Eagles Wake-Up Call: Getting To Know the Panthers
Here are five things to know about the Eagles’ Week 10 opponent, the Carolina Panthers.
1. Cam Newton has played well in spurts, but his most recent stretch has not been good. Newton ranks 32nd in completion percentage (57.4) and 21st in yards per attempt (7.01). He’s thrown eight touchdowns and five interceptions for a passer rating of 81.4 (27th). In his last outing, Newton completed just 10 of 28 passes for 151 yards and an interception. He’s thrown one TD and three picks in the last three games.
Newton has 257 yards rushing and is averaging 4.5 YPC. Carolina’s passing game ranks 18th in DVOA.
2. The Panthers don’t have much of a downfield passing attack. Per Pro Football Focus, Newton has only completed five passes that have traveled 20+ yards from the line of scrimmage. That ranks 29th. Rookie Kelvin Benjamin has had some issues with drops, but overall has been extremely impressive. He has 40 catches for 589 yards and five touchdowns, including nine grabs of 20+ yards.
Tight end Greg Olsen is second on the team in targets (66). He has 45 catches for 539 yards and five touchdowns. Jerricho Cotchery has 28 catches for 375 yards. And former Eagle Jason Avant has pitched in with 20 grabs for 193 yards.
3. The Panthers’ run game ranks 23rd in DVOA. Jonathan Stewart is the team’s leading rusher with 263 yards on 66 carries. DeAngelo Williams has 33 attempts for 126 yards. They are both expected to be healthy enough to play on Monday night.
Carolina has dealt with injuries on the offensive line, but will have had 11 days since its last game by the time Monday rolls around.
The Eagles will be without DeMeco Ryans for the first time. If they can’t bottle up the Panthers’ run game, it’ll be a bad sign for the second half of the year.
4. Defensively, Sean McDermott’s unit is nowhere near as good as it was a year ago. The Panthers rank 24th in DVOA – 21st against the pass and 29th against the run. The Panthers are playing without pass-rusher Greg Hardy, and they lost safety Mike Mitchell in free agency. Carolina is allowing 4.8 YPC, tied for worst in the NFL.
Luke Kuechly is one of the best linebackers in the game and leads the NFL with 97 tackles. Dwan Edwards and Charles Johnson have four sacks apiece. And defensive tackle Star Lotulelei was a first-round pick in 2013.
5. The Panthers rank 18th in special teams. …Carolina’s offense ranks 30th in red-zone efficiency, converting touchdowns just 46.43 percent of the time. …The Panthers’ red-zone defense has been bad also, allowing touchdowns 65.52 percent of the time (27th). …Opponents are converting 47.83 percent of their third downs against Carolina (31st). …The Panthers’ minus-59 point differential is third-worst in the NFC. …Given the state of the NFC South, Carolina (3-5-1) is within striking distance of the first-place Saints (4-4).
WHAT YOU MISSED
A player-by-player breakdown of the Eagles’ defense after having watched the All-22 from last week’s game.
Why isn’t Mychal Kendricks making all the calls on defense? We explore.
Pat Shurmur explains why he thinks the Eagles run a QB-friendly system.
McManus’ take on how the Eagles will replace DeMeco Ryans.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Les Bowen of the Daily News sizes up the Birds at the halfway point:
Stuff that is way better than we’d dared to hope when the season began:
* Special teams. Wow.
* Jeremy Maclin. He’s a Pro Bowl receiver if the quarterback can get him the ball enough.
* Fletcher Cox. Yes, he was worthy of the 12th overall pick in the draft.
* The rest of the defensive line: One of the deepest, toughest groups in the league.
* Malcolm Jenkins. Leadership, poise and interceptions.
* Darren Sproles. Can’t imagine what the hell the Saints were thinking.
* The pass rush. Big worry early on, not at all lately. Sack numbers (seven so far) ought to get Connor Barwin into the Pro Bowl, as long as he doesn’t have to run with Arian Foster on any more wheel routes.
* Cody Parkey. It was an astute trade with the Colts, but also a gigantic stroke of luck, finding what looks like a Pro Bowl-level, long-term kicker in the bargain bin at the end of the preseason. That’s not always the best time to shop.
Paul Domowitch of the Daily News believes that the Eagles’ running game is becoming more potent:
The versatile Sproles had 63 rushing and receiving yards on only seven touches, four of which produced first downs.
And Polk had his busiest – and best – day as a pro, rushing for 50 yards and a touchdown on eight carries.
McCoy clearly is the bell cow of the Eagles’ rushing attack. More than two-thirds of the Eagles’ rushing attempts this season have his name on them.
But with Sproles over the knee injury that kept him out of the Arizona game, and Polk’s cranky hamstring at long last behaving itself, coach Chip Kelly has three potent weapons at his disposal.
And with Mark Sanchez replacing injured Nick Foles at quarterback for at least a month and possibly the rest of the season, it’s a good bet Kelly will amp the running game.
We’ll talk to Chip Kelly and have reports from practice.