3 major storylines following the Carolina Panthers into Week 8 vs. Texans

The bye week has come and gone, it's time to get back to business for the Carolina Panthers.
Bryce Young and C.J. Stroud
Bryce Young and C.J. Stroud / Allen Berezovsky/GettyImages
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Who is playing defense for the Carolina Panthers?

As if this defense hadn’t already sustained more than their fair share of injuries early this season - more news came down the pipeline to start the Week 8 cycle.

Yetur Gross-Matos was placed on injured/reserve with a pretty significant hamstring injury, according to head coach Frank Reich. At the beginning of the season, it wouldn’t have caused much distress to think he wouldn’t be available. But the fourth-year outside linebacker has probably been playing the best football of his professional career and is the clear top-run defender on the front seven's edge.

Jeremy Chinn was once fondly referred to as a weapon by defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero. That seems like ages ago, and his snap count agrees. That conundrum has unfortunately, at least temporarily for the next four weeks, resolved itself as he also lands on the IR with a serious quad injury.

To compound the headache, Brian Burns apparently suffered an elbow complication during Thursday’s practice session and was a limited participant on Friday. Reich said he didn’t know the extent of the ailment - further testing would determine that.

The Houston Texans have been allowing 2.7 sacks and turnovers per game through their first six contests - fourth best in the league. With their offensive line and ball security strengths, losing the Carolina Panthers' best and only consistent pass rusher is unsettling.

Kamu Grugier-Hill was also sidelined in practice due to an illness. He’s listed as questionable. Frankie Luvu has been limited throughout the week with a bothersome hip, though he told reporters that he was going to suit up on Sunday.

Starting safety Vonn Bell remains out for the contest. However, the Panthers could be getting Xavier Woods back for the other starting safety slot - a rare positive on the injury front. And he’ll be needed in this one, as the Texans have a dynamic passing attack with serious playmakers on the outside.

Houston enters the game averaging 6.8 yards per passing play, ranking sixth best in the NFL. Nico Collins and Tank Dell provide C.J. Stroud with explosive ability from the receiver position, especially downfield.

On passes thrown to wide receivers more than 10 yards downfield, the Panthers allow catches on 62.5 percent of those targets - 28th in the league.

The good guys will also have their hands full with tight end Dalton Schultz. The former Dallas Cowboys star has caught a touchdown in three consecutive games and leads the Texans in red zone target percentage.

The ground game simply isn’t very good for Houston - that may be the biggest silver lining of the matchup. Starting running back Dameon Pierce is averaging 2.9 yards per carry. His backup, Devin Singletary, is nominally more effective with a 3.9 YPC figure.

They also don’t break off explosive runs, either. Their longest carries, respectively, are 15 yards and 17 yards.

The Panthers' defense has faced a bottom-shelf rushing attack already this year when the Minnesota Vikings came to Bank of America Stadium. They compiled 135 yards rushing - their highest mark of the season.