It was a quiet day for the Carolina Panthers’ defensive ends as Saints’ quarterback Luke McCown was only sacked once but that was by linebacker Shaq Thompson. Mario Addison and Kony Ealy each accounted for four tackles and Charles Johnson had one tackle.
This is a position that has a number of question marks leaving Week 3. The biggest concern has to be the health of Charles Johnson, who was carted off the field due to a hamstring injury. As Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer notes the Panthers are concerned this could keep him out for “multiple weeks.”
This is a group that has struggled with only two sacks the past two weeks and the thought of being without Johnson for an extended period of time is not good for this defense.
The Panthers were certainly happy to have back Star Lotulelei, who saw his first game action of the season. He suffered a foot injury at the start of training camp in August and was finally able to get back onto the field. He made the only notable play from this group as he knocked down a pass on the Saints first drive and forced McCown’s first incompletion.
After that it was a rather quiet day for the defensive tackles as Kawann Short, Kyle Love and Dwan Edwards each had one tackle. It would have been nice to see more penetration from this group and get a little more pressure on McCown.
For the second consecutive week, the linebacker position hasn’t seemed to miss a beat without Luke Kuechly. This is not to say they are better without Kuechly but the Panthers are lucky to have a quality backup in A.J. Klein, who had 10 tackles against the Saints that can help keep this defense playing at a high level.
He was tied with Thomas Davis who also had a strong game with 10 total tackles and one tackle for a loss. The biggest positive that came from this position though against the Saints was the play of Shaq Thompson. For the second consecutive week, he had a substantial role in this defense and finished with seven tackles and his first career sack.
This is going to be a fun group to watch when Kuechly returns with the development of Thompson at outside linebacker.
The stat line for Luke McCown (31 for 38, 310 yards) would make any fan think that the Panthers’ secondary got picked apart. While they weren’t able to force a number of incompletions, they did do a good job of keeping the play in front of them. The Saints entered this game with a game plan of getting the ball out of McCown’s hands quickly and have him throw safe throws. He only averaged 8.2 yards per carry and for most of the game the Panthers were able to keep the play in front of them.
This group though is led by the play of Josh Norman, who once again had a strong game, and had a key play late to help secure the Panthers’ victory. With two minutes left in the game, McCown decided to throw it deep to Brandin Cooks in the end zone but Norman made an incredible play on the ball and picked it off.
The two interceptions he has this year already matches his career high and this a trend that hopefully will continue.
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