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Panthers vs. Giants: Three story lines to watch for Week 2

These are the things I am watching to learn who the 2022 Carolina Panthers are

Cincinnati Bengals v New York Giants Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

After a disappointing Week 1 loss to the Cleveland Browns, the Carolina Panthers are on the prowl for a rebound. Visiting the New York Giants at home this week is a hard opportunity to gauge. Will their run defense rebound? Will Jaycee Horn display the solid consistency he had before his injury? Can the offense score outside of a two minute drill in the first half? And these are just some of the larger questions facing the Panthers. The Giants are their own ball of wax. All of that uncertainty is keeping the line for this game close, per our friends over at DraftKings Sportsbook.

This time last year we were two games away from annointing Sam Darnold as the Next Thing in the Carolinas, so the gulf between what we know and what we hope for is as wide as it gets in an NFL season. That said, we still have some shorter term stories to follow this week. These are the tales that become data over the course of a season. This is what I’m watching to see who the 2022 Carolina Panthers are.

Jaycee Horn’s role

It’s not just that Horn was a shadow of the rookie we saw for three games last season. It’s also that he was blitzing way more than one might expect from a team’s top corner. That could be a result of trying to hide him as a sudden and unexpected liability in coverage on Amari Cooper, it could have been a Browns-specific gameplan, or it could be part and parcel of the new concepts that Steve Wilks is bringing to this secondary.

How many opportunities he gets to cover a receiver one on one will give us a growing idea of how confident the team is in Horn’s ability to settle into a number one corner role on this team. I expect he is in their plans as the number one guy right now and that they won’t reconsider that until they have multiple weeks of evidence of Horn getting cooked.

McCaffrey’s coverage

Ed Valentine of Big Blue View told me yesterday that he was worried about the Giants ability to cover McCaffrey as a receiver out of the backfield. Their linebackers have already proven a liability in such situations and they are not exactly deep at corner.

Last week saw a limited amount of plays called for McCaffrey as a runner and, to some critics, an overemphasis on Baker Mayfield’s passing abilities on first and second down. The hope to get Baker into rhythm while also giving McCaffrey enough touches might find the perfect marriage in the quick passing and screen games against a week Giants defense.

The first half

It might sound simple, but third quarters in general were a weakness of the 2021 Carolina Panthers. The first half of the Browns game was difficult to watch and directly contributed to what the Panthers coaching staff blamed for their offensive woes: not having enough plays.

Setting aside the illogic that places McAdoo right at home there, the fact is that the Panthers won’t be winning many, if any, games if they continue to repeat Week 1’s performance. There is every chance that last week was an aberration and the Panthers will come hot off the starting pistol for the next sixteen weeks. But, until they start doing that, we have to talk about slow starts. After all, there isn’t much point to paying attention to the third quarter adjustments if the Panthers are losing games in the first half.

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