Behind Enemy Lines: Carolina Panthers

Then Giants Beat's Josh Fyffe goes behind enemy lines to ask Panthers Insider Brandon Croce five burning questions about the Carolina Panthers.

Josh Fyffe | TheGiantsBeat.com

1. Currently sitting at 13-0 with all remaining opponents below .500, it is likely that the Panthers can complete an undefeated season; is that an active goal for the team as a whole and would they consider resting players if they happen to be 15-0 against the Buccaneers with the one seed locked up?

 

Brandon Croce | PanthersInsider.com

It is tough to figure out exactly where the coaching staff stands with this and I don't believe they are going to have an answer until they get to the point where they are 15-0 and will have to make the decision. If the Panthers do have a chance to go undefeated, I think that will certainly play a role in Ron Rivera's decision because he knows how special an undefeated season would be (he was a member of the 1985 Chicago Bears, which came one game short of the perfect season).

 

The Panthers though saw against the Falcons just how quickly a season can change as they had injuries to Greg Olsen, Jonathan Stewart, Bene Benwikere, Luke Kuechly and even Cam Newton in what was a blowout. I don't see the coaching staff resting any players for full games unless they have some minor lingering injury but if the Panthers are 15-0 and jump out to a big lead early, the coaching staff will most likely get the key players off the field.

Josh Fyffe | TheGiantsBeat.com

 

2. The Panthers are one of the most statistically balanced teams in the league. On paper they have a few amount of weaknesses, what would you consider to the Panther’s Achilles heel?

The biggest achilles heel for this team is on defense and in their secondary. The Panthers do have arguably the best cornerback in Josh Norman and Kurt Coleman, who is second in the league in interceptions, but that second cornerback position and even the nickelback position could be an issue down the stretch.

Brandon Croce | PanthersInsider.com

The team started the year with Charles Tillman as a starter and Bene Benwikere as the nickel and they were tough to beat through the air. However, Tillman has been dealing with a knee injury since Week 10 and Bene Benwikere is now out for the year with a fractured leg. The team is expected to get Tillman back this week but it remains to be seen at what level he will be able to play missing as much time as he has.

 

They also went out and signed Cortland Finnegan, who has solidified the nickel position, but it is a very small sample size as he has only played two games. If teams want to beat this defense, they are going to need to protect the quarterback and target that side of the field opposite Norman.

Josh Fyffe | TheGiantsBeat.com

 

3. Who is more important to the success of the Panthers defense this season; Luke Kuechly or Josh Norman, and why?

Both are playing at an incredibly high level and if I had to choose I would say Josh Norman. As I mentioned above, the secondary has been hit pretty hard with injury and if Norman was to go down, it would completely change the dynamic of this defense. He is one of the best cornerbacks in the league and has gone on and shut down players like Julio Jones, Mike Evans and DeAndre Hopkins.

 

Brandon Croce | PanthersInsider.com

The other reason I say Norman is because the Panthers have already played without Luke Kuechly this year, three games earlier in the season as he dealt with a concussion. The team had A.J. Klein step in and while he isn't on the same level as Kuechly by any means, the defense still played well. Kuechly and Norman are probably the best at each of their positions but if I have to choose one, I would say Norman is more important to this defense right now.

Josh Fyffe | TheGiantsBeat.com

 

4. Who has been the Panthers’ un-sung offensive and defensive heroes?

On the offensive side of the ball, the un-sung hero(es) has to be this offensive line. Last year, this group was awful and one of the worst offensive lines to start the year. However, as the season went on they found a combination that worked with rookies Trai Turner and Andrew Norwell and a player they signed off the practice squad, Mike Remmers. These three players have really elevated their play this year along with Michael Oher at left tackle and the steady Ryan Kalil at center. 

 

Brandon Croce | PanthersInsider.com

Defensively, I would have to say safety Kurt Coleman. The Panthers signed the safety during the offseason and many thought he wouldn't even start over second year player Tre Boston. He has gone on to record 69 tackles and seven interceptions and now has a pick in five straight games. He also finished second in the fan portion of the Pro Bowl voting. The Panthers' defense ranks near the top of the league in turnovers and Coleman has been a major factor in that.

Josh Fyffe | TheGiantsBeat.com

 

5. Jonathan Stewart is having his best season in years, only being 11 yards shy of 1000 on season, how important has he been to the Panthers’ offense in 2015?

Aside from Cam Newton, there may not be a more vital person to this defense. The Panthers have relied heavily on the run game and Stewart has been the catalyst behind this. He is second in the league entering Week 15 in rushing attempts with 242 attempts and has more carries than the rest of the Carolina Panthers backs (75 rushing attempts).

Brandon Croce | PanthersInsider.com

The Panthers have been lucky to this point with Stewart's health and the amount of work they have given him. This will be the first time the offense will be without Stewart and this game could be a good test for just how important he is to the team's success in 2015.


The Giants Beat Top Stories