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Panthers vs Buccaneers: Step UP or Step OUT

While it was another loss for the Panthers last week, a narrow defeat at the hands of the Chiefs is nothing to be mad about. The Panthers will look to build on this relative success and split the series with the Buccaneers.

NFL: Carolina Panthers at Kansas City Chiefs Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to Step UP or Step OUT, a series on CSR that is intended to look at players who are playing well and highlight a few that need to step their game up. Think of it as a heat index for the Carolina Panthers; guys who are playing well are stepping up and those who aren’t need to improve their game or. . . step out.

Steppin’ UP

Teddy Bridgewater

Teddy Bridgewater is becoming the latest in the line of quarterbacks underappreciated by a great many Panthers fans. Does he have flaws? He definitely does. But does he have some insanely valuable traits too? You bet. I cannot stress enough just how bad the left side of our offensive line has been over the past few weeks. Pressure shows up quickly, and injuries have made it exceptionally hard to find stability at left tackle, or left guard. The impact is that Teddy is having to spend a lot of time keeping himself clean and making fast decisions. We want to see him push the ball, yes, but our protection has limited him in many occasions from doing that. Teddy is an expert at manipulating the pocket and buying himself time, and while as a runner he isn’t as accomplished as someone like Kyler Murray or Lamar Jackson... you had to love the man for converting that 4th and 15, putting his body on the line for the team. Huge respect.

Curtis Samuel

Thing. Of. Beauty. This is a bad throw... and an insane adjustment by Samuel.

Curtis Samuel has had an incredible 2020 campaign, even his strongest pre-season detractors must agree to that now. He has a 91% catch rate when targeted, highest in the NFL, and has become Joe Brady’s primary chain mover. That isn’t to take away from the team’s other exceptional receiving talent, but Samuel has really written his entire NFL rap this year so far, and I’m here for it.

Sam Franklin

Hello Mr. Franklin. Nice to meet you. I think it is safe to say that none of us had expectations for not-Jeremy Chinn going into the game, but Franklin simply stepped in like he had been doing this all along. Seven tackles and a sack are numbers that would get attention for even an established player, much less an unknown. Sam did a highly impressive job spending his day as the designated Patrick Mahomes spy, proving himself to be a sure tackler, and a man worthy of more playing time even once Chinn is back in action.

Steppin’ OUT

Tahir Whitehead

This really should be “Stepped Out” at this point for Whitehead. He played less than 20% of the snaps against the Chiefs because of his known coverage liability, and frankly without him in the game, the Panthers had much more success on the plays where the Chiefs actually did run the football. There appears to be a committee approach developing at linebacker, and Tahir looks like he is on the outside looking in.

Tre Boston

The Tre Boston yo-yo is back on the descent. After a resurgent 2019, he just has not found his footing as an impact player on a defense where he really could have stepped up as a leader and model for some of the younger safeties. Missed tackles and bad angles have been a problem for him for a long time, and right now we are seeing that in spades. Travis Kelce ended him on a stiff arm on Sunday, which is just something Travis Kelce does to many people to be fair, but it was also an example of how out of position he was to make a play on the football. At least he forced him into his help.

Chris Reed

Beat.

Molly-whopped.

Need I say more?

I’m sure I speak for everyone here, and for Teddy Bridgewater (though he’d never say it) that I hope Russell Okung can manage to play left tackle again sometime this year, so that Dennis Daley can move to left guard and we can end this misery.