4 burning questions Carolina Panthers fans are asking ahead of Week 4

(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Baker Mayfield
(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Baker Mayfield /
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Carolina Panthers
(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Derrick Brown /

Carolina Panthers’ progression as a team

How do you feel about the teams progressing from week one to now? – Drew via Twitter.

Two words: cautiously optimistic.

What we saw from the Carolina Panthers on defense and special teams on Sunday against the New Orleans Saints was a different unit than the one that turned out versus the Cleveland Browns in Week 1.

Phil Snow’s defense has played exceptional football entering Week 4. The run defense has improved and held the dangerous Alvin Kamara to 61 yards on 15 attempts. Their run fits were much more improved and gap integrity was a lot better than against Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt.

The passing defense was also outstanding, for the most part.

I’ll give the Saints and rookie wide receiver Chris Olave credit for some of the plays they made downfield. Even so, Jaycee Horn played lockdown defense, securing the game-clinching interception in the final seconds, and was terrific in both man and zone responsibilities.

Because of injuries, the second-year cornerback from South Carolina played nickel and some safety. It’s good to know the Panthers have a very good cornerback going forward.

Defensive tackle Derrick Brown has also played great football. While he hasn’t filled up the box score, he has been consistently penetrating the pocket and the backfield in the run game.

His raw functional strength has been on full display the last two weeks and Brown’s motor is exceptional for his size. The Auburn product also secured a big-man interception this past weekend after a Horn deflection.

Special teams coordinator Chris Tabor and punter Johnny Hekker look like two big signings. This is a unit that has improved a lot after the last couple of seasons of flawed play.

Hekker can flip the field and rarely commits touchbacks. Stanley Thomas-Oliver III has shown to be an excellent player for Tabor’s unit, making big plays as a gunner and allowing minimal yards against returners.

By the way, Eddy Pineiro has looked like a great preseason pick-up following the injury to Zane Gonzalez. The veteran kicker has been perfect through three games. Let’s knock on some wood and hope this continues.

Despite all of this, the offense continues to play catch up. As I’ve addressed in the last two slides, Ben McAdoo’s unit is still a work in progress. It may take a couple of more weeks to do so.

If and when it does, this could be a dangerous offense. However, the run game and pass protection have improved considerably over the last couple of weeks.

Overall, I’ve been impressed with the improvements in some facets of the offense. Snow and Tabor have done an adequate job of getting their respective units in the right direction. There’s still a lot of football to be played, but at least two-thirds of the Panthers have shown promise.