The Carolina Panthers have struggled to find an effective left tackle since Jordan Gross retired a few seasons ago. After watching Byron Bell struggle last year, the front office wanted to find someone who had experience at the position and signed Michael Oher to a two-year contract in the offseason.
After the first two games, the organization may have wondered if they were going to have to go back to the drawing board after the 2015 season. Pro Football Focus had rated Oher as one of the worst left tackles this season with a combined rating of -6.5. In those first two weeks, Oher had been responsible for two sacks and four QB hurries against the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Houston Texans.
However, against the Saints this past week Oher bounced back and had his best game of the season. He finished with a positive rating of 0.4 and was only responsible for two QB hurries. This was only the second time, dating back to last season, that he was given a positive rating in his past 11 games. This is going to be a great opportunity for Oher to get into a rhythm heading into the bye week with a strong performance in Week 4 and the better he plays, the easier Cam Newton's job will be in the pocket.
The Panthers' fullback has seen his workload steadily increase over the course of the first three weeks of the season. After only one carry and one reception in Week 1 against the Jaguars Mike Tolbert has had five carries the past two games. He also has started to get more work in the passing game with two receptions in Week 2 and three receptions in Week 3.
Now these may not look like staggering numbers but the Panthers could use a spark out of the backfield. Jonathan Stewart has not had the explosive plays at running back and is only averaging 3.5 yards per carry. The Panthers have leaned heavily on him in the early part of the season as he has run the ball 49 times.
This type of workload could be a concern, especially due to the fact that he suffered a leg injury towards the end of the game against the Saints. Stewart has never been the featured running back in his career and he has had a histoy of injuries. It would not be surprising to see Tolbert take some of the work from Stewart this week against the Bucs.
At this time last week Brenton Bersin was still on the practice squad and was hoping for a chance to get back to playing football on Sundays. Well due to a high ankle sprain suffered by Jerricho Cotchery provided that opportunity and he ended up playing over 40% of the team's offensive snaps.
The Panthers have struggled to find steady production at wide receiver and this could create an opportunity for Bersin to expand his role in this offense. Last week, Philly Brown played almost 75% of the team's snaps but did not have one reception or even one pass thrown his way.
Bersin is a sure-handed, possession wide receiver and could develop into the go-to target for Cam Newton when he needs to get rid of the ball. I would expect that Cotchery misses this week again with the ankle injury and Bersin has a chance to prove he can be productive for the Panthers heading into the bye week.
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