Will the Carolina Panthers open up the playbook this week?
This could be the week that the training wheels are taken off for Sam Darnold. This is no dig at the quarterback, who has marshaled the offense considerably well through the first three games, but he must do that now without the safety blanket of his best player in running back Christian McCaffrey.
Matt Rhule confirmed that rookie Chuba Hubbard will be RB1 in McCaffrey’s absence and is going to share the workload with former Oregon Duck Royce Freeman. While no one is expecting this pair to perform to the level of McCaffrey, establishing a solid run game early will enable Darnold and the Carolina Panthers to get the passing game going.
Another interesting subplot is the progression of tight end Tommy Tremble, who after a midweek trade that saw Dan Arnold shipped to the Jacksonville Jaguars could end up with a more substantial role on offense.
This is a clear vote of confidence from Rhule and his staff, the head coach even going as far as to call Tremble this year’s Jeremy Chinn thanks to his versatility. High praise indeed for the third-round pick out of Notre Dame.
Coming into camp Tremble was seen as an exceptional blocker with the skillset to eventually improve in the passing game. Rhule and Joe Brady have seen enough to suggest he is ready to step up.
However, one issue for Carolina and one they must address is how to get star wide receiver Robby Anderson involved in the offense. Through three weeks, he has totaled just five receptions for 103 yards and a solitary touchdown.
More would have been expected from a player who had more than 1,000 yards receiving last year. But simply Anderson hasn’t been getting the opportunities being targeted just 11 times through three games.
Compare that to fellow wideouts D.J. Moore, and Terrace Marshall Jr., who have been targeted 31 and 14 times respectively.
Considering Anderson signed a two-year contract extension worth almost $30 million, Brady must find a way to incorporate the player into the offense.