Carolina Panthers Tight End Greg Olsen was on WFNZ’s afternoon show “The Drive,” last season and made a comment that has managed to stick with me. He referenced a theory that injuries allow teams to evaluate and develop depth. This week may be a blessing in disguise as the Panthers are looking to play their week five matchup against the Seahawks without Jon Beason, Geoff Hangartner, and Chris Gamble. If Ron Rivera is having a tough time forcing himself to shake up the lineup, this will provide a needed push.
At one time Jon Beason was a very good linebacker in this league. It’s obvious he has struggled to regain the speed and explosiveness he once had. The achillies may be structurally stable, but the range of motion can be limited for a long time. Add possible muscle atrophy, and you could be looking at a trickle down effect, hence the current issues. Moving forward, this looks to be a great opportunity to give Luke Kuechly a shot to play his natural position at middle linebacker this weekend. At this point Rivera hasn’t committed fully to making that move. After all, the Panthers can still turn the season around and i’m sure he’s conflicted about whether or not Kuechly will be able to handle the responsibilities of an NFL middle backer.
The offensive line has been worse than expected as well. Save for rookie Amini Silatolu, this group has been together for a while and continuity seems to be an incomprehensible issue. 4th year pro Gary Williams is reported to be the backup for Geoff Hangartner, who has suffered a knee injury. Williams was out all last season with a broken ankle but did start 11 games for the 2-14 team in 2010.
The Chris Gamble situation is frustrating because his backup is likely Captain Munnerlyn, who we’ve seen plenty. Gamble has been so up and down during his tenure as a Panther and he will sit out with a shoulder injury. Silver lining: you won’t see Munnerlyn back down from a tackle like Gamble did last week on Michael Turner’s long touchdown.
That brings me to this weekend’s opponent: The Seattle Seahawks. The Seahawks are a dismal 29th in total offense. Another blessing for an already porous and depleted Panther defense. The Panthers are currently 24th in total defense. Russell Wilson has been a welcome surprise to Seattle and the league, but he’s had his struggles in the passing game. If the Panthers can carry over their good D-line play from last weekend, they should be able to frustrate the rookie quarterback.
On the flip side, Seattle is 2nd in total defense and 2nd in rushing defense. The winning formula for the Panthers generally includes a dominant running game which is currently 11th in the league. The Panthers should not get intimidated by the Seattle D, and make a bonified attempt to establish a run game. The Seahawk defensive backs are big and physical so the passing game needs to be opened by an honest running game.
I have a good feeling about this game. For the most part I think the Panthers made some strides last week. I thought the offense looked good and the Panthers showed some resilience by coming back from a halftime defecit, albeit 3 points. The Panthers let a win slip away, as opposed to the Falcons taking it from them. If the defensive line can get the home crowd fired up and the Panthers learn how to close, they have a great chance of winning. This week is imperative, as a win will provide a much needed positive heading into the bye week. I think the Panthers win 28-17.