There is no question that the Carolina Panthers' offensive line is greatly improved from a season ago. Players like Michael Oher and Ryan Kalil have gotten a great deal of the attention, right guard Trai Turner has been a major part of the improvement.
According to Pro Football Focus, Turner is the third best right guard in the league based on his rating of +24.8. He has looked equal impressive in run blocking as he has been in pass blocking and has given up only one sack all year. The second-year player has seemingly gotten better as the season as gone on and not given up only three QB hurries and zero sacks or QB hits over the past six games.
Now the play has not gone completely unnoticed as Turner earned his first Pro Bowl selection last week. The biggest reason that Turner's stock is on the rise, and this could apply to the entire offensive line, is that there is a drastic difference for Cam Newton when he is not pressured versus when he is.
Ted Ginn Jr.
Ted Ginn Jr. is coming off statistically his worst game of the season with only one reception for nine receiving yards. This certainly begs the question then: How could his stock go up?
Well after the Panthers' offense sputtered to their lowest point total of the season, it is apparent just how important the veteran wide receiver is to this offense.
Ginn as shown incredible chemistry this year with Newton and has a touchdown catch in six of the Panthers' games this year. In those six games, the Panthers have averaged 37 points per game which is well below the 26.6 points per game in the nine games where Ginn doesn't have a touchdown.
One of the reasons that the offense has been as successful is because of this big play ability. The team has relied heavily on the run but with the threat of the speedy wide receiver on the outside, defenses aren't able to stack the box as much as they would like. Expect the coaching staff to find a way to get Ted Ginn Jr. involved early and often against the Bucs in Week 17.
Panthers' Defensive Ends
Based purely on stats, the Panthers' defense is one of the best at getting to the quarterback, ranking fifth in the league in sacks with 40. However, the Panthers' have gotten pressure up the middle with Kawann Short and from their linebackers Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis.
The defense though has not been able to find a way to get the pressure they need from their defensive ends. According to Pro Football Focus, over the past four games the team's top three defensive ends (Charles Johnson, Jared Allen and Kony Ealy) have not had a single sack, only eight QB hits and only 19 QB hurries. To put these numbers in perspective, Jason Pierre-Paul has 21 QB hurries by himself over this same stretch and Olivier Vernon has nine QB hits.
The Panthers' have struggled against the pass the past few weeks and the best way to help their secondary is getting pressure on the quarterback. The Panthers' have to find a way to get more production from their top pass rushers.