With the injury to Christian McCaffery and an 0-2 start, this is not the rookie campaign that head coach Matt Rhule and company envisioned. Panthers fans knew this year was going to be a struggle, but now with the face of the franchise sitting out four to six weeks, things are not looking good in Charlotte.
Carolina will try to right the ship when they travel west to take on the L.A. Chargers. Veteran Mike Davis will get the nod as the lead back, with Reggie Bonnafon serving as backup. Davis is not as electrifying as McCaffery, but he made some plays and showed flashes last week. Davis had 8 reception for 74 yards, with most of those yards coming in the 4th quarter. Rhule has all the confidence in Davis, “Mike Davis is a starting tailback in the national football league. He made some great catches, he was physical, he was ready when his number was called, and he’ll play well in Christian’s absence. He’s a big back, he runs with power, runs good routes, has good hands, he can block, he’s really intelligent, so he’ll play well for us.” The Panthers have hinted that they’ll look to involve Curtis Samuel in some runs to utilize his speed. Curtis could serve as a change-of-pace option to spell Davis, who will not be used at the frequency McCaffrey was. “Good things happen when the ball is in his hands,” Offensive Coordinator Joe Brady said of Samuel.
The Panthers offensive will have to deal with Joey Bosa. But the Chargers will be missing Melvin Ingram III having placed him, along with defensive tackle Justin Jones, on IR Saturday. The injury to safety Derwin James Jr. does hurt the secondary’s play-making ability. Rookie linebacker and leading tackler Kenneth Murray will look to build on his strong start to the young season. The Panthers will have to keep an eye out for former Pro Bowler Linval Joseph at defensive tackle. The Chargers rank third in the league in points allowed per game. Last week they held the defending Super Bowl champs to 23 points.
Again this week no Kawann Short on the defensive side for Carolina. The Panthers have lacked pressure on quarterbacks so far and have tallied no sacks. Putting pressure on the rookie Justin Herbert may cause him to make some errant throws which could lead to turnovers. The Panthers will look for cornerback Rasul Douglas to continue his strong start. Consistency is lacking in the secondary so far.
For the Panthers to have some sort of chance Teddy will have to take care of the football. The four turnovers down in Tampa Bay can not happen this week. Turning the ball over to an offense with the likes of Keenan Allen, Hunter Henry, and Austin Ekeler, you’re asking for a disaster. With the Chargers lacking some defensive playmakers there should be a chance to put some points on the board. The Panthers need to come out of the gate hot. The last two weeks have seen the offense and defense fall behind early. If Mike Davis can show some moves there could be a chance for big runs. The Chargers are allowing 123.5 yards per game on the ground. Carolina posses grit and determination and this contest could be a shootout. Carolina has a chance to get there first when of the season in a close one.