3 major storylines following the Carolina Panthers into Week 4 vs. Vikings

These are the major storylines following Carolina into the Week 4 contest.

C.J. Henderson
C.J. Henderson / Perry Knotts/GettyImages
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Carolina Panthers OL woes

The Carolina Panthers' offensive line has been a glaring weakness through the first three games. Losing Brady Christensen (torn bicep) for the season after the Atlanta Falcons game in Week 1 is proving to be a monumental loss after being subjected to watching rookie Chandler Zavala, Calvin Throckmorton, and Cade Mays serve as band-aids over a cannonball wound.

Although Pro Football Focus grades are very similar to the tequila I’ve been medicinally using as a Panthers anti-venom and should be taken with a grain of salt – I can’t go without mentioning Zavala’s 0.0 pass block grade from Week 3. You read that correctly – 0.0.

After a decent showing in Atlanta, the rookie offensive guard has struggled mightily in pass-blocking duties. The former North Carolina State lineman has surrendered a sack in each contest and was responsible for an egregious 14 pressures last week. The interior of the Panthers' protection, in general, has been porous.

His college brethren Ikem Ekwonu also had a game he’d like to forget in Week 3. The left tackle committed four false start penalties, relinquished four pressures, and earned a 27.9 pass block grade. The 2022 first-round pick simply must play at a higher level for this unit to reach its potential.

The big fellas face a tall task against the Minnesota Vikings. Defensive coordinator Brian Flores has been dialing up blitzes on a league-leading 63.9 percent of opponent drop-backs. The league average is 27.1%. The Panthers have been allowing pressure on 45.5% of their drop-backs.

The coaching staff could (ahem, should) look to different personnel packages to help the ailing offensive line. I’ve been advocating for more 12 personnel to provide blocking reinforcements and create different opportunities than the looks this offense has been showing.

Staying committed to the ground game, even if it’s producing mediocre results initially, would also take a level of pressure off the guys up front. Run blocking is the more natural commodity of nearly all the Panthers' starting linemen.