By Ted Fleming
The Carolina Panthers listed ten players on the injury report, and there was some good news in advance of their meeting with division rival Atlanta. Seven of the ten were able to participate in full practice on Friday, most notably Jonathan Stewart.
No one quite knew how effective the running back would if he dressed but unless something happens between now and 1:00 p.m. Sunday, he will partner with DeAngelo Williams to hopefully establish a ground game giving quarterback Cam Newton a chance to open up the offense. Of course the offensive line will have to step up their game in this very important NFC South showdown.
Carolina may have to do without Jon Beason at linebacker between James Anderson and rookie Luke Kuechly meaning fourth year pros Jason Philips and Kenny Onatolu will have to fill some big shoes against a very explosive Atlanta offense who is second in the league averaging 31.3 points a game. As if Beason injury wasn’t troubling enough, Antwan Applewhite, who backs up Charles Johnson at defensive end, is listed as doubtful and could slow the pass rush to a crawl.
Defensive end Greg Hardy, like Beason, will probably come down to a game time decision and if he is not effective or is limited to playing time rookie Frank Alexander will have to pick up the slack in a very important game for the Panthers.
Corner Chris Gamble and safety Colin Jones will be relative healthy additions to the secondary which will be desperately needed when Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan starts flings the ball in their direction.
CAROLINA PANTHERS, 1-3 (** denotes starter):
G Mike Pollak (shoulder)
DE Antwan Applewhite (knee)
**LB Jon Beason (shoulder, knee), LB Thomas Davis (calf), **DE Greg Hardy (hand)
**T Byron Bell (ankle), **CB Chris Gamble (shoulder), S Colin Jones (shoulder), DE Thomas Keiser (tibia), RB Jonathan Stewart (toe)
The Falcons are more pass orientated so the loss of two backs, Antoine Smith and starter Lousaka Polite will sting but won’t stifle the game plan too much especially with nine-year veteran Michael Turner still a quality running back despite losing a step along the way.
Turner has a pair of touchdowns this season and could see a lot more action than the 14 carries he has averaged through the first three contests. Jason Snelling and Jacquizz Rodgers, second and third on the depth chart, should see some game time.
Ryan also gets some help in the form of second-year sensation Julio Jones who had a full Friday practice despite being limited the previous two days. Offensive tackle has been bothered by a bad hip and he should be ready to go having full practice the last two days.
ATLANTA FALCONS, 3-0 (** denotes starter):
CB Christopher Owens (head), TE Michael Palmer (shoulder), **RB Lousaka Polite (hamstring), RB Antone Smith (hamstring)
LB Mike Peterson (ribs)
**DT Jonathan Babineaux (groin), T Tyson Clabo (hip), **WR Julio Jones (hand), **LB Stephen Nicholas (thigh)
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Ted Fleming is a freelance writer covering all things Carolina Panthers. His work can be found on Examiner.com.