Charlotte, NC - Defensive preview for Sunday game against the Arizona Cardinals.
The first quarter of the season the Carolina Panthers' front four have shown themselves to one of the top groups in the NFL. Mike Rucker was named NFC Defensive Player of the Month for September. Rucker has five sacks, which ranks third-best in the NFL, 21 tackles and 12 quarterback pressures. Rucker along with Julius Peppers, Kris Jenkins, Brenston Buckner will start Sunday. The Panthers defense ranks first in the NFC against both the run and the pass, and is only giving up 239.8 yards per game. Carolina leads the NFL in sacks with 17 as well. All put 2 of the sacks have come from the defensive line.
Fred Wakefield, Russell Davis, Barron Tanner, and Kyle Vanden Bosch will start for the Cardinals none who are household names. Rookie Wendell Bryant who came into camp late will also see playing time and he is the most talent player of the group. Running Back Lamar Smith should have a big day running the football against this front four.
MLB Dan Morgan is the leader of this group he is the key in stopping the run and leads the team in tackles with 31. Mark Fields, and Hannibal Naives are the two starting outside linebackers. Both running backs Thomas Jones and Marcel Shipp have injuries that might cause them to miss the game Sunday or not be able to play a big role so rookie Damien Anderson will be activated from the practice squad and may either start or be the backup.
With the run defense being what it is and the defensive line not being that strong, Arizona's linebacker will have to have a very strong game to contain Carolina's running attack. Their starters will be: Ray Thompson, Ronald McKinnon, and Rob Fredrickson. This is the strength of the Cardinals front 7; these three players will need to play well if they want to stop the run.
What was supposed to Carolina's weakest position has been able to hold it on so far this year? The starters will be the normal group with, CB Terry Cousin, CB Reggie Howard, FS Deon Grant, and SS Mike Minter. They will have to stop QB Jake Plummer and WR David Boston from putting up huge numbers in Sunday's game.
The Cardinals are again going to be without their big free-agent prize CB Duane Starks. Renaldo Hill and David Barrett will start at the cornerback spots, while Adrian Wilson and Kwamie Lassiter will be the starting safeties. The Cardinals won't have to worry about WR Muhsin Muhammad because he will be out for Sunday's game, but they will need to worry about Steve Smith who has the ability to make big plays.