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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Spotlight on Carolina Panthers secondary

The run defense for this Carolina Panthers team has proven to be the weakness on defense so far. Ejiro Evero's unit is allowing a hefty 5.2 yards per carry and has awarded opponents six rushing touchdowns already. But the Week 4 matchup presents a different problem.

Justin Jefferson plays for the Minnesota Vikings. If you aren’t familiar with him – well first, I’ll come over and help you lift the rock you’ve been living under – but also, he doesn’t blow the opportunity to display his greatness very often.

With no Jaycee Horn, the former LSU Tiger is likely salivating at the chance to line up opposite Donte Jackson and/or C.J. Henderson.

Minnesota ranks No. 3 in the league in total yards, No. 2 in passing yards, and No. 1 in pass attempts. The high ranking in total yards is an even bigger feather in the pass game’s cap, as the team ranks No. 31 in rushing yards. This is a prolific outfit in terms of throwing the football.

The Vikings also have rookie wideout Jordan Addison and an elite tight end on the roster with T.J. Hockenson, who’s enjoying a hot start to 2023 with 23 receptions, 179 receiving yards, and two touchdowns. Seattle's tight ends carved the Panthers' defense up last week despite missing their TE2, Will Dissly, to the tune of seven receptions on nine targets for 79 yards.

With Xavier Woods out, this defense will need Jeremy Chinn and Sam Franklin Jr. to play better.

Kirk Cousins is a veteran quarterback who teeters on the line between ‘game manager’ and ‘franchise player’. However, there’s no doubt he can light it up when the shots are there.

He’s also thrown two interceptions and lost three fumbles already through the first few weeks. The Vikings have turned the ball over on 24.2 percent of their possessions – good for No. 31 in the NFL.

Henderson was playing well prior to his ankle injury and resulting departure from the Seattle game. The Panthers surely hope he’ll carry that over. Jackson has been disappointing and is the biggest concern, in my opinion.

If Jackson isn’t creating the turnovers he's known for, what he’s brought to the field thus far this season just isn’t cutting it for a starting cornerback. He’s been credited with just a single pass breakup and allowed 11 receptions on 17 targets with zero turnovers.

Jackson also looked to be hesitant to engage in a physical brand of defense on the perimeter. After allowing a passer rating of 158.3 against Seattle, the threat of Jefferson looms large.

Vonn Bell will help over the top often, I anticipate, but the diverse route trees of Jefferson, Addison, and Hockenson put a heavy onus on these cornerbacks and for Evero to call a sharp game for the secondary.