When the Carolina Panthers take on the Washington Redskins, the team's secondary is expected to be tested. The Redskins' quarterback, Kirk Cousins, has been one of the most prolific passers in the NFL over the past four games he has played. If Week 8 is taken out, when the Redskins were on a bye, Cousins is fifth in the NFL in attempts (148), fourth in completions (100), and tied for first in touchdowns (9).
Unfortunately for the Panthers, they are expected to be without starting cornerback Charles Tillman, who is listed as doubtful for Week 11 with a hip injury. This means that Bene Benwikere would get the start in place of Tillman on the outside opposite Josh Norman.
This may not be a huge difference for this defense though as Benwikere has been spelling Tillman throughout the year, in addition to his responsibilites at the nickel position. Benwikere also was the starter on the outside the final four regular season games, and the two playoff games, last year. He should expect a heavy workload on Sunday with the volume Cousins has been throwing, and the fact that quarterbacks have been avoiding throwing Norman's direction. The success of this defense could hinge on Benwikere's play.
Another player who is expected to be out is wide receiver Philly Brown, who suffered a shoulder injury in Thursday's practice and sat out on Friday. Similar to Tillman, Brown is listed as doubtful this week.
The team is expected to turn to second round rookie Devin Funchess if Brown isn't able to start and the potential is there for a breakout game against the Redskins.
After a slow start to the season, that saw Funchess have seven receptions over the first seven games, he has caught five passes the past two weeks for 112 yards and his first career touchdown. One of the reasons he has seen his stats improve is because he has eliminated the drops with none over the past two games after six over the first seven games.
The team has been desperate to find a consistent threat on the outside to try and open up the middle of the field for Greg Olsen. The rookie from Michigan certainly has all the physical tools to be that guy and could put it all together against the Redskins.
For the third straight week, the Panthers will turn to Amini Silatolu to start at left guard with Andrew Norwell recovering from a hamstring injury. Silatolu was the starter at the beginning of 2014 but couldn't stay healthy and lost the job to Norwell but has done a good job filling in for Norwell this year.
He is going to have a tall task on Sunday trying to protect Cam Newton from Jason Hatcher and Trent Murphy. According to Pro Football Focus, Hatcher is the fifth best pass rushing 3-4 defensive end and Murphy ranks 12th among 3-4 OLBs in the NFL.
The Panthers offensive line did struggle last week protecting Newton from the Titans, who also run a 3-4 defense, giving up a season high five sacks. This should be a good test for them and Silatolu, who was credited with giving up one of those sacks.