A Quick Look At The Carolina Panthers

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 26, 2011 – 6:39 am

Coming off consecutive NFC North contests, the Vikings will hit the road this week to play the NFC South’s Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina. While this game features two teams with a combined record of 3-11, the hook is that both teams are led by promising rookie QBs, and it’ll be the first time in franchise history that the Vikings and their opponent start a rookie QB.

Panthers On Offense
The Panthers had the 1st overall pick in last April’s draft and it looks like first-year head coach Ron Rivera and the Panthers front office chose wisely. They selected Cam Newton, and the Heisman Trophy winner from Auburn stepped in right away and has impressed every step of the way. In his first game, Newton threw for 422 yards and 2 TDs in a loss to Arizona, and he followed that effort up with a 432-yard performance in Week 2. For the season, Newton is completing 60.3% of his passes and he has a TD-INT ratio of 8-9. Newton is also a lethal threat running the football, particularly on 3rd downs and close to the end zone. He’s averaging 4.7 yards per rush on 57 attempts and he has 7 rushing TDs.

Newton isn’t the only bright spot on this Panthers offense. Carolina ranks 5th in total offense at 416.6 yards per game, they have Top 10 rankings in both the running game and passing game, and they lead the NFL with 41 plays of 20+ yards (35 passing, 6 rushing). The rushing attack is paced by a two-headed attack that features starter DeAngelo Williams and wingman Jonathan Stewart. Williams, who signed a big contract this past offseason, is averaging 5.0 yards per carry, while Stewart is just a touch below with a 4.8 yard average.

The aerial attack features one of the NFL’s top downfield threats in WR Steve Smith and also a pair of productive TEs in Greg Olsen and Jeremy Shockey. Smith is the NFL’s leader in receiving yards (818) and he’s also the leader in yards per receptions (21.0) among pass-catchers with 15+ receptions. His 17 receptions of 20+ yards are also tops in the NFL. While he measures in at just 5-9, 185 pounds, Smith is a tremendous downfield threat because of his speed and his relentlessness in going up after passes. The Olsen-Shockey TE tandem has also been productive for Newton and the Panthers. Together they have 48 receptions for 577 yards and 3 TDs.

Setting the stage for all of these playmakers on the Panthers offense is a pretty sturdy offensive line. Carolina’s front five are especially solid in the middle and on the left side, as evidenced by the fact that Carolina averages over 2.0 yards more per carry running to the left than they do running to the right. C Ryan Kalil is among the best players at his position in the NFL, and to his left the Panthers feature Travelle Wharton at LG and 2-time Pro Bowler Jordan Gross at LT. Jeff Otah, a 1st-round pick from 2008 who plays RT for Carolina, is on the Reserve/Injured list, and his absence from the lineup is a big blow to Carolina’s offensive line.

A few more stats to consider about Carolina’s offense
– Newton leans heavily on Smith, as he has 13 more receptions than any of his teammates.
– Carolina ranks 14th in scoring, averaging 23.7 points per game
– The Panthers convert 42.0% of their 3rd downs, which is 10th in the NFL.

Panthers On Defense
Carolina isn’t as impressive on defense as they are on offense. This is largely because of injury, where their best defender – LB Jon Beason – is out for the year and another LB – Thomas Davis – has also been placed on the Reserve/Injured list. The Panthers are also going through a big transition on defense from a philosophical standpoint. Their new head coach, Ron Rivera, is a former defensive coordinator and he’s in the process of making significant changes to his defensive group. And trying to make changes to the defense while your top two LBs are out for the season because of injury is obviously a difficult charge.

Carolina ranks in the top half of the League in pass defense (12th), but there are areas to exploit. The Panthers yield 8.3 yards per pass attempt (30th in the NFL), they have just 12 sacks on the season and only 3 teams are yielding a better passer rating than Carolina’s 96.3.

The Vikings will work hard to find ways for rookie QB Christian Ponder to exploit Carolina’s pass defense, but their bread and butter should be using RB Adrian Peterson against the Panthers 29th ranked rushing defense. Peterson is the NFL’s leader in rushing yards (712) and rushing TDs (8), and he’ll be going against a Panthers run defense that yields 133.4 yards per game and has given up an NFL-high 9 rushing TDs.

From a personnel standpoint, Carolina’s best defensive player is right DE Charles Johnson, who signed a huge contract to remain with the team this offseason. Johnson’s break-through season was last year, when he tallied 11.5 sacks and replaced Julius Peppers, who left the club via free agency to sign with the Chicago Bears. The Panthers leading tackler is strongside LB James Anderson, and a name with whom fans will be familiar is CB Chris Gamble, who is in his 8th NFL season and has 25 career INTs.

A few more stats to consider about Carolina’s offense
– The Panthers have the NFL’s 3rd worst 3rd down defense, as opponents convert 45.5% of their 3rd downs
– Carolina has allowed 32 plays of 20+ yards (22 pass, 10 run), which is 27th in the NFL
– Carolina has the NFL’s 30th-ranked scoring defense (allow 26.1 points per game)

Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 20 Comments »

20 Responses to “A Quick Look At The Carolina Panthers”

  1. By purplehaze on Oct 26, 2011 | Reply

    contain fig newton and you will win, bring the heat

  2. By Carl K on Oct 26, 2011 | Reply

    Now is the time to play Mistral Raymond, Brandon Burton, Brandon Fusco, and Demarcus Love. AND, lets see what kind of hands Joe Webb has.

    What do we have to lose. Lets find out NOW if these young guys have a future!!

  3. By Ponderforpresident on Oct 26, 2011 | Reply

    Big “D” and we will win! D-backs have to take care of business!
    Players like c o o k have no right in the game. The NFL should have no tolerance with these guys. drop his a s$ and get some real talent. Preferrably someone who doesnt have to beat on a lady to feel like a man.

  4. By vikeforever on Oct 26, 2011 | Reply

    this should be a no brainer. Vikings should notch their second win of the season and first win for PONDER….GO Vikes!!!

  5. By Parody on Oct 26, 2011 | Reply

    This one looks like it should be a shootout. Both teams have weak defenses, especially in comparison to the opponent’s offensive strength. AP will be going up against the 29th ranked rushing defense, while Carolina’s passing attack with the best receiver in the NFL gets to tear apart a poor passing defense that is without its two best pass protectors.

    This game could easily go either way, but will probably be decided based on which rookie QB makes more mistakes.

  6. By Wonky on Oct 26, 2011 | Reply

    1. We have a QB.
    2. Ponder already looks better than Webb ever did.
    3. Webb is an amazing athlete.
    Let’s have Webb start practiseing at cornerback or wide reciever, he has all the natural talent and size to be awesome at either postion and we need help at both.

  7. By Rogerthevikefan on Oct 26, 2011 | Reply

    If Webb can catch move him to WR. Ponder is the Qb of the present and future. Webb could be a Brad Smith (BILLS) type of WR who can run the Wildcat or Blazer package and also return kicks and punts.

  8. By Rogerthevikefan on Oct 26, 2011 | Reply

    Webb was drafted to be a WR so the scouts believed he had the skills so now how about letting him prove it.

  9. By Matthias on Oct 26, 2011 | Reply

    Webb won’t be a WR… We need him to be our 2nd or 3rd string QB. If we let him play WR he might get injured and if Ponder gets injured, too, we are finished with the season ( McNabb won’t be a Viking next year ).

  10. By dave on Oct 26, 2011 | Reply

    Hey guys, let’s get ponder in the pro bowl! i just voted for him twenty times and if we all do that every day, he can make it!

  11. By Wonky on Oct 26, 2011 | Reply

    @ Matthias

    This season is already over, time to see what the younger guys can do. We have McNabb if Ponder goes down and I am sure there are a couple of free agents that can fill in and lose a few games for us. Let’s get Webb on the field and see what he can do before the next draft

  12. By Ponders a joke on Oct 26, 2011 | Reply

    This guy plays one game and there are already talks of the pro bowl? Come on. Wait till he has a really bad game and see if you guys still talk about pro bowl. You guys will latch on to anything. First Favre. Then Jackson. Then McScabb. Now Ponder. He’ll flop, and you chumps will be left wondering “what’s next”. :-)

  13. By CaL on Oct 26, 2011 | Reply

    I look forward to Ponder’s adjustments, he will have more time in the pocket against carolina so he and the WR, TE’s should have a good time meshing. POnder 3 TD’s, 200+ yds 1int. AP 200+ yds rushing, Jenkins 100+ yds.

  14. By Parody on Oct 26, 2011 | Reply

    @Ponders a joke – You’re pathetic. Not only did you get the sequence of QBs out of order, you also actually believed that any significant number of us latched on to McNabb or Jackson.

    Ponder’s the best rookie prospect we have had at least since Culpepper. Only time will tell if he is able to perform better for longer than #11 did, but he has qualities that indicate he can be a franchise QB. Some of us are just excited to see that we may finally be through trying to recycle has-been vets at the position.

  15. By ColdMeat on Oct 26, 2011 | Reply

    To: Ponders a joke

    I agree it’s to early to tell but I like what I think they may have, It beats being a Cheese Head like yourself who has to log onto a site and post negative commets. Get a life and by the way, Clean up your Double Wide Trailer and get the car off the blocks in your front yard. Looks nasty.

  16. By tru-speed on Oct 26, 2011 | Reply

    ponders a joke funny more like your a joke loser!!

  17. By Matt on Oct 26, 2011 | Reply

    Rudolph, Shiancoe, Harvin and Peterson – that’s FOUR guys for Ponder to throw or hand off to, not to mention Jenkins, Aromashodu and Camarillo. That’s at least as many offensive weapons as Carolina has. The only difference is that the Vikings struggle playing on grass, as we saw in 2009. With two bad defenses and two rookie QBs, this game is a toss-up.

  18. By CanadianVF on Oct 26, 2011 | Reply

    Sounds like a shootout. Another way to play defense is long sustained drives which keeps their offense standing on the sidelines. Lots of AD plus play action and we roll. Newton has been throwing more picks the last few games but oh ya we probably do not have any defensive backs or corners who actulally play close enough to an opposing player to be close enough to get an interception when the ball is thrown.

  19. By Troy on Oct 26, 2011 | Reply

    Weren’t Hines Ward, Josh Cribbs, and Antwan Randle El alll quarterbacks in college?

    Webb can catch cause he was used in returning kicks before.. i know its not the greatest way to compare but they wouldnt put him back there if he had terrible hands.

  20. By Frederick Jones on Oct 26, 2011 | Reply

    Start by blaming the FRONT OFFICE for the last two losing seasons.

    At some point, you MUST blame the talent-seekers.

    VP’s that do nothing but pick their noses.
    Scouts that only watch the QB.
    Owners that know very little about football and make poor decisions for the franchise.

    Let’s quit blaming the players and coaches so much. The FAT GUYS at the top also have input and give FOOLISH ORDERS

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