By Ted Fleming
On Wednesday Panthers head coach was amazed at how many people were on the injury report. He now has to be a little concerned heading into their game against the Chargers on Sunday because five starters are either out or listed as questionable. Five other starters will play although they are nursing various bumps and bruises.
Quarterback Cam Newton might have been giddy earlier in the week when he thought he was facing a 22nd ranked pass defense, but as it looks right now Steve Smith will be his only healthy option. Running back Jonathan Stewart is a real threat out of the backfield and he will miss his third straight game with ankle sprains. Receiver Brandon LaFell’s turf toe has not improved enough and even if he is a game time decision to play, chances are he won’t be close to 100%.
Like last week, DeAngelo Williams will step in for Stewart. He did a solid job grabbing two throws, one going for a huge 53 yard touchdown pitch and catch, although that is more an aberration than the norm. If he is slowed on the ground game his value will be more on checkdowns or bubble screens. LaFell’s absence means that Armanti Edwards and/or Louis Murphy will have to step up their game to take the pressure off Smith who may be double-covered on many routes.
The defense has taken it on the chin because the Panthers will need to rely on backups for DT Dwan Edwards (out), LB James Anderson and S Colin Jones (questionable). Andre Neblett, Jordan Senn and Anderson Russell, respectively, are in line to move into those spots although there could be some rather out of position shifting if Rivera doesn’t like certain matchups against quarterback Philip Rivers and company.
Only those in the stands or out of the Southern California television market will see the relatively healthy Chargers on the field as their game will be blacked out. While their playoff chances are hanging by the proverbial thread, San Diego is in relatively decent shape heading into this Week 15 game.
Linebacker Donald Butler will be a game-time decision and if he cannot go they will have to look past his backup, Demorrio Williams, because he will be sitting this one out. Second year pro Andrew Gachkar could get the next man up tag this week.
T Jeromey Clary could also be game-time so rookie Mike Harris could get his eighth start.
The following is the injury report issued on Friday by the National Football League for the Broncos-Panthers game at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte on Sunday, November 11, 2012:
CAROLINA PANTHERS, 4-9 (** denotes starter):
** DT Dwan Edwards (wrist), ** C Geoff Hangartner (foot), ** RB Jonathan Stewart (ankle)
** LB James Anderson (back), S Colin Jones (groin), ** WR Brandon LaFell (toe)
C Jeff Byers (back), ** LB Thomas Davis (knee), ** S Charles Godfrey (back), ** DE Charles Johnson (back), WR Louis Murphy (hamstring)
SAN DIEGO CHARGERS, 5-8 (** denotes starter):
LB Demorrio Williams (ankle)
RB Ronnie Brown (hamstring), ** LB Donald Butler (groin), ** T Jeromey Clary (knee), ** G Tyronne Green (hamstring)
WR Eddie Royal (hamstring)
** T Mike Harris (ankle), ** DE Kendall Reyes (quadricep)
FOR REFERENCE –
Out: there is no chance the injured player will be medically cleared for the game
Doubtful: a 25% chance the injured player will be medically cleared for the game
Questionable: a 50% chance the injured player will be medically cleared for the game
Probable: a 75% chance the injured player will be medically cleared for the game
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Ted Fleming is a freelance writer covering all things Carolina Panthers. His work can be found on Examiner.com.