The Panthers have to do a better job of wrapping up the quarterback.
There has been a lot of talk surrounding the Carolina Panthers defense lately and how they have played. The talk is deserved as, following a lackluster performance on Thursday, there seems to be more holes in the defense than originally thought. Coming through the statistics, I stumbled upon a number that was very troubling. The Carolina Panthers are at the bottom of the league in sacks, and that is a number that needs to be higher.
Currently, the Panthers ranked 23rd in the league with 17 sacks on the season. That puts them in a tie with the Chicago Bears, the Los Angeles Rams and the Baltimore Ravens. Thursday showed what will happen if you do not get to the quarterback in time. He can tear you apart, and with some inexperience at the cornerback position, that is less than ideal. Particularly when you look at defenses from years past, the lack of sacks is not something you associate with Panthers football.
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Last year, Carolina finished ranked third in the league with 50 sacks. Steve Wilks’ defenses were always aggressive and their top priority was sacking the quarterback. This year, there seems to be more of a focus on covering the wide receivers. That is not a bad thing by any means. Especially in a quarterback-friendly league, pass coverage is very important. However, there needs to be a healthy balance of both attacking the quarterback and blanketing the wide receivers. So far, the former seems to be lacking.
Thursday, the Panthers only got to Ben Roethlisberger once for a loss of six yards. For comparisons sake, Cam Newton got sacked five times for a loss of 46 yards. Pittsburgh knew that they had to attack Newton in order to stop the Panthers offense, and they did that. They showed the aggressiveness that the Carolina Panthers should have had. That was a big reason why they came out on the winning end.
I hate to make comparisons especially since this particular Panthers team was special, but the 2015 team comes to mind when talking about aggressiveness. They flew to the football. It did not matter if you were a linebacker, defensive tackle, or defensive end. Everybody seemed to break off the line with the goal of making the quarterback eat the turf. It was a killer instinct that was fun to watch, and it struck fear into the heart of opposing offenses. This year? That killer instinct on the pass rush is gone and the team seems perfectly content with letting the quarterback throw the ball and putting all the pressure on the cornerbacks.
That is not going to fly from here on out. With games against the Saints, Buccaneers, upstart Browns, and Falcons, still to go, they cannot afford to slack against passing offenses. These teams can beat you if you give the quarterbacks time in the pocket. The Panthers need to be more aggressive and they need to figure out a way to get pressure on the quarterback quickly. If they can’t right the ship in this aspect, it is going to be a long rest of the season.