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Panthers at Chargers: 5 questions with Bolts from the Blue

It’s Week 3 and the Panthers are favored to bring home another ‘L’ from the first cross-country trip of 2020

Los Angeles Chargers v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by Bobby Ellis/Getty Images

The Carolina Panthers are gearing up for another road game, this week against one of the few teams that was worse than they were in 2019. Rookie quarterback Justin Herbert impressed against the best team of 2019 last week when he was thrust into starting duty unexpectedly.

Here to tell us more about what to expect from him and the rest of ‘other team’ in Los Angeles is Michael Peterson with Bolts from the Blue. You’ll also get some hints at the potentially sky rocketing fantasy value of Hunter Henry if you pay close attention. As a special treat, there is also optimism for the Panther’s pass rush and it comes from the likeliest of places (i.e. not me):

The story of the week is Tyrod Taylor’s pneumothorax after a botched medical procedure before their Week 2 game. Do you expect this to be the end of Taylor’s career as a Charger or does he make it back into the lineup if Herbert struggles in future weeks?

I think if he gets healthy in the next couple weeks, combined with lackluster play from Herbert, he’ll be back in the starting lineup. If Herbert continues to impress, I don’t see how they go back to Tyrod and not lose the confidence of the entire fan base. Herbert’s debut was one of the most-exciting Chargers games in recent history. Regardless of wins and losses, the fans also want to enjoy watching their team.

Austin Ekeler, is he busy this week? The Panthers have a sudden and gaping need at running back and I hear he is kind of talented. In all seriousness, what are the odds the Chargers lean heavily on their ground game while they try to find Herbert’s sea legs?

Lynn loves his running backs and I wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest to see a healthy dose of both Ekeler and Joshua Kelley on Sunday. I predict they’ll keep the offense fairly simple in his second start and yes, I think that means relying on the backs to carry the offense more so than his arm. The Chargers currently lead the NFL in total carries with 83 and I don’t see how that doesn’t continue against a defense that has been gashed by the run.

Keenan Allen is an obviously great receiver when he can stay healthy. Who else should the Panthers young secondary be concerned about? Is there anybody who Herbert formed a connection with working on the second team that might surprise?

I don’t think you’ll see anyone off the second-team offense, but you’ll have to watch out for his stellar connection with tight end Hunter Henry. Through two games, Henry is second in the NFL in receiving yards as a tight end and that connection looked the best with Herbert over his first game with Tyrod Taylor. If Henry can stay healthy, this may be his best year yet. In general, Herbert showed a knack for throwing it over the middle, which means more looks for the tight ends and running backs on checkdown throws.

Both the Panthers and the Chargers said goodbye to long term faces of their franchise this offseason. What is it like, as a fanbase, getting to say goodbye to a quarterback who is actually near the end of their career?

While many in the fan base will always sing the praises of Philip Rivers, it was honestly the right time to part ways. He had a career year in 2019 before having one of his worst in 2019. In 2015 and 2016, he also had pretty unfortunate seasons, as well. When the injuries piled up, it drastically affected his play because he felt like he needed to shoulder the burden on offense alone. This led to many interceptions stemming from him forcing the ball downfield into double and triple coverage.

We love Phil, he’ll forever be our quarterback, but it was time.

Youth apparently abounds on both sides of the ball for both teams. The biggest difference may well be Anthony Lynn’s tenure of nearly thirty years in the NFL and two years as a head coach versus Matt Rhule’s two weeks. How do you see this game going and what do you think the final score will look like?

I think the Chargers will attempt to establish the run early and often. I expect the opening script to give Herbert the chance to work off play action and potentially use his feet a bit with some option concepts. But with a week to prepare for him, the Panthers defense may come ready to play. I think this game is closer than people think due to the Chargers persistent habit of playing up or down to their opponent’s level. Since the Panthers have yet to sack an opposing quarterback through two weeks, I’d expect to see the Chargers allow multiple sacks. It’s just how this thing usually goes.

But at the end of the day, I think the Chargers prevail in a 27-20 victory over the Panthers.