Week 7 spotlight: Zach Kerr can be the X-factor at the Saints

(Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) Zach Kerr
(Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) Zach Kerr /

15. 3-3. 87. Sunday, Oct 25. 3-2. FOX. Saints -7. 1 PM ET

Defensive tackle Zach Kerr has a big opportunity to make his presence felt for the Carolina Panthers at the New Orleans Saints in Week 7.

The Carolina Panthers might have themselves an X-factor when they take on the New Orleans Saints in a pivotal NFC South divisional matchup this weekend. This looks to be a real crossroads game for both teams as they look to keep up with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, which only raises the stakes at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

New Orleans is heavily favored to come away with the victory, as they should be with the talent at their disposal. That being said, the Carolina Panthers could pull off an upset if everything clicks into place. Their chances of success have improved by stud wide receiver Michael Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders already ruled out, so how the Saints adjust is something to keep a close eye on during the game.

One player who will be counted on plenty to produce the goods is Zach Kerr. The defensive tackle now has a starting berth after Kawann Short was forced to undergo season-ending shoulder surgery to extend his frustrating time with injury over the last two years.

Kerr was seen as a prominent piece on the rotation leading into the campaign. His eye-catching performances have been largely encouraging for a defense that has steadily improved with each passing game and Sunday’s game represents one that could result in the player enhancing his growing reputation.

The Carolina Panthers should follow the Vikings’ blueprint.

The Minnesota Vikings provided the blueprint on how to limit the Saints offense during their shock playoff win in 2019. Mike Zimmer’s decision to move Pro Bowl defensive end duo Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter onto the interior was an inspired move that played a significant role in their overall triumph.

While it appears unlikely that the Panthers will go in this direction. In Kerr, they have someone who likes to get after the passer and has the skills to do so.

Getting pressure on the edge against Drew Brees is one thing. But the quarterback is adept at moving up in the pocket and getting rid of the ball just in time. However, if teams can also generate disturbance from the defensive tackle spot then it gives the Pro Football Hall of Fame-bound signal-caller from doing this efficiently.

Most of the attention will be on No. 7 overall pick Derrick Brown, so there might be some extra space for Kerr to work in. The free-agent signing has three quarterback hits and one pressure from three starts this season. But his high energy on the line of scrimmage has the potential to cause some substantial problems for the Saints’ protection.

Whether this will be enough for the Panthers to upset the odds remains to be seen. But it would definitely help. Brees likes to get the ball out quickly given his advancing years, which will make it all the more important for Kerr and others to move quickly and improve their ability to disrupt the Super Bowl winner.

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Kerr’s outstanding start to life in Carolina is further reflected by his 71.4 grade from Pro Football Focus. He has already commanded the respect of his teammates and if he can continue this with a standout showing at the Saints, it might just give the Panthers a chance.