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Panthers vs. Texans: 3 key players who need to step up

The Panthers need good games out of these three people to win big in primetime.

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL is often a game of matchups, and each week, there are key cogs that change based on the strengths of the opponent or weaknesses the Panthers need to cover. This week, we’ll highlight three individuals that have something to prove, and need to step up for the team to be successful on Sunday.

Cam Erving

When your team starts out 2-0, sometimes columns like this can be difficult to write. Especially when your defense is number one in the NFL in basically every category, you obviously can’t pick on them. In the Panthers case, there is one clear weakness, and that is the left side of the offensive line, book-ended by left tackle Cameron Erving. In the grand scheme of things, Erving has actually been just fine. Not good, not bad, just fine. There are reps where it’s easy to point to him and say “that was bad” but there are also plenty of reps you’ll never see because nothing bad happened, and that is how offensive linemen like it. One thing I need to see Erving clean up, is when he fails, please don’t fail so hard. Like in these reps below...

Safe to say there are going to be better EDGE players than Payton Turner on the horizon, and I need to see a sturdier base, better split, and STOP REACHING. Initiate the contact, don’t be so passive.

Dennis Daley

I put this tweet out there earlier, and suffice to say, this is exactly how I feel about Dennis Daley and the stakes of the next few weeks.

Pat Elflein has been thoroughly unimpressive, and he’s now on injured reserve for the next three weeks at minimum. The coaching staff can’t possibly take the “injured guy doesn’t lose his spot” stance here if Daley proves to be effective in that time frame. For Daley, the trajectory of his career can change depending on just what happens. He can either cement himself as the starter at left guard for the rest of the season, or fade back to the bench. I don't really think there is an in-between based on the play from Elflein. This is for your seat at the table Mr. Daley. We are rooting for you. Time to EAT.

Zane Gonzalez

To say that the Panthers kicking situation is still “fluid” would be a monumental understatement. I copied and pasted that line from the last column I wrote like this, because it is still true. I can forgive the 50 yarder that gets blocked, that was not his fault. I can’t forgive missed extra points, no matter what Rhule says about their being “too many bodies around Zane.” All that goes to say, Gonzalez is probably our kicker for the rest of the year barring total meltdown. You can only fire and hire so many guys before kickers start showing up at your doorstep that already have the yips because they know their job isn’t secure. Gonzalez has NFL tenure and a couple decent seasons behind him, and I think he’ll have to suffice until next years free agency or draft.