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 opened the season with a week one win over the New York Jets, and as can often happen with this team, it was a tale of two lines. The defense absolutely dominated this game, and the offensive line, what not terrible, needs to be better for sustained success.
The offensive line
The offensive line is forever a punching bag for most NFL fan groups, and the Carolina Panthers line can’t escape that stigma either. The truth for many units is that they are better than their fanbase gives them credit for, and the fans are often way too harsh. In the Panthers case there are certain players that get dogged like crazy. The man of the year in this case is Pat Elflein. The main reason for this, is that he was signed near the beginning of free agency, and therefore the Panthers are paying him a little bit of money.
Meanwhile, the one time that Darnold got sacked on the day. I want you to watch Pat Elflein single handedly completely neutralize the Jets best defensive lineman, Quinnen Williams.
Cam Erving also completely neutralizes his man, he’s the other guy taking body blows. Darnold gets sacked on the above play because Matt Paradis, who did not have a great preseason, get completely blown off his spot. Dennis Daley filling in at right guard, same deal.
I realize Pat Eflein got flagged for a hold early in the game, the nature of which I thought was pretty dubious. He dominated his man on the outside, and ended up kind of falling over him. I didn’t like the call, but it would be hard for a referee who only sees the result to not flag it.
All this said, I am not at Pat Elflein apologist, but I would like to see the vitriol toned down until we get some more tape. He was not our biggest worry on Sunday. As a unit, the Panthers are credited with 11 pressures, and Matt Rhule agrees there is work to be done.
Matt Rhule: "Sam was under too much duress, too much pressure. I thought he was fearless...we have to do a better job collectively of protecting the quarterback." #Panthers— Nick Carboni (@NickCarboniWCNC) September 13, 2021
As it stands, the combination of Paradis and Daley were a weak link. John Miller will hopefully be back this week, and that might bring a little more stability. We are going to need it to beat the New Orleans Saints.
The defensive line
I don't think I need to tell you how good they were, but I will anyway. Six sacks in total by six different players, 10 quarterback hits, some estimates on the number of pressures add up to over THIRTY. Not just amazing rushing the passer, they only allowed 2.6 yards per attempt in the run game, as the Jets simply could not get anything going. Derrick Brown might have provided the biggest welcome to the NFL moment of week 1 when he obliterated Zack Wilson right up the gut.
It was a banner day, definitely an A+ effort. The detractors will say “it was against the Jets” and that is a fair thing to note. But it was a dominating effort. It’s one thing if you have a good day against the Jets, it’s another if you pressure their QB on 65% of his dropbacks. I can’t image how sore Wilson is today.
DERRICK BROWN OH MYYYY https://t.co/V7WqorV0XH— #TankForHeisman Barstool Auburn (@WarDamnStool) September 12, 2021
The departure of Mekhi Becton didn’t make much difference either, the Panthers defense had their ears pinned back from the first whistle. The good news for the team, is that their next QB is Jameis Winston, who is not nearly as squirrely as Zack Wilson, and has a proven track record of falling to absolute shreds under pressure. If they can get a similar effort as the one from last week, it will really be quite the statement and will probably result in another win.
Looking long term, you can see an investment paying off. The Panthers have put significant draft capital into the defense and particularly the line, and now we are seeing serious dividends. The offensive line needs a similar investment, and while I like the pickups of Brady Christensen and Deonte Brown, it’s time to look at a center in next year’s draft, and of course continue looking for that franchise left tackle.