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Christian McCaffrey dominates, Reggie Bonnafon shows promise in Panthers’ 34-27 win over Jaguars

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The Panthers running backs were firing on all cylinders in yesterday’s win over the Jaguars.

The Carolina Panthers are 3-2 after a 34-27 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars yesterday, and there were quite a few players who made a name for themselves for the Panthers. Today’s stock report will focus more on the positive (as is custom after a win), but today I’m adding an honorable mentions section because there’s a lot to talk about. I apologize in advance for the amount of words in today’s piece, but we won so I figured you wouldn’t mind.

Anyway, on to the stock report.

Stock up

Christian McCaffrey: I don’t know if there are enough words to describe how good McCaffrey is, so to keep this brief I’m just going to say this: He’s the best running back in the NFL. Yesterday he had 19 carries for 176 yards and two touchdowns, and also had six catches for 61 yards and another touchdown. That’s 237 total yards and three touchdowns for those of you who don’t want to do the math. He averaged 9.3 yards per carry and 10.2 yards per reception. He broke the Panthers’ franchise record for longest rushing touchdown on his 84-yard dash to the end zone. He juked multiple defenders out of their shoes. He leapt over a defender and tumbled into the end zone. I’m not sure there’s anything he can’t do, to be honest. I’m just glad he’s on our team and we don’t have to try and stop him.

Reggie Bonnafon: The downside to being a running back on the Panthers roster is that you don’t get many opportunities to show your skills because the coaching staff believes McCaffrey should be on the field at all times. Well, yesterday Bonnafon was given a chance to shine and he did exactly that. He only had five carries, but one of those was a 59-yard scamper for his first career touchdown that put the exclamation point on the win. He ended up with 80 yards on five carries, but even if you take out his 59-yard run (and I know you can’t do that because it happened, but stay with me here) his other four carries resulted in 21 yards (5.25 yards per carry, which is still pretty good) and should give the coaching staff confidence that he can give McCaffrey more plays off during the course of a game.

I don’t have to say this very often, but I was wrong about Bonnafon. I’ve always thought he was nothing more than a preseason hero, and he proved me wrong yesterday. Hopefully the coaching staff will give him more opportunities going forward so they don’t Run CMC into the ground (you loved that pun, don’t lie). I’d like to see what Bonnafon can do with five or six carries per game, so hopefully the coaches allow us to find out.

Dennis Daley: For a rookie coming into his first career start at left tackle on a day when there aren’t very many backup options in case something goes wrong, Daley did an admirable job at filling in to protect Kyle Allen’s blindside. I don’t remember seeing him make any critical mistakes and I don’t recall hearing his name too often on the broadcast, which is all you can really ask for from a guy in his position. I don’t know if he’s the left tackle of the future or if he’s better suited to be a guard in the NFL, but he came in as an emergency option and what he was supposed to do. You can’t ask for much more than that.

Brian Burns: There have to be a handful of teams who regret not taking Burns before the Panthers stole him at No. 16 overall after watching him the last few weeks. He added to his already impressive resume yesterday with an impressive 56-yard fumble return for a touchdown. He also added another sack and quarterback hit to his tally, which gives him 3.5 on the young season. He’s a good one, folks, and we should be fortunate that 15 other teams decided to pass on him in the draft.

Eric Reid: Reid had 10 tackles (five solo) and two passes defensed yesterday. He also batted down the Jaguars’ first hail mary attempt in the dying seconds of the game before a penalty negated it. He did exactly what you want your strong safety to do — be the last line of defense and don’t make any mistakes. You can’t ask for much more than that.

Stock down

Joey Slye: I won’t hate on #SwoleKicker too much here, but he didn’t have a good day. Part of the issue was a lack of protection against the guys trying to block his kicks, and in Slye’s defense his 56-yard attempt (that he probably shouldn’t have tried in the first place) was blocked. His misses after that were from rushing to get the kick off to avoid having another one blocked, and due to the added pressure he just couldn’t put the ball between the uprights. Thankfully it didn’t matter in the end, but it’s something that he’ll have to put behind him and hopefully it doesn’t happen again.

Ray-Ray McCloud: I’m not going to hate on Ray-Ray too much either, but so far he hasn’t given me any reason to believe that he’s a good return man. I don’t know what McCloud has that Terry Godwin doesn’t, but it seems to me like he doesn’t know how to track punts in the air and that’s not a trait you want in the guy charged with returning them. He didn’t do anything awful like fumble on the five yard line, but he’s just been a big bag of meh and I think the Panthers can do better than that.

Pass defense: Gardner Flint Minshew II is an elite quarterback who can throw the ball clear over them mountains so it’s understandable that he’s going to get his passing yards, but the Panthers made it way too easy for him by letting receivers get wide open. The Jaguars have a couple of good receivers in Dede Westbrook and D.J. Chark, but I wasn’t pleased with how open they were for most of the day. There were some throws by Minshew that the defense just couldn’t stop (Chark’s first touchdown, for example), but again I just think the defense could have made it a little harder for Minshew to find open receivers. Thankfully it didn’t matter because the Panthers still won, but it could have been the reason Carolina lost if the game would have turned out that way.

Honorable mentions

I didn’t put Kyle Allen in the stock up or stock down sections because I don’t believe he deserved to be in either category. He wasn’t good or bad yesterday, he was just... he was there, I guess. He wasn’t the reason the Panthers won, and he wouldn’t have been the reason they lost so there was no reason to harp on him too much. He was 17-of-30 for 181 yards and one touchdown. He didn’t throw any interceptions and he didn’t lose either of his two fumbles (more on this in a minute) so it’s hard to find too much to complain about or praise. He was exactly what you want your backup quarterback to be — an efficient game manager. There’s nothing wrong with that, but there’s nothing great about it either.

I still hate that he fumbles the ball nearly every time a defender farts in his general direction. It’s a trait that will keep him from taking the next step in his young career and could end up being what keeps him as a permanent backup quarterback. I know he said he’s going to work on ball security, but I hope he actually does it this time because I don’t know how much longer I can take watching him put the ball on the ground. Fortunately the Panthers recovered both of them yesterday, though. At least they didn’t end up costing the team this time.

I liked what I saw from both DJ Moore and Curtis Samuel. It didn’t show up on the stat sheet because McCaffrey provided most of the offense, but those two players are growing into their roles on offense and it’s nice to see them being used the way they should be. I like seeing Samuel used as a running threat out of the backfield like he was used at Ohio State and I hope that we see more of that going forward. Moore may never be the best route runner in the league but if you can continue to get him opportunities to have the ball in space he can pick up yards for you, which can be quite valuable.

Despite the defense giving up 374 passing yards, James Bradberry had a pretty decent afternoon with five tackles and five passes defensed. Shaq Thompson also had a good day with nine tackles (six solo) and one tackle for loss. Both of these guys are going to get paid by someone, and I’m a little concerned that the Panthers won’t be able to keep them both.

Mario Addison picked up another sack yesterday, which gives him 6.5 on the season. He’s still got it, y’all. He’s currently No. 2 in the league in total sacks (Shaquil Barrett has nine) and doesn’t appear to be slowing down any time soon. More of this, please.

Luke Kuechly was Luke Kuechly, which is always a good thing. He ended the game by batting down Gardner Minshew’s final hail mary attempt to seal the win, and when asked why he didn’t try to intercept it he replied by simply saying he wanted to go home. Show up, dominate, go home. That’s the Luke Kuechly we all know and love and I’m so glad that he’s on our side.

Who stood out to you, Panthers fans? Whose stock is up or down for you today? Share your thoughts with us!