It isn’t enough for the Carolina Panthers to be the only winless team left. Their injury report can easily fill up a hospital ward.
Running back Miles Sanders, safety Vonn Bell, corner back Jaycee Horn, safety Xavier Woods, guard Chandler Zavala, and tight end Giovanni Ricci are all listed as out. Defensive end Derrick Brown and linebacker Brian Burns are questionable for Sunday’s Week 6 game against the Miami Dolphins.
Regardless of the circumstances, Panthers Head Coach Frank Reich continues to be optimistic.
“These are great opportunities. This is a great statement about who we are as a team, “ he said leading up to the game. “It’s a great opportunity for the guys stepping in. And so, we’re looking forward to it.”
Quite frankly, optimism and hope are the only things that the Panthers have. Miami’s 327 passing yards per game leads the NFL. Look for them to exploit a vulnerable Panthers’ secondary. The Dolphins are also tough on the ground – leading the league in rushing yards per game at 185.8. In order for the Panthers to have a chance to win their first game of the season, here are some keys to the game.
Air It Out And Attack
As prolific as the Dolphin’s offense is, their passing defense is a glaring weakness. At 71.2 percent, the Dolphins’ secondary has allowed the sixth-highest completion percentage in the league, the 10th-most yards per attempt, and intercepted two passes. Granted, the Panthers struggle in the passing game, but that shouldn’t stop them from testing Miami’s secondary regardless. Quarterback Bryce Young could test the Dolphins’ pass defense in degrees. He could start with the screen passes and then try various post routes and go routes. Young is now sporting a wristband, which should help him simplify the progressions.
Stop The Run
What’s been a strength of Carolina is beginning to look very vulnerable right now. Their rush defense has allowed 146.7 rushing yards over the last three games. Look for the Panthers to use a combination of blitzes and variations of zone coverage. Depending on their desperation, they could also experiment with eight in the box to help stop the run. But on the other hand, that will leave them even more vulnerable to the pass than they already are. Regardless of coverage, the Panthers’ defense will have better odds of trying to stop the run than stopping the pass.
Play With Smart Desperation
Before their Week 4 game against Minnesota, Reich said that his team was urgent and not desperate. Since that statement, they went on to lose a game that they should have won and got annihilated the week after. Playing with desperation can expose a team to unnecessary and unforced mistakes, however, a heightened intensity doesn’t hurt. Against the Lions in Week 5, the Panthers played like a team that’s given up. They can not afford to have the same energy in Week 6. Carolina may be under-matched, but they can fight. They can at least hustle and do it by using what strengths they have on both sides of the ball.