After a wild week with Cam Newton’s health, the Carolina Panthers look ahead to their first road game against the Arizona Cardinals that will feature a rookie (corgi) quarterback and a first season head coach on the opposing sideline. With Kyle Allen all but a certainty as a starter for Carolina on Sunday, the Panthers defense needs to show up, and their best player has quite the matchup on his hands.
Luke Kuechly vs. David Johnson
The engine of the Panthers defense showed up in a big way against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, eliminating any doubt that Kuechly had lost a step. It wasn’t enough though, as the Panthers still managed to fall despite a solid defensive performance. This week, without Cam Newton, the Panthers defense might need to make a herculean effort to win, and that starts with Luke Kuechly going after David Johnson. Johnson can be rookie quarterback/corgi Kyler Murray’s security blanket against the Panthers pass rush, and Kuechly needs to be all over him to limit big plays.
James Bradberry vs. Christian Kirk/Larry Fitzgerald
In this game, the Panthers face an offense that likes to throw the football A LOT. Christian Kirk and Larry Fitzgerald should see a ton of targets, and Bradberry will likely see a lot of both of them. Ideally, I’d probably want Bradberry on Fitzgerald for the entirety of the game due to the physical matchup, but since Larry likes to travel to the slot he will probably see a decent amount of Kirk as well. Despite the loss, Bradberry continued his solid/elite 2019 season against the Bucs. This game could be a major test for him with how often the ball will be in the air.
Daryl Williams (or God knows) vs. Chandler Jones
The Panthers offense has very clearly been marred by one particular thing; pass rushers coming from the blindside. Williams has been downright atrocious this season between facing Dante Fowler and Shaquille Barrett, both of whom are by no means “world beaters”. Chandler Jones was once considered one of the top pass rushers in the league, and now he gets a juicy matchup with Williams or potentially Greg Little. Kyle Allen needs all the help he can get moving the football, the offensive line cannot move him backwards on passing plays (too often).
Greg Olsen vs. Jordan Hicks/D.J. Swearinger
The Cardinals have allowed tight ends to absolutely tear them up during the first two weeks of the season. Greg Olsen just so happens to be coming off a 100 yard performance. While Christian McCaffrey figures to be the engine for this offense, Greg Olsen will likely need to be the security blanket in the passing game. Until further notice, teams will load the box up and force the Panthers to win through the air. Olsen needs to show up again for the passing game to have a chance.