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Panthers 28 Cowboys 36: The Hog Molly Report

The Hog Molly report rolls in for week 4 of the 2021 season, and this is our first week of woe and general team wide yuckiness.

NFL: Carolina Panthers at Dallas Cowboys Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome ladies and gentlemen to the Hog Molly Report, where winning in the trenches is all that matters. Before we begin, we open with the reciting of our usual motto:

“Big men allow you to compete. We’re certainly going to look at the big hog mollies.”

In keeping with the proven philosophy that building a team from the inside out is the best strategy for long term success, my goal will be to watch the hog mollies each game during the season and discuss their performance.

The Panthers crashed back to earth, dropping a game into a 3-1 record after they ran into a Dallas Cowboys buzzsaw. That team might be one of the NFL’s top teams, and there is no shame in losing to a squad like that, but what it did make us realize was that our defense isn’t the impregnable unit we dreamed it is. We got both run on, and passed on, without a ton of resistance up front, and regardless of what I might feel about the officiating, it should not have been like that. I think in these first four weeks, we have seen both extremes of what the Panthers can be at their best and their worst, and we’ll have an exact idea of who they are very very soon.

The offensive line

Let’s keep it simple here. The offensive line is the weak link we knew it would be coming into the season. But I want to give you the good news. Dennis Daley is playing, in my opinion, really good football at left guard. He has done exactly what I wanted to see from him given his opportunity created by the injury to Pat Elfein, which is seize control of the position and not relent. His play has been a bright spot, situated next to the very very very dim one to his immediate left at left tackle. Also, to his right, I am skeptical of the praise PFF heaps on Matt Paradis in their rating of him. While he does get in front of people, I just see him far too often get driven straight back into Sam Darnold’s legs. Is this the result of Darnold stepping up to avoid the almost inevitable fact that Cam Erving is going to let him get annihalated if he doesn’t? Maybe. I am going to watch him very closely this week. Verdict to come.

Back to Cam Erving... examine the play above. There is a fundamental misunderstanding of what he is supposed to do here. What universe he was in when he thought he was supposed to double the DT instead of block the EDGE, I’ll never understand. It certainly isn’t Ian Thomas’ responsibility. He’s fortunate that playaction pauses that man long enough to keep Sam Darnold off the turf. What bothers me more... he realizes his mistake and actually has time to recover. Instead, he puts a flat palm on him like a rent-a-cop telling some kid he’s banned from entering the mall Gamestop. What is going on?!?!

I’ve seen what I need to. Bad signing. I wanted him to find some redemption in the offseason but that was wishful thinking. I saw better things from Trent Scott last year, and we also have a rookie to entertain eventually. Trent Scott should start at left tackle against the Philadelphia Eagles.

The defensive line

Well, that was disappointing. I know the Dallas Cowboys have one of the best if not the best overall offensive line in football, but zero sacks is not the outcome i expected. Dak Prescott was largely comfortable outside of a few pressures where he always had room to step up and run. I’ll spare you the angry rant on the lack of holding calls, Joey Bosa already laid it out there pretty well if you want to look that up.

That said... we got WORKED on the ground, and really, no one is spared exception from that, not even Derrick Brown. Brown came into the game as an impact player on the line, and left with a Zack Martin autographed bobblehead. It was a little disheartening, but again, Martin is probably the best guard in the league. Also, he wasn’t facing Brown on every down, Brown did find some success lined up over left guard and center.

Ezekiel Elliott Nextgenstats run chart against the Panthers

As you can see above, Ezekiel Elliott had it however he desired it, and over right guard was definitely a prime choice for where to go. This game is likely the exception, and will not be normal for these Carolina Panthers. I expect a full recovery this week especially defending the run, but on the whole, the Eagles offensive line presents a pretty good challenge.

Rushing the passer, we need to take some care as we know Jalen Hurts is a mobile guy and difficult to bring down even if you do lay hands on him. It’s going to be important for the interior line to hold their ground and play some contain so a roaming linebacker or peeled back EDGE can make a play. I suspect that our defense took this game against the Cowboys personally, and will be playing angry as a point of pride. The Panthers have now invested a couple future draft picks to beef up the secondary in the wake of Jaycee Horn’s injury, and though we won’t see the fruit of that until Stephon Gilmore is off PUP, we should see C.J. Henderson have a better feel for what he is doing this time. Last week, you could tell he wasn’t sure which way was up. That will get better.

Overall, sometimes you just get mollywhopped on the road against a good team. There’s a good chance we might see these Dallas Cowboys again, and we might be a more prepared team as will they. I look forward to it, should it come to pass.