Defense Carries Carolina Panthers to Victory
It was an ugly game for the Panthers on the offensive side of the ball but luckily for them they played tremendous defense. Amazingly it seemed like the defense was better in the second half, when the team was without their defensive leader, Luke Kuechly. The middle linebacker suffered a concussion late in the first half and sat out the remainder of the game.
This group was flying all over the field, sacked Blake Bortles five times and forced three turnovers. One of those turnovers was an interception that was returned for a touchdown by Josh Norman. This helped the Panthers pretty much seal the victory for them.
Now, the Jaguars are not an offensive juggernaut by any means but it was good to see this group rally together to finish the game strong, missing key players. Entering this game they knew they were going to be without defensive tackle Star Lotulelei but the loss of Kuechly could have been catastrophic.
However, players like Thomas Davis and Norman stepped up in a big way to lead this group. Even the player who replaced Kuechly, A.J. Klein, had a strong second half and finished the game with six tackles and a QB hit.
Michael Oher Whiffs in Pass Protection
After a great preseason, Panthers’ left tackle Michael Oher took a step backwards and struggled against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Cam Newton was sacked twice against the Jaguars and both times came from Oher’s side.
The offensive line was supposed to be improved this year after a disastrous 2014 that saw Newton hit a number of times. One of the keys to that improvement was Oher, who joined the Panthers a free agent. That certainly seemed the case in preseason as Oher didn’t give up a single sack or hit during the preseason, according to Pro Football Focus.
Oher will need to have a bounce back game and it won’t be easy as the Houston Texans come to town next week. That means he will have to try and slow up players like J.J. Watts and Jadeveon Clowney, who played in his first career NFL game today.
Panthers’ Wide Receivers Struggle Against Jaguars
For any fans just looking at the box score, they would have thought Cam Newton had an awful game. He finished the game with 18 completions on 31 attempts for 175 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
With tight end Greg Olsen pretty much a non-factor, finishing with one reception for 11 yards on three targets, the team needed a player on the outside to step up. That didn’t happen as Ted Ginn Jr. and Philly Brown combined for only 4 receptions, 67 yards on 10 targets.
The veteran Ginn was actually the one who struggled the most with a few key drops that could have helped give the Panthers more breathing room in their victory. The one wide receiver who did step up was the oldest player in the group, Jerricho Cotchery. He caught four of his six targets for 45 yards and the lone passing touchdown at the end of the first half.
The Panthers will most likely have to go back to the drawing board this week during practice but luckily for them they do have some options. Their second round pick Devin Funchess was not heavily involved in this game and Kevin Norwood was inactive for this game, who the Panthers traded for days before the final preseason game.
If the team doesn’t feel either will be up to speed in time to help against Houston they have one other option. The team could decide to run more two tight end sets with Olsen and Ed Dickson, who are both capable pass catching tight ends.
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