The Carolina Panthers are rolling with the injury punches already in Week 2 of the 2023 NFL regular season. D.J. Chark might be about to return from his preseason hamstring injury, with Austin Corbett on the near horizon, but Brady Christensen is out for the season and Jaycee Horn is out indefinitely. Here to kick us while we’re down is Luke Hubbard from Canal Street Chronicles.
He’ll explain why people are so high on a Saints defense that, so far, has only allowed an average quarterback to produce average results, crow about the wide receiver corps in New Orleans, and puff some more hot air into the reputation that Derek Carr sits on.
The Saints defense was an offseason darling that was set up for a good first impression when they drew an opening match up with Ryan Tannehill’s Tennessee Titans. Tannehill, for the folks at home, who threw a whole 13 touchdowns in 12 games last season. Obviously, Bryce Young still has a lot to prove, but why are Saints fans so confident that he won’t prove it against their team?
I think there’s confidence from Saints fans that Bryce Young won’t prove it against them because of how great their passing defense has been last year and through Week one. The Saints were the second best team in terms of passing yards allowed per game last season, and that was without Marshon Lattimore for a good chunk of the year. The emergence of Alontae Taylor alongside Paulson Adebo and Marshon Lattimore did a lot to help boost the secondary as well. After an offseason where all we’ve been hearing about is how good the secondary looks, that Week one performance against Tannehill made everyone realize how good the secondary can be.
Bryce Young does still have a lot to prove, but I’m not so quick to write him off. As an LSU graduate, I paid a lot of attention to Alabama’s games during Young’s time there and I think he can become a really great QB in this league. He’s very smart and very accurate with the football, but I feel the Panthers wide receivers don’t do him many favors. I know it’s just been one week, but they only caught eight passes out of Youngs 40 attempts this past week.
Basically, I don’t think Saints fans necessarily think Young won’t prove it against them. I think it’s more that they believe the Saints corners will be able to blanket the Panthers receivers and give Young very little separation to work with.
Injuries are already the theme of the Panthers season, with starting cornerback Jaycee Horn out for multiple weeks with an apparently egregious hamstring tear that may require surgery. The Panthers are far less confident in C.J. Henderson and Troy Hill’s abilities to hold up in his stead. How are the Saints receivers looking this season in the Saints new look passing game?
Honestly, I don’t think you could’ve scripted a better opening game for the Saints wide receivers. Michael Thomas made a few tough catches which is what Saints fans were used to seeing when he was on top of his game. Chris Olave continued to build on his rookie year and went for 100+ yards (it probably would’ve been 150 if he wasn’t interfered with on a deep ball). Shaheed proved he’s more than a gadget player with two huge catches including the game-sealing 41-yard catch on 3rd and 6.
Overall, they gave Saints fans so much to look forward to this season with their Week one performance. I think they’re going to be a problem for every team the Saints play as long as nobody suffers any serious injuries.
Speaking of a new passing game, Derek Carr is there now. That’s new. The Saints last franchise quarterback was also recycled from a bad fit with their original franchise. How did Carr look in the season opener? Did he alter, for better or worse, the off season expectations set for him?
Carr had a solid performance in his first game in the black and gold. He threw for 305-yards and a touchdown while being pressured on almost every drop back. When he had a clean pocket, he was able to deliver some beautifully thrown balls, and after two seasons of mediocre quarterback play, Saints fans have been anxiously waiting for Carr’s first game.
As far as altering his expectations, I think they remained relatively the same. Saints fans had high expectations for him this season, and while 16 points doesn’t look too great on the scoreboard, he made big plays when they mattered the most, and that’s something we haven’t had since Brees left. Obviously, he had the really bad interception right before halftime that cost us some points, but that’s something you get with Carr. He’s been known to throw some interceptions in his days with the Raiders, and that’s not likely to change too much here. Hopefully when he does throw those interceptions, they aren’t in key moments down the stretch, but we’ll see how that goes as the season progresses.
The Panthers are doing some light remodeling along their offensive line with starting left guard Brady Christensen landing on injured reserve this week and starting right guard Austin Corbett not due off the Physically Unable to Perform List for another three weeks. How stout is the Saints front seven this year? Have they finally found an interior presence to rival Vita Vea, Grady Jarrett, or Derrick Brown?
The Saints front seven looked pretty good against the Titans, especially in the second half. They held the Titans, who were one of the best rushing teams in the league last season, to 104-yards rushing and held Derek Henry below 65. The Titans did completely revamp their offensive line and it may be towards the bottom of the league by the end of the season, so I’m going to take the Week one performance with a grain of salt. I do think they’re definitely improved from last season, but I’m going to hold off for a few more weeks before I start saying the Saints run defense is back to its old form.
Now, have they found an interior presence to rival some of the other interior defenders in the NFC South? The short answer is yes, but let me elaborate. Bryan Bresee has looked really good all offseason and in Week one, but the Saints are going to slowly incorporate him into the defense as the season goes on. So, as of right now, no, they don’t have anyone on the same level as Vea, Jarrett or Brown, but I think by next season, Bresee can work his way into the conversation with some of those guys.
The Saints opened as -2.5 point favorites over the Panthers on DraftKings Sportsbook and have already stepped up to -3 point favorites, probably on the ongoing injury news coming out of Charlotte and the fact that the Panthers forgot to install a passing offense over the summer. What is your score prediction for this game?
I think the Saints will cover, which scares me because on DraftKings, 86% of the bets are on the Saints right now. I think the offense will be able to turn some of last week’s field goals into touchdowns and should definitely score more than 16 points. The defense also looked really good on Sunday, and I think they have the opportunity to hold the Panthers to under 14 points. Divisional games are almost always one score games, so for my score prediction, I’m going to say Saints 21, Panthers 13.