We all know the Bucs have struggled this season. We've also broken down the Bucs in every way possible. In this piece we get an insiders look at the Carolina Panthers. Brandon Croce is the publisher for PantherInsider.com and answers six questions about the state of the Panthers.
How big of a drop off will the Panthers offense have with Derek Anderson as the starting quarterback?
It depends what Panthers offense you are using as comparison. Last week against the Saints, the offense looked explosive and put up 41 points, their highest point total in almost two months. If this was the standard then I would say there would be a drop-off. However, for most of the season the offense has been very pedestrian and have struggled to put points on the board. I think Derek Anderson is capable of leading this offense but isn't the explosive/highlight reel quarterback that Cam Newton can be.
Will the Panthers offense change with Derek Anderson in at quarterback?
Derek Anderson and Cam Newton are very different quarterbacks, primarily due to Newton's ability to make plays on the ground. The Panthers have tried at times to use the read option but Newton hasn't been healthy most of the season so they haven't been able to use it as much as they would probably have hoped. Those plays will most likely be thrown out of the playbook now and I would imagine the coaching staff going to leaning on a conventional running game. Jonathan Stewart has been playing very well the past few weeks and should be the featured back on Sunday.
What has been the biggest issue with the Panthers defense this season?
The biggest issue for most of the season has been the team's secondary. They have struggled to find the right combination that could stop opposing quarterbacks and have cut veterans Charles Godfrey and Antoine Cason. Last week against the Saints they seemed to find a combination that worked, at least for one week, going with a much younger secondary. The Panthers used a starting group with Josh Norman and Bene Benwikere at cornerback and Tre Boston and Roman Harper at safety. They caused Drew Brees problems all game and I would imagine that this will be the starting lineup for the rest of the season.
How should the Panthers attack the Bucs offense/defense?
Offensively, the Panthers will need to take the pressure off Derek Anderson and lean heavily on the run game, specifically Jonathan Stewart. If the coaching staff can find a way to get Stewart around 20 carries, which has only happened once this year, the offense can start to use play action with Greg Olsen and Kelvin Benjamin.
Defensively, the Panthers are going to have to get pressure on Josh McCown. The Bucs have two wide receivers (Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans) who are physically imposing and the Panthers defensive backs could struggle matching that physicality. If they have time to get in position on the Panthers cornerbacks, McCown could have a strong game.
Who will end up as the better receiver: Mike Evans or Kelvin Benjamin?
Both wide receivers have the physical tools to be excellent wide receivers in the league. This is the main reason that they have been so successful their rookie year as they have been able to rely on their physical talent to make plays. Both will be good wide receivers for years to come but the one who can take their game to the next level will be the one who can develop other parts of their game like their route-running. Right now, I would have to pick Kelvin Benjamin because he has been consistent almost every week and has been able to put these numbers with almost no help from a number two wide receiver.
Panthers rally around Cam Newton and are still fighting for a playoff spot. That little extra motivation and it being a home game, I see the Panthers winning 24-17.
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