4 crucial matchups to watch during Panthers at Texans in Week 3

(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Robbie Anderson
(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Robbie Anderson /
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Carolina Panthers
(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Sam Darnold /

Conservative defense vs. Opportunistic offense

The Carolina Panthers may no longer be the home run threat of the Cam Newton era but the Sam Darnold one hasn’t exactly started off badly either.

Teddy Bridgewater had a habit of checking the ball down almost every play. So what’s different between that and what Darnold is doing?

Short answer, Christian McCaffrey.

But let’s look a bit deeper than that.

While Darnold has used McCaffrey to a great extent and has checked the ball down some, it hasn’t been his first choice. He will throw the deep ball when the opportunity arises but there also isn’t any unnecessary risk-taking as of yet. Something that has been an issue in the past.

Darnold takes what the defense gives him while also fitting the ball into tight windows when necessary. This fits perfectly with what the Houston Texans do on defense.

The Texans, as we just spoke about, play a very soft coverage scheme that almost begs quarterbacks to take short gains. This works very well against an offense that takes a lot of deep shots but not against one like the Panthers.

It’s like using an air filter to filter water.

Great at what it’s designed to do but not in that situation.

With this type of conservative coaching, people will get open. It’s not a matter of if but when and who.

Darnold just needs long enough to find that person. Something that shouldn’t be an issue as the Texans struggle to get any meaningful penetration and rarely blitz as it doesn’t fit their scheme.

Whereas the Panthers rely on pressure, the Texans depend on coverage and so this game will be an interesting experiment as to which does better in a closed environment.

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If the Panthers come and play their game, this could be a long evening for Houston.