Who are Four Carolina Panthers’ that are trending down following the teams embarrassing loss in week four as they slipped to 1-3 on the season putting further pressure on head coach Matt Rhule?
This was the perfect opportunity for the Panthers to go to 2-2, facing a Cardinals team that had it not been an incredible fourth quarter in Week Two would be 0-3. The Cardinals’ defense has struggled massively throughout this season and was statistically one of the worst in the league through three weeks. Instead of the Panthers’ offense finally clicking we saw a putrid display, 220 yards of total offense, and starting QB Baker Mayfield booed off the field.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Panthers did all they could to stifle a Cardinals offense led by star QB Kylar Murray and for the first half, the Panthers did that. But as the offense continued to struggle we saw the defense tire considerably and eventually, they were unable to keep Arizona out of the end zone.
Some positives it was another top performance from emerging star Frankie Luvu the former New York Jet added to his forced fumble a week ago as he had 11 total tackles as well as his first career interception which he returned for a pick-six. In the secondary, we saw increased snaps for Myles Hartsfield, the former UDFA out of Ole Miss who played a season-high 95% of snaps as he played a part filling in for the injured Jeremy Chinn.
But frankly, positives were few and far between as the Panthers were miserable on what was meant to be a night of celebration as Carolina honored late great linebacker, Sam Mills.
Let’s look at four Panthers trending down after week four.
Baker Mayfield Panthers QB.
It’s been a seriously tough start for Baker Mayfield in Carolina and it seems to show little sign of improvement. Outside of the fourth quarter against the Cleveland Browns, it has been a sorry start to life in Carolina, and yesterday against Arizona was possibly the worst of them all. Mayfield finished the day 22/36 for 197 yards a single touchdown pass and a pair of interceptions for a passer rating of 61.9, it’s no surprise that with stats like this Mayfield and the offense were booed off.
While some blame can be placed on OC Ben McAdoo for some suboptimal play calling what we’ve seen from Mayfield has not been good enough. If this level of play continues from Mayfield it’s very fair to assume he will not be in Carolina next season.
Again yesterday we saw Mayfield miss easy throws as he struggles to build a rapport with his receivers, especially star DJ Moore. And yet again Mayfield struggled massively with batted balls, heading into week four Mayfield led the league in batted balls with seven and this number was enhanced in week four as he had another five batted balls with one from defensive end JJ Watt resulting in Mayfield’s second INT.
Mayfield didn’t seem concerned post-game saying the Panthers would “figure it out” with the Panthers now 1-3 and one game away from a trip out West to the Super Bowl Champion LA Rams things must improve.
Yetur Gross Matos Panthers DE
The Panthers’ coaching staff showed extreme confidence in Yetur Gross Matos this past offseason, the front office let stud edge rusher Haason Reddick who had 10.5 sacks a season leave in free agency giving the former second-round pick Gross Matos a larger role.
Through four weeks of the season, the Penn State man hasn’t repaid the faith shown in him. Despite an uptick in snaps (Gross Matos played 70% of snaps in week four), his production has been minimal as he has just nine total tackles through four weeks. This lack of play reflects in his PFF grade which is currently at 44.8 ranking him 98th out of 102 edge defenders.
Compare this to what Reddick is doing over in Philadelphia and it makes grim reading for Panthers fans. In week four against the Jacksonville Jaguars Reddick had two sacks and two forced fumbles taking his season numbers to three and a half sacks and three forced fumbles. This is certainly production the Panthers are crying out for opposite Brian Burns and it seems YGM cannot provide this.
It’s fair to say that to start the season Gross Matos has been outperformed by Henry Anderson who is seeing much fewer snaps, Anderson the former New England Patriot has been on the team for less than a month but seems to be providing more than YGM and moving forward I wouldn’t be surprised to see a reduced role for Gross Matos.
Ben McAdoo Carolina Panthers’ Offensive Coordinator.
As I said earlier, while the play of Baker Mayfield has been rightly criticized he has not been helped by his offensive coordinator whose playcalling has been terrible. He is not setting his quarterback up for success and his seat should be getting hot inside the Panthers organization.
We’ve seen the Panthers struggle on third down regularly being in third and long situations mainly down to the shocking play calling my McAdoo on first and second down, very regularly the Panthers try to force throws on first and second down. Couple this with the poor execution from Mayfield means the Panthers are on often finding themselves in third and long situations which they inevitably do not convert.
McAdoo has also been criticized for scheming plays for this TE group which is arguably the worst in the league, forcing the ball to the likes of Ian Thomas when DJ Moore struggles to get involved in the offense is baffling. The use of running back D’Onta Foreman has drawn the ire of fans. Foreman who replaced Derrick Henry so admirably in 2021 has been sparsely used in Carolina.
With Carolina facing a third and one this would have been the perfect opportunity to use the 240lb Foreman to gain the hard yards, instead, they went for a QB sneak with the 215lb Mayfield. When this failed and the Panthers went for it on fourth they went for an inside run with the 205lb McCaffrey which no surprise was unsuccessful.
The reluctance to use Foreman is one of the many reasons McAdoo is frustrating fans and he seems to be coaching himself out of a job.
CJ Henderson Carolina Panthers CB.
When the Panthers traded for CJ Henderson after week three a season ago this was billed as a trade for the future. A year later the Panthers are struggling to see much promise from Henderson during his time in Carolina.
A former top ten pick from Florida in 2020 it was hoped the Panthers could revitalize the career of a player who had struggled in what was a mess of an organization down in Jacksonville. While Henderson struggled last season the hiring of former defensive coordinator Steve Wilks as the defensive backs coach was expected to ignite Henderson’s career.
Through four weeks Henderson has struggled grading out at 54.4 according to PFF ranking him 75th out of 101 cornerbacks, not the production expected, and in week four Henderson played just 32 snaps a season-low for the player. This drop in snaps could be indicative of the coaching staff noticing the lack of production from Henderson.
The criticism leveled at Henderson in Carolina has been his defense of the deep ball. After wiping out a Xavier Woods pick in Week One due to PI from Henderson, we saw again a critical penalty in Week Four as Henderson wiped out Marquise Brown giving Arizona the ball inside the Panthers’ five. It seems Henderson panics whenever the ball goes deep, something he must work on in order to improve his production.