The Panthers offensive struggles have largely overshadowed a pretty good performance over the last two weeks for the Panthers defense. Unfortunately, the defense hasn’t been good enough to escape an 0-2 start, and things don’t look to get any easier for them against a potent Seattle passing attack. Let’s dive in.
- How will the team address the loss of Shaq Thompson on Sunday? Thompson went down with a broken fibula on Sunday, meaning an already thin group at linebacker just got thinner. Say what you will about Thompson, but he’s a good player who was the leader of this defense. Now, Frankie Luvu will be supported by 2023 free agent acquisition Kamu Grugier-Hill, who by all accounts had a tremendous training camp. He ended up with 5 tackles and a sack having to step in for Thompson during the Monday Night Football game, and is currently listed as a starter. Now, the communication and on field adjustments will be left to those two, while Chandler Wooten, Claudin Cherelus, and practice squad elevation Deion Jones will all likely see an expanded role in some fashion. The Panthers like to deploy Luvu all over the defense, meaning there’s likely going to be a spot for someone to step up. Seattle’s Kenneth Walker at RB can be a danger if he gets going, so they’ll need some solid play from the off the ball linebackers to have a chance at stifling him.
- Another not great matchup for the Panthers cornerbacks. Donte Jackson struggled mightily against New Orleans wide receiver Michael Thomas, and he figures to see a lot of DK Metcalf on Sunday. Metcalf didn’t practice on Wednesday (ribs), but it appears he’ll play on Sunday, and if he does that physical presence and speed could be a major problem for Jackson. On the flip side, CJ Henderson and nickel CB/linebacker/safety Jeremy Chinn will likely see quite a bit of Tyler Lockett, who boasts great route running acumen both out of the slot and on the outside. CB Troy Hill should get some rotation as well, but the bottom line here is a heavy zone attack could be a major problem for Carolina if Seattle’s cooking throwing the football. We need to see a bit of progression from this CB unit, as they’ve given up some key passes that turned into touchdowns over the last two weeks.
- Aggressive pass rush. The Panthers have managed 6 sacks over two games, most of which coming from Brian Burns and Frankie Luvu. Unfortunately, after the first half the pass rush hasn’t always kept up, mainly due to the offense struggling to maintain drives and score touchdowns. This figures to be a somewhat good matchup for the Panthers, as Seattle’s offensive line isn’t nearly the unit that the Falcons and Saints have (and the Panthers still managed to make life difficult for the QBs). The Panthers pass rush could take over this game and potentially make it winnable, and that will benefit this defense missing two key starters due to injury. However, Brian Burns, Justin Houston, and Amare Barno all popped up on the injury report on Wednesday, so their status as 3 of the Panthers top edge rushers is very much worth monitoring.
What are you looking at for Sunday on defense, Panthers fans?