This is the second part in a two-part key match-up analysis of the Panthers upcoming game against the Bucs. This edition focuses on the Panthers defense and its match-up with the Bucs offense. The Bucs are coming off a week 1 win at home against the Browns in a game the Bucs showed an improved defense and a lucky bounce offense. Did you see their first TD catch in the end zone? When the ball bounces like that you know its your day. The Panthers defense though got some similar bounces to go their way in week one as well so this might be a battle of karmas!
When I look at the match-ups on the Bucs offense I immediately look at the wide receivers since the secondary is struggling in deep coverage. This problem is compounded by the questionable status of CB Chris Gamble who injured his ankle in practice on Thursday. Fortunately the Panthers will be facing a young, but talented pair of WR’s.
CBs Richard Marshall and Captain Munnerlyn vs. WRs Mike Williams and Sammie Stroughter
The Panthers will do their best to keep the taller Marshall on Williams so the smaller Captain can cover the 5’10" Stroughter. Both CBs have given up big plays either last week or in the preseason. What keeps me hopeful in this match-up is both Panther CBs are very aggressive in man coverage. As long as they continue to trust their safeties they should be able to make plays in the ball. The only question is whether they should be trusting their safeties.
It’s also worth mentioning that recently signed CJ Wilson will see a lot of action in this game. I’m not sure whether Wilson would line up as the nickel corner or would they prefer to move Munnerlyn to the nickel and put Wilson on the outside.
DE Charles Johnson vs. RT Jeremy Trueblood (Named after my favorite show!)
Trueblood is a huge RT at 6’5" 320lbs who’s size and long-arms can suck the life out of a pass rusher. He possesses good balance and plays with a mean streak; it’s been rumored he keeps wolves at home. Johnson on the other hand had better come fired up to play and be ready to lay the Silver (and black) to Trueblood. ;)
...more after the jump...
Seriously, the defensive line has vowed to get more pressure this week and I would hope Johnson is taking that personally. I’m looking to see some fire from Johnson and a couple of key sacks as a result. Trueblood is big but he’s not a Pro Bowler either. I expect Ron Meeks to focus is pressure on the right side of the offensive line as the Panthers focus on knocking him off his spot and hopefully throwing some errant passes.
DT Ed Johnson vs. RG Davin Joseph 6’3" 313 lbs
The Bucs will try to run off RG and it will be up to Johnson to hold the point and allow the Panthers active LBs to shut down the run game. With DT Louis Leonard probably out of the game due to injury I still don’t expect Johnson to focus on the pass rush. With either the faster Nick Hayden or Andre Nemblett next to him they will be the player expected to provide the middle rush.
LB Jon Beason vs. QB Josh Freeman
Though Beason is no longer lining up at the Mike he is still the guy reading the defense and trying to get in the QBs head. He will try to disguise the Panthers intentions with fake blitzes, delayed blitzes and stunts all the while responsible for containing Freeman in the pocket. Freeman is big but mobile and must be contained from running for first downs. Yet if the Panthers can get pressure Freeman will throw some bad passes.
I do think the Panthers defense will play better this week and essentially win the game for the Panthers as the offense continues to try and find itself. I also think the Panthers special teams will play a part in the victory with at least one big play. My other wild card is rookie DE Greg Hardy. Hardy is still an unknown to the league so I’m hoping we get another couple big plays (first sack?) from the talented rookie.