Panthers vs. Bucs: Who to Watch on Defense

The Carolina Panthers defense is getting their first chance to see the number one overall pick from this past draft, Jameis Winston. These are three players that will play a key role in trying to stop Winston and the rest of the Bucs' offense.

Jared Allen

There is not going to be any ease Jared Allen into the Carolina Panthers' defense with Charles Johnson placed on the Injured Reserve this week. The Panthers' pass rush has been atrocious the past two weeks with no defensive end registering a sack during this time frame. 

The Panthers hope to rattle the Bucs' rookie quarterback and force him into mistakes. The best way to do this is by putting pressure on him, forcing him to make a decision in less time and hopefully make the wrong decision. The coaching staff hope that Allen, being the veteran of this group can lead by example.

It remains to be seen though how much Allen has left in the tank. He is second in sacks among active players since 2010 but since joining the Chicago Bears before the 2014 season, he has only registered 5.5 sacks. The only reason to think that this number will be better with Carolina is the fact that he is now moving back to his natural position as a 4-3 defensive end. While with the Bears, he was asked to play outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense.

Shaq Thompson

The first round rookie has seen his playing time steadily increase since the beginning of the season and could be in store for a major role in Week 4. The Panthers could be without both Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis this week due to injuries. If that is the case, expect the team to operate out of the nickel for a majority of the game with A.J. Klein and Shaq Thompson handling the linebacker responsibilites.

As the season has progressed, Thompson has developed nicely and looks much more comfortable on the field, which has resulted in quality production. After no recordable stats in Week 1, he has had a five tackle game in Week 2 and followed it up with a seven tackle game in Week 3, including his first career sack.

Thompson is going to be key slowing down Winston, because he is a mobile quarterback. Luckily for the Panthers, Thompson has great speed for a linebacker and should help contain Winston and limit his rushing yards.

Charles Tillman

Right now Josh Norman is getting most of the attention and he will have his hands full going up against Mike Evans. However Charles Tillman may be the cornerback who will be more important to the team's success on Sunday.

Norman has played Evans well when they have met in the past and the Bucs may look to Vincent Jackson to help carry the passing game. Jackson is a big wide receiver, 6'5" and 230 pounds, but Tillman is physical enough to matchup with the big target. 

Tillman has not been thrown at much this year, only targeted 18 times according to Pro Football Focus. This is nine times less than Norman and 10 times less than Bene Benwikere. However, he has given up 12 receptions and opposing quarterbacks have a NFL rating of 93.5 when throwing in his direction.

The matchup of Tillman and Jackson could be a key one and be the deciding factor of whether the Bucs' offense is able to score points on this Panthers' defense.

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