Which three Carolina Panthers players are trending up or down following the Panthers’ Week Six loss to the LA Rams?
It was another miserable day for the Carolina Panthers’ offense, the league’s worst offensive unit was again non-existent on Sunday as they mustered up just 203 yards of total offense, 158 yards of which came from Christian McCaffrey. There was a clear plan to simplify the offense to help PJ Walker in his third NFL start, but this offensive plan would never be sustainable against the stifling Rams defense.
Once again we saw the Panthers’ defense do its best to keep Carolina in the game with the only touchdown of the game coming from a Donte Jackson pick-six. Already down three starters coming into the game the Panthers’ suffered more injuries throughout the game as they lost Donte Jackson, CJ Henderson, Derrick Brown, Cory Littleton, and the Panthers’ also lost PJ Walker late on.
The injuries to Henderson and Jackson are the most troublesome, already missing Jaycee Horn who didn’t make the trip to LA as he dealt with a rib injury. Jackson left the game with an ankle injury (Jackson was questionable with an ankle injury in the buildup) and Henderson left the game as he was evaluated for a concussion.
These injuries leave the Panthers with just two healthy cornerbacks on the active roster Myles Hartsfield and Keith Taylor. Practice squad player Tae Hayes who had a pick-six in the preseason was elevated and may see a bigger role in the coming weeks if the injuries persist. It was another tough week for Jackson, despite his pick-six he had a horrid drive where he had a PI penalty negating a Xavier Woods INT and was the beat one on one vs Allen Robinson for a touchdown.
A big reason the Panthers left Stephon Gilmore walk in free agency was to resign Jackson, Jackson has dealt with injuries throughout his NFL career and arguably is no better than a CB2, while Jackson struggles in Carolina Gilly Lock is one of the stars of the Colts defense.
Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey Trending Up
The only offensive bright spot for the Panthers’ was RB Christian McCaffrey, in a week where trade talk for the former Stanford man intensified he underlined his importance to this team. Of the Panthers’ 203 yards of offense 158 of those yards came from McCaffrey counting for 78% of the Panthers’ yards.
The Panthers had a clear offensive play to lighten the load on PJ Walker and that was clearly a heavy dose of CMC. And while this was effective on the first drive, once Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris schemed his defense accordingly the Panthers’ offense became nonexistent.
This was proven by the fact the offense didn’t have a trip to the red zone until late in the fourth quarter, on a drive that included a 51-yard reception by the aforementioned McCaffrey. This game just proves to the Panthers’ the importance that McCaffrey holds and simply trading him would make an already bad offense even worse.
McCaffrey had 20 touches in this game which for most Panthers’ fans is the minimum they think CMC should see in a game, his 158 yards from scrimmage underlined his value to this team. And while building your team around a running back isn’t sustainable he is a key piece of this key and this game showed as such.
Panthers DT Derrick Brown Trending Up
Arguably the MVP on the team, at least on the defensive side of the ball is Derrick Brown.
After Week One of the season many fans, including myself were out on the former Auburn man. After being bullied by the Browns’ offensive line and struggling through his first two years in the league many fans wondered if the front office would pick up Brown’s fifth-year option.
But since then his play has gone to a new level, through five weeks of the season Brown had a season grade of 84.2 which was not only the highest on the Panthers’ but the ninth highest amongst interior defensive linemen. After his performance on Sunday where he generated constant pressure up the middle and was a dominant run stuffer, his grade could easily go up.
Brown is forming a solid interior partnership with his starter DL partner Matt Ioannidis as the pair look to solidify the Panthers’ interior. Since losing former All-Pro defensive tackle Kawann Short Carolina has struggled to find a replacement on the interior, but through six weeks of the season, Brown is growing into his role.
If this play continues the Panthers’ will without a doubt pick up the 5th year option on Brown and look to extend him next offseason, as talks of a fire sale in Carolina picked up following the firing of Matt Rhule it has been reported in the national media that the Panthers’ are reluctant to part ways with Brown who they see as a building block for the future.
Panthers QB PJ Walker Trending Down
It’s not a surprise another offensive player is trending down as we saw the struggles of PJ Walker on Sunday.
With injuries to Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, and Matt Corral this meant Walker who was QB4 heading into Week Two of the preseason found himself starting just six weeks into the season. We saw the lack of trust the Panthers’ staff had in Walker from the play-calling.
From his 16 pass attempts throughout the game, only five of those passed the line of scrimmage and four were incomplete. This meant his only completed pass past the LOS went a full one-yard past the line of scrimmage. Walker has already been a Rhule guy, Rhule was Walker’s coach at Temple and brought him to the Panthers as a UDFA and it has been argued that if not for Rhule and his Temple connection Walker would not be on a team.
The game plan was clearly in place to make things easier for Walker but as the game progressed this was clearly not sustainable. It begs the question that if the Panthers had this little trust in Walker then why did they give him the start? When Walker left the game late with a neck injury Jacob Eason entered the game, he completed three of his five passes for 59 yards, just one less than Walker had throughout the game.
The Panthers now have a precarious QB situation with Darnold, Mayfield, and Walker all dealing with injuries that leaves Eason as the only healthy option and despite being a five-star high school recruit he has struggled to find a home in the NFL.
Could Steve Wilks give his old buddy Cam Newton a call or are the Panthers’ set for the first overall pick?