Panthers – Bucs Matchups

In part 2 of the preview, I’m going to look at some of the key matchups for Sunday’s game against the Bucs. As most people probably know, DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart and Tyrell Sutton are all going to be out for this game, leaving Carolina with only Mike Goodson, Andre Brown and maybe Josh Vaughan as the running backs. Also added to the IR this week were Jeff Otah (finally), Matt Moore and Dan Connor. We’re’ also going to be without Greg Hardy for this game. Damn! The last thing a struggling team like the Panthers needs is a ton of injuries and that’s exactly what happened over the course of this season. What’s the silver lining in all of this? Well, Jimmy Clausen will be seeing some more playing time now so we can see what we have in him. It also seems that Armanti Edwards is practicing as the 3rd QB so maybe we’ll use that “Mountaineer Package” more? Probably not. The thing I’ve noticed with this Panthers offense is they somehow find ways to get worse every week. I didn’t think it could get worse than the Bengals game, then the Bears game happened. I didn’t think it could get worse than that, then the Rams game happened. Just when I think there’s nowhere to go but up, the offense manages to outdo themselves again and we have two injuries to key players as a result of it. What I’m trying to say is, I want to be an optimist and say that this offense full of young guys can pull together a respectable performance against Tampa but things seem to be getting worse and not better so I won’t get my hopes up. I’m in the “expect the worst” and hope for the best mentality now.

Anyway, now that I got that off my chest, let’s look at some matchups. I said in my “Know Your Enemy” feature that the Bucs are a team that gives up a lot of yards but beats opponents by forcing turnovers and having a balanced offense that’s capable of making a big play or two. Their key players on both sides of the ball are QB Josh Freeman, WR Mike Williams, CB Aqib Talib and LB Barrett Ruud. Freeman is capable of leading a big comeback and scramble well to avoid pressure and can throw a nice deep ball. He KILLED us with that last game. Meanwhile, Talib will likely be covering Smith and Clausen getting the ball to him is going to be a task.

Jimmy Clausen vs. Bucs defense

I mentioned this in an earlier post, but with the way this team is playing right now, no QB is going to look great. The line’s been terrible, disappointing running game and Clausen’s looked like a rookie in every game he’s played this year. He keeps making critical errors like starring down receivers and bobbling snaps which lead to turnovers. He’s also thrown the ball way too low on many occasions and the Bucs defensive line and linebackers can easily swat them down or pick them off. It’s really hard to find a favorable matchup for the passing game here but the Bucs play a defense similar to ours where they leave a lot of room in the middle of the field and sometimes drop Ruud into coverage. If Clausen can find receivers over the middle on short passes and use them effectively on 3rd and <5 situations, then he could have some success. Getting the ball to the receivers is another problem, though.

Steve Smith vs. Aqib Talib, Brandon LaFell/David Gettis vs. Ronde Barber

Basically the Panthers top 2 receivers vs. the Bucs 1-2 corners. Smith’s been shutdown numerous times this year but he knows Talib well enough that he could find a way to get open but then there’s the question of whether or not Clausen can get him the ball. Talib is becoming one of the best at jumping routes and making lives miserable for QB’s and receivers. Ronde Barber seems ageless but other team’s #2 receivers have taken advantage of him this year. Steve Breaston had a 100 yard game against TB two weeks ago. LaFell and Gettis both lack the experience that Breaston has, though and we have a rookie throwing them the ball so yeah.

Donte Rosario and Jeff King vs. Geno Hayes and Quincy Black

Another thing I mentioned in my “Know Your Enemy” segment was that the Bucs linebackers specialize more in pass coverage rather than stopping the run and all three of them have been solid at it. Hayes and Black seem to be more of the focus in this matchup though since I think we will be throwing the ball more with our running back situation and these two are going to be all over our tight ends. Rosario and King haven’t proven much this year other than King being a better blocker than a receiver so Tampa has the advantage here. Oh right, then there’s the possibility of Armanti Edwards being used but who the hell knows what will happen then. Hopefully his route running has gone from “garbage” to “not horrible.”

Mike Goodson vs. Barrett Ruud, Gerald McCoy and Roy Miller

Tampa Bay has the 30th ranked run defense in the league and normally that would be a good matchup for us but that’s not the case for this game with three running backs on the shelf. Goodson has shown flashes of greatness (mainly on kickoffs), has worked in the passing and running game but his ceiling is nothing more than a change of pace back. Not to mention that he fumbles a lot. It’s interesting to look at this from both sides of the spectrum. Goodson is probably thinking “at least my first start is against a weak rushing D” while McCoy and Miller are saying to themselves “this depleted Carolina rushing attack is exactly what we need to turn our season around.” Kind of a double-edged sword. Andre Brown could see a few carries, too depending on how much we run. Ruud is a key player on the Bucs defense but I somewhat overestimated him in my preview but he will be going up against a 3rd string running back.

Jordan Gross vs. Kyle Moore and Tim Crowder

Tampa hasn’t exactly established a pass rush this season (only 6 sacks) and Crowder has two of them so I really just listed him so I would have a matchup. Still, with the way this o-line’s playing, anyone can get pressure on us. Clausen might have an easier day if we can fend off the Bucs defensive line. Williams/White might be a bigger matchup seeing how we have a weak link there.

Defense

Josh Freeman vs. Panthers defense

Freeman carved up the Panthers in the two team’s first meeting. He was able to avoid pressure, dodge sacks and make plays out of nothing. Then he began to show off his ridiculous arm strength and torched our secondary a few times. He is capable of doing that again too if we keep leaving our defense out on the field forever. The secondary hasn’t been bad this season (11th in pass defense) but they are still prone to give up a big play if the offense is on the field too long and Tampa’s biggest threat is Freeman’s cannon of an arm. From what I’ve been told by Bucs fans, Freeman’s vulnerable if you blitz him from the right side. The problem with that is Everette Brown is our RDE and we all know how he’s been playing this year. Yeah, not looking good.

Mike Williams vs. Charles Godfrey and Chris Gamble

Can’t overstate how dangerous Williams is and Godfrey (while he has made a few good plays) has been burned numerous times this season. I’m expecting to see some double coverages with him and Gamble to try to contain Williams as much as possible. Then there’s the issue of whether we can tackle him when he makes the catch, which we didn’t do last game and have been struggling with all season. Chalk this one up as another unfavorable matchup.

Arrelious Benn and Kellen Winslow vs. Captain Munnerlyn and Jon Beason

No Dan Connor and Thomas Davis being officially placed on the IR means more good news for opposing slot receivers and tight ends. Not being able to stop short passes on third downs is a huge reason why the Panthers defense is on the field for too long and it’s been one of the many catalysts of this team. Abdul Hodge was brought in to replace Connor while Beason will move back to MLB and filling in at WLB will be Nic Harris. Who? Yeah, exactly.

LeGarrette Blount vs. James Anderson

Anderon’s been a pleasant surprise in this awful season and I’m hoping he can do his best to chase down Blount before he can get anything going. I know Cadillac is listed as the #1 back on the depth chart (or ESPN is lying to me) but I think Blount will get more carries in this game since he’s been the more effective back. Anderson’s going to have his hands full with bringing him down. I’m expecting him to buzz through our line with ease, though so hopefully Andreson and Beason can get into the backfield to take Blount down. I’m expecting some more tackles for Beason now that he’s back at MLB where he belongs.

Derek Landri and Everette Brown vs. Davin Joseph and Jeremy Trueblood

Remember how I said that Freeman is vulnerable if you blitz to his right side? The guys covering that side are apparently the Bucs weakest links on their o-line so maybe this will be the game that Brown finally breaks out? Who am I kidding? haha.

 

What’s my overall outlook on this game? Not too confident at all, haha. Bucs usually beat us in Tampa no matter how their season’s going and the tables are turned where we’re the awful team and they are looking pretty successful. Of course, I hope I’m wrong. I’ll have my final outlook tomorrow.

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