There may not be a more key player to the Carolina Panthers on Sunday against the Houston Texans than right tackle Mike Remmers. He is going to be the primary player responsible for trying to slow down defensive end J.J. Watt. This is not an easy task as Watt has dominated the league the past few seasons.
Since taking over as a starter at right tackle in Week 13 last year, Remmers has been one of the team’s best offensive linemen and has yet to give up a sack, according to Pro Football Focus. That is a streak of eight straight games, including playoffs, that has a good chance to end Sunday against Watt who has 34 sacks since 2013.
If the Panthers want to jump start their offense after a lackluster performance against the Jacksonville Jaguars, they are going to need to keep Watt out of the backfield.
One player that could help Remmers be successful against Watt will be tight end Greg Olsen. Along with the Panthers running backs, it would not be a surprise to see the Panthers lineup Olsen next to Remmers to try and slow down the Texans’ pass rusher. While Remmers has done a good job at right tackle, he is going to need help.
Now while Olsen will be used to block, he is too talented as a pass catcher to spend the entire game on the offensive line. Last week, Olsen was pretty much a non-factor in the passing game as he was targeted three times and finished with only one reception for 11 yards.
The Texans do have pretty good cornerbacks in Johnathan Joseph and Kareem Jackson that will make Sunday very difficult for the Panthers’ wide receivers. For the team to jumpstart the passing game, Cam Newton should lean heavily on Olsen, and this next player, against the Texans.
Against the Jaguars, Stewart was very much involved in the team’s passing game and finished tied for the team lead with four receptions. The Panthers are going to need a similar performance from Stewart against the Texans.
The area he will have to improve though is running the ball. He finished the game with 56 rushing yards and averaged only 3.1 yards per carry. If Stewart’s 22 yard carry is taken away, that average drops to two yards per carry. These are not strong numbers for the team’s primary running back.
Last year, Stewart was one of the top running backs over the final quarter of the season and the team wants to get back to him running that way. It won’t be easy as the Texans have a good run defense that finished 10th against the run last year and only gave up 97 yards last week against the Kansas City Chiefs.
A strong run game will allow the Panthers to control the flow of the game, tire out the Texans defense and keep their own defense fresh over the course of the game. This responsibility is going to fall on the team’s most talented running back, Jonathan Stewart.
Follow me on Twitter @BrandonCroce.