One of the unsung heroes for the Carolina Panthers this year has been Mike Tolbert who is having a bounce back year in this offense. Last year he dealt with injuries that limited him to a career low in games (8) and when he was on the field, he wasn't that productive. He was averaging only 2.1 yards per carry and for the first time in his career did not score a touchdown.
This year has been much different as he has almost doubled his yards per carry, up to 4.1 yards, and is averaging 9.2 yards per reception and has scored four times already in 2015.
Tolbert is not a high volume player but he is such a dynamic weapon for Cam Newton and this Panthers' offense. He not only can pick up tough yards in the middle in short yardage situation but has great hands out of the backfield so the Panthers are able to utilize him in play action and keep defenses off balance.
Entering this game expectations for Cortland Finnegan had to be low considering he hadn't played football since the end of the 2014 season and had a little less than a week to learn the playbook.
Well, Finnegan exceeded those expectations and really looked impressive considering what he had working against him. He played 33 snaps, gave up only three receptions on six targets for 25 yards according to Pro Football Focus.
The nickelback position has been a concern with Colin Jones there and opposing teams have tried to isolate and target that matchup whenever possible. Finnegan though provides a veteran presence and as long as Bene Benwikere is filling in for Charles Tillman, he should solidify this secondary.
This was the first game back for Philly Brown from a shoulder injury he suffered in practice a few weeks ago and the question was how the playing time would break down between him and Devin Funchess when he returned. The thought was Funchess would see a majority of the playing time because of how well he had been playing recently.
That was not the case against the Saints as Brown played more than double the amount of snaps that Funchess did. The problem is that Funchess actually produced more with less as he caught a 13-yard touchdown pass on 26 snaps while Brown caught only two passes for seven yards on 63 snaps.
While Brown has a place in this offense and certainly could be a dangerous weapon with his speed, he shouldn't be starting over Funchess. The rookie out of the University of Michigan has all the tools to be a top wide receiver in this offense and should be on the field as much as possible. It will be interesting if Ron Rivera continues to use Brown or Funchess is able to earn more snaps over the rest of the regular season.
This is probably not the way Kony Ealy wanted to see his streak of five games with a sack end playing a season low 12 snaps against the Saints. Unfortunately, the low playing time was self-inflicted as Ealy was flagged on two consecutive plays that allowed the Saints to get a first down and extend their drive.
According to Charlotte Observer's Joe Person, Ealy described this stretch as "two bonehead decisions" and it is certainly possible that he could have been pressing a little too hard to get to quarterback Drew Brees.
Playing time at defensive end is going to be tight with Charles Johnson now back from the injured reserve and Jared Allen and Mario Addison playing well. The Panthers' certainly have options for the two defensive end positions and these types of mistakes won't be tolerated.
Ealy will be looking to have a bounce back game against the Atlanta Falcons and re-starting the sack streak.