The undrafted rookie out of Ohio State was put in a tough position with all the injuries suffered at the guard position this year. This provided a great opportunity for Norwell and he took it and ran with it. Norwell played all 62 snaps against Seattle and finished with a positive rating of 3.3, according to Pro Football Focus. He really excelled in run blocking and was one of the reasons Jonathan Stewart was able to rush for 4.9 yards per carry. Another strong game for Norwell and the Panthers coaching staff will have a tough decision when Silatolu and Turner are healthy.
The return of Josh Norman could not have come at a better time with Drew Brees coming to town Thursday. He was able to knock the rust off against Seattle after missing the two previous weeks and finished the game with two turnovers (one fumble recovery and one interception). The defense, specifically the secondary, looked the strongest it has in weeks and was able to hold Seattle to only 13 points.
There may be no one better on this Panthers’ defense playing better than Kawann Short right now. The defensive tackle has been a dominant force in the middle of this defense and is arguably the team’s best defensive lineman right now. He currently leads the entire Panthers defensive with an overall rating of 15, according to Pro Football Focus. That rating ranks fifth best among defensive tackles and is only .6 points behind Ndamukong Suh. If there is one player who deserves more playing time (he is playing a little over 50 percent of the defensive snaps) it should be Short.
The return of Josh Norman was going to cut into Melvin White’s playing time, but it was surprising to see it took all his playing time. After two weeks of playing every snap, White did not see a single defensive snap against Seattle. The second-year cornerback started the year pretty strong and over the first three games, he only gave up 3 receptions and 42 yards per game and didn’t allow a single touchdown, according to Pro Football Focus. Since Week 4 the receptions per game stayed the same (3) but the yards per game jumped to 62.5 and he allowed three touchdowns in that four game stretch. As long as Norman and Cason stay healthy, White will struggle to find playing time.
It would make sense with all the injuries at the guard position, the weak link of the offensive line would have been the interior. Unfortunately for the Panthers, and specifically Cam Newton, opposing defenses have found their success attacking the two offensive tackles, Byron Bell and Nate Chandler.
Against Seattle, Bell and Chandler gave up one sack and five QB hurries and that sack total probably should have been higher but Cam Newton’s mobility helped keep that total down. It certainly doesn’t help that both have been dealing with injuries and most likely will not be 100% for New Orleans. It could be another long day for Newton in the pocket.
Panthers’ Ability to Score Touchdowns
What happened to this offense? Before their Week 7 match-up with Green Bay, the Panthers’ offense was averaging 22.5 points per game, which is good enough to be competitive. The past two weeks though that number has dropped to an awful 13 points per game.
It would be easy to blame the play calling and offensive coordinator Mike Shula has taken a lot of the blame over the past 24 hours. However, the players should shoulder some of the blame as well with costly mistakes. There was two glaring plays that stick out against Seattle that would have probably had a major impact on the outcome of the game.
The first play was the dropped pass by Kelvin Benjamin in the end zone. The ball was thrown a little high but it went right through Benjamin’s hands and should have been caught for a touchdown. Carolina had to settle for a field goal.
The other play came on the fumble by Cam Newton and Jonathan Stewart on a read option play in the red zone. The Seahawks were able to recover the ball and stop the Panthers from extending their 6-3 lead.
These are the type of opportunities that can’t be missed against a team like New Orleans, who is sure to put up points on Thursday night. Hopefully the return of DeAngelo Williams, with an already healthy Jonathan Stewart, can get this offense back on track.