3 crucial matchups the Panthers must win vs. the Browns in Week 1

(Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports) Ikem Ekwonu
(Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports) Ikem Ekwonu /
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Carolina Panthers
(Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports) Shaq Thompson /

Carolina Panthers run defense vs. Browns rushing attack

The Carolina Panthers will have their hands full with a two-headed monster in the Cleveland Browns backfield. Phil Snow’s unit was a middle-of-the-pack rush defense last year, which won’t cut it in Week 1 or beyond if they want to make significant strides in 2022.

New additions Damien Wilson and Matt Ioannidis will bring upgrades in run support. But these two veterans alone will not stop Kevin Stefanski’s run-heavy system led by two dynamic players in Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt.

The Panthers will need multiple individuals around the football consistently to take down these elusive strong backs in space. This will also pile further pressure on quarterback Jacoby Brissett to get the job done.

Carolina’s front seven must clog gaps and leave lanes for Shaq Thompson, Frankie Luvu, and Wilson to help slow down the supreme threat of Chubb and Hunt. The Browns’ offensive line is elite in the Stefanski scheme and will make it very murky for the second-level defenders to fill a gap.

Snow has the option of keeping extra bodies in the box with Jeremy Chinn playing more of a linebacker role in this game to stop this run-heavy, outside zone scheme pinning the defensive line inside for Chubb and Hunt to pick what gaps they choose to run through.

Carolina has a difficult task awaiting them, there’s no getting away from that. But it’s a challenge that provides a solid measuring stick and one they should be relishing.

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