Once again the Carolina Panthers’ right tackle had a strong game, this time pretty much neutralizing the best defensive end in the game, J.J. Watt. The Texans’ star did get a sack but according to Pro Football Focus, the blame did not fall on Remmers’ shoulders. This means that he sees his streak run to nine games without giving up a sack and has yet to give up a sack as a Carolina Panther.
The Panthers’ coaching staff came up with a great gameplan to contain Watt and for the most part they did succeed. The playcalling regularly had a tight end or fullback to help Remmers protect Cam Newton from Watt. However, this wouldn’t have been successful if it wasn’t for the strong play at right tackle.
The offensive line as a whole has done a great job since the middle of last season and has really gelled together. They still have work to do in terms of run blocking, which has been struggling in 2015, but the pass protection has been really impressive and Mike Remmers has probably had the best performance yet.
It appears that Super Cam is back after an acrobatic dive into the end zone in the third quarter. This play is a perfect example to show that Newton is back to being 100% healthy after an injury-riddled 2014. He had to deal with an ankle, ribs and a back injury throughout the course of the year that never really allowed him to get in a rhythm.
Fast forward to this season where Newton had a full offseason to rest those lingering injuries and enter 2015 completely healthy. He has responded with 370 passing yards, 111 rushing yards and four touchdowns through the first two games. He is currently only seven rushing yards behind Jonathan Stewart for the team lead thanks to his 4.6 yards per carry average.
He is certainly running more now than any point in his career averaging 12 carries per game and at this pace will run the ball 192 times (his current career high is 127). Now it is unrealistic to think that he will keep this pace up or the offensive coaching staff would want him to run this much but right now it is helping the offense move the ball.
After a quiet first game in his NFL career, the rookie linebacker was forced into a bigger role and responded. The Panthers were without Luke Kuechly for this game and with A.J. Klein moving into the middle, this meant that Thompson was the main player at outside linebacker.
The Panthers defense spent a majority of the game in nickel and Thompson played almost 50% of the defensive stats, which was close to double the 25% he played in Week 1. The coaching staff moved him around much more and even called a few blitzes for him, and he was credited with one QB hurry according to Pro Football Focus.
The hope is that Kuechly will be able to return this week against the New Orleans Saints which would most likely cut into Thompson’s playing time. However, he showed flashes against the Texans that should give the coaching staff confident to keep him out there for extended parts of the game.
It may not be fair to judge Ealy on such a small segment of the game but his play on that final drive almost cost the Panthers the victory. He made two costly penalties that weren’t smart that included an unnecessary roughness at the start of the drive on third down and then a false start in the red zone that gave the Texans a fresh set of downs.
Coach Ron Rivera continues to praise Ealy for doing the dirty work and as a big defensive end he does do a good job of tying up offensive linemen and setting the edge to force plays back into the middle. He did a good job helping shut down the Texans’ run game, who only averaged 2.7 yards per carry against the Panthers.
However, the coaching staff needs to have trust in players in a tight game they won’t make costly mistakes. This is almost what happened for Ealy and he will need to make sure he rises to the occasion if the situation presents itself again.
Aside from Newton, the Panthers’ run game hasn’t been very effective. This falls squarely on running back Jonathan Stewart. The Panthers coaching staff has leaned heavily on Stewart as he has carried the ball 35 times over the first two games while the other Panthers’ running backs (Fozzy Whittaker and Mike Tolbert) have only carried it a total of nine times.
The Panthers have put their faith in Stewart and made him the focal point of their rushing attack, especially with the release of DeAngelo Williams this offseason. However, he has not responded well as his yards per carry average drop by over a yard from 4.6 last year to only 3.4 yards per carry in 2015. The team is going to have to find a way to get him back on track to help take pressure off Newton to make plays running the ball.
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