3 crucial matchups that could decide Carolina Panthers at Falcons in Week 1

Frankie Luvu
Frankie Luvu / Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports
2 of 4

Carolina Panthers OL Chandler Zavala vs. Grady Jarrett

The biggest question mark along an offensive line that suddenly has some concerns is Chandler Zavala - a fourth-round rookie who looks set to get the starting nod at right guard until Austin Corbett is ready to return.

To say that the Carolina Panthers' interior line was weak in the preseason would be an understatement. It was hard to watch just how many times Bryce Young - and especially Matt Corral - got thrown to the ground because of blown assignments or a simple difference in skill level or strength.

That doesn't mean Zavala is a bad player - he missed a lot of camp time through injury and is still learning the ropes. There is a reason the team has faith in the young guard. However, there is also a reason it took this long for Carolina to make this decision.

Zavala shows great awareness and lateral quickness that lends to the player's innate ability to be in the right place more often than not. The young guard also shows a knack for predicting where a rush will take place and shows the strength to counteract your average bull rush.

However, that high football IQ can lend to some not-so-great side effects. Zavala also tends to get his hands out in front a little too early at times, which leaves him vulnerable to swim moves and other finesse-based attacks.

And this is precisely what Grady Jarrett loves to feed on.

The accomplished defensive lineman put together a solid campaign last season with six sacks. The problem for the Panthers is the majority of these came from finesse moves against linemen that overextended. Exactly the weakness of Zavala.

The Panthers will have to keep a very close eye on just how this matchup unfolds. It might also be worth scheming things away from that side if necessary.

It could really go either way here. That's what makes this matchup such an interesting one to watch.