Atlanta, and Ryan Passing Next STOP! for Panther Defense

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 31: Mike Adams #29 of the Carolina Panthers breaks up a pass to Julio Jones #11 of the Atlanta Falcons during the first half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on December 31, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 31: Mike Adams #29 of the Carolina Panthers breaks up a pass to Julio Jones #11 of the Atlanta Falcons during the first half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on December 31, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images) /

Matt Ryan and the Atlanta passing attack is next.

Greg Olsen’s foot injury is obviously as gray a cloud as steadily advancing Hurricane Florence is in Charlotte. On a career basis he was money against the Falcons- 770 yards and seven TDs worth (15 games)- his best stats against anyone. Nobody should expect Chris Manhertz or Ian Thomas to become a primary target-safety blanket for Cam Newton, to *replace* Olsen’s All-Pro type stats.

Hurney got right on a crucial offensive line situation when Daryl Williams went down for season, offensive line will be a concern, until its not. Newcomer Chris Clark, Tyler Larsen, Greg VanRoten figure to be a rotating solution on the O-line, with expectation of Brendan Mahon possibly settling at guard. Any questions about Williams trying to return too early from his training camp injury is debatable- the replay didn’t look like a blast, and even with a brace, that’s a lot of man to hold up.

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YOU WON’T READ ANY BOO-HOOING about Olsen’s injury from Coach Ron Rivera, Cam Newton, or anywhere else in Mr. Tepper’s organization, nor will Atlanta be offering any quarter on “Poor Panthers, lost a good player!” Those touches will be redistributed among multiple targets, both are fine blockers, and it’s always been a next man up mentality with Rivera.

Watching numerous interviews, few of the players felt they’d had played their best against Dallas, as exciting as a first pro game and victory might be to several rookies. *Everyone* is looking forward to this early division game though, in particular James Bradberry, who’s waited a year for some redemption from the teams first meeting last year. Bradberry was injured on the first play, and Jones battered Panther secondary for a stunning 300 yard game; Ryan threw for over 500.

Taking Ryan’s opening game as a baseline, he’s not usually a sub-.500 thrower, the rest (21/43/251, 1 int/4 sacks) were just stats which didn’t overpower the Eagles in an 18-12 loss, and yes, it’s expected he’ll be going after new parts of Panther secondary. Kuechly (13 tackles) and Shaq Thompson (9) have been cleaning up whatever moves around the line, Panthers were clearly in control all day vs. Dallas. Line has been BOSS, David Mayo, Mario Addison et al kept Ezekiel Elliott to 15/69 yds., and based on that, the Falcon’s Freeman will have to go outside where the pursuit by Luuuuke! is legendary.

Dallas game was rightly called a defensive victory— punctuated by Addison’s strip-sack with 1:28 left- giving up a score with 8:42 left to end a dominant performance that hinted at future shutouts. Eric Washington’s crew was the schizzle, denying Dallas’ Dak Prescott any sense of timing with exactly the pressure defensive coordinator Washington wanted to amp for 2018. That he’s ingrained a SCORE mentality is very real, and the 37-year old ‘Mr. Peppers’ is part of a highly active and productive front seven, yet this year it’s about how really good defenses roll—you get off the field by stopping the other guys with three-outs. An unappreciated fact: Despite all its offensive prowess and yardage last year, Atlanta was only 23rd in red zone scoring, and a mediocre 15th in overall scoring.

The Panthers figure to keep maximum pressure on Ryan up front by a rotation that will test his offensive line with stunts and blitzes.

OFFENSE has to fire up for Panther Success

  • The sixteen points of offense was generally sub-par, but overall ball control was solid. Panther’s first drive ended with a McCaffrey fumble, and everyone must now admit they’ve seen he can run between the tackles vs. just outside or pass catching. He’s building his repertoire, 16 touches for 95 total yards is a taste. If you’re disappointed in CMC numbers, in a SPREAD and 1-1 situations, McCaffrey will get more of those 18 and 71 yard catch-runs we’ve seen.
  • Expect CJ Anderson to get more touches, he had 7/35 against Dallas. Anderson was an early newcomer to Panthers during off-season, replacing Jonathan Stewart role as a banger was the initial thought. His size is misleading— he’s 220 lbs., but there’s not a lot to hold on to when 5’8” pops through the line. He hasn’t got CMC’s acceleration, both make you work stopping them.
  • Funchess continues to make tough catches—Newton and he have been throwing back shoulder and sidelines since camp. Seeing a couple attempts to put the ball up for Moore and Funchess in red zone would signal Newton has added touch to his skill set, and that would be just as easy to deal with as 146 passing yards overall.
  • Jarius Wright and Curtis Samuel will both be available this week as slot receivers, and I don’t care how active Atlanta LBs are-  they lost Keanu Neal for the year against Eagles- that pair are a *VERY tough* cover as #4 receivers. Wright’s nickname is ‘Mr. Third Down’, and if Olsen isn’t available, #13 would be a jersey worth looking for.
  • Will the DJ Moore who killed it with precision pass routes in training camp please show up and remind us how great a 22-yard plus dozen-more-while-breaking-three-tackles play looks?