Panther Strategy and Personal vs Arizona

DE Mike Rucker did not practice on Wednesday while nursing a second-degree sprained medial collateral ligament. Rucker could be a game-time decision. If he doesn't start, Al Wallace will take his place.

There's a chance cornerback Ricky Manning Jr. could make his second straight start for the Panthers in the base defense, only this time at right corner instead of left corner.

Last week Manning played well in place of left corner Terry Cousin, who missed the game with a calf strain. This week, Cousin said he expects to return to the starting lineup. But Carolina's other cornerback, Reggie Howard, is listed as questionable with an ankle injury and did not practice Wednesday.

That means Manning may make the switch to the other side of the field. If both Howard and Cousin can't play, the Panthers would have to go with Manning and Dante Wesley as the starters. But Cousin, who did practice on Wednesday, should be ready to play this week.

PERSONNEL/INJURY NOTES:

--DE Mike Rucker did not practice on Wednesday while nursing a second-degree sprained medial collateral ligament. Rucker could be a game-time decision. If he doesn't start, Al Wallace will take his place.

--CB Terry Cousin returned to practice on Wednesday after missing last week's game with a calf strain. Cousin said he expects to start.

--CB Reggie Howard may not start this week because of an ankle injury. Howard played through the injury last Sunday night but the ankle was extremely sore early this week.

--LB Dan Morgan is again questionable for Sunday's game while recovering from post-concussion symptoms that include dizziness. The Panthers may be leaning toward holding Morgan out another week or two to make sure he's ready for the playoffs.

--DT Brentson Buckner was held out of practice with the flu on Wednesday, but should be ready to go by Sunday.

GAME PLAN: The Carolina Panthers need to get back to what works and that's pounding away with Stephen Davis and running a lot of play-action fakes. But when the Panthers do throw the ball, they need to have better pass protection.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Panthers CB Ricky Manning vs. Cardinals WR Anquan Boldin. Both are rookies and both have played well. Manning, who played at UCLA, never got a chance to face Boldin, from Florida State, in college. "I always wanted to face the top guys in my class," Manning said.

INJURY IMPACT: Along with the cornerback situation, the Panthers might face the prospect of being without their top pass rusher in Mike Rucker. He has a sprained medial collateral ligament and may not play against the Cardinals. If he doesn't the Panthers would have to start Al Wallace and it would really throw a wrench into their pass-rushing rotation. Rucker has 12 sacks this season.


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