Sitting in my hotel room in Charlotte, rushing to get this out. Nice Jaguars fan presence up here, and once again the Bold City Brigade did not disappoint. Also nice to shake hands with Action News sports caster Brent Martineau.
Filip Prus has wrote about the player matchups to look for, which you can read here. Ryan O’Bleness spoke with Walker Clement over at the Carolina Panthers SBNation blog Cat Scratch Reader to get a feel for how the “enemy” views this weekends matchup.
These are five storylines I will be following during and after Sunday’s game.
A consistent defensive identity
The Carolina Panthers come into this game hurting on offense. Trai Turner (OG), Greg LIttle (OT), and Cam Newton (QB) are all listed as OUT for today’s game. Rookie sixth-round pick looks to fill in for Little, Williams is coming off a 2018 season where he dislocated his right kneecap and tore his MCL.
You know about Cam’s replacement, Kyle Allen. With Newton injured, Allen has led the Panthers to two straight wins on the road, throwing four touchdowns and zero interceptions. He did fumble the ball three times last week in Houston.
This is a familiar situation from last week, when the Jaguars faced a struggling Denver Broncos offensive line. However, “Sacksonville” failed to show up, registering zero sacks, with three quarterback hits, this coming on the heals of successive weekends where they registered four and nine.
Christian McCaffrey’s challenge has been well documented, but veteran TE Greg Olsen and WR DJ Moore cannot be ignored. The Panthers passing attack does a good job of balancing the targets in the passing game, meaning focus cannot solely be on McCaffrey and the running game. Allen can be rattled, and this Jaguars defense should rattle him.
The comparisons exist for this matchup. Minshew vs Allen, but also the Panthers defensive vs the Jaguars. Carolina leads the league in sacks, and has the highest rated pass defense in the league. Is “Sacksonville” the team’s identity? Will they look better than Carolina? Will the turnover drought continue?
Minshew being successful and Allen not will go a long way in showing that Jacksonville’s defense is nothing like their week 1 presentation.
Continue being creative at the running back position
We asked for Ryquell “Rock” Armstead to be a presence in Denver, and we were not disappointed. Filling in for Leonard Fournette, Rock optimized his field time, rushing 8 times for 42, and playing a big part in Minshew Magic.
Carolina’s defensive weakness is their run stopping, and limiting the opportunities to hit Minshew, and potentially exacerbating his knee, should be the most important goal of John DeFilippo’s play calling. Last week was the first time this season the Jaguars rushing attempts exceeded passing attempts (38 to 30). I am looking to see Minshew drop back no more than 20 times, optimizing the running backs in the passing game.
The Jaguars 10 minute, 3rd quarter drive all but escorted the Broncos fans from the stadium. String together a few of those and it should also happen in Charlotte.
Pomp and Circumstance
Sunday is a big day for the Carolina Panthers on three levels.
First, it is their first home game in two weeks, with their first two putting the Panthers in an 0-2 hole. Giving the fans something to cheer about is a prime narrative. Zach Goins of Panthers.com writes:
Following the loss to the Buccaneers in the most recent home game, quarterback Cam Newton emphasized the need to bring back the standard of excellence the team has set in Bank of America Stadium, calling the home turf “sacred ground.”
The Panthers last victory at home was November 4th of last year. They will be hungry.
Second, it is induction day for three players into Carolina’s Hall of Honor. Writes Herbert White of the Charlotte Post:
Receiver Steve Smith Sr., quarterback Jake Delhomme, offensive tackle Jordan Gross and tight end Wesley Walls are the first inductees since 2004.
It is fitting that the team he beat to introduce himself to the NFL is the team Carolina will play when he is inducted.
Lastly, it is the first time the Panther fans get to see their version of Gardner Minshew in person. It has been a love/hate relationship with Cam Newton, and with his injuries mountain they are surely hoping to see the future signal caller of their franchise.
This is another opportunity for the Jaguars to show their maturity, focus, and discipline.
Enough of the offensive penalties
Somehow the Jaguars managed to beat the Broncos, and themselves last week. While a few of the holding penalties were questionable at best, it is still an ongoing problem. Gary Smiths of the Florida Times-Union:
The Jaguars don’t have the most penalties in the NFL through four games.
They’re not even in the top-five.
It may seem that way because the category they are leading the league in is offensive holding. And every Jaguars holding penalty, plus 22 of the 35 flags (63 percent) have been committed by offensive linemen or tight ends.
To put this in perspective, the Jaguars had more yardage in penalties than the Broncos had rushing. Now all of those weren’t on the offense, but anyone who has watched the Jaguars this season knows the offensive penalties tend to negate important plays. Case in point, the touchdown pass to DJ Chark.
Carolina’s defense is too good to give them free yards.
Leonard the leader
Much was made of how Leonard Fournette challenged Cam Robinson’s inability to maintain composure at the end of last week’s game. For someone who has been the ire of the fan base, and Jaguars leadership, seeing 27 be the calming voice is a huge step for him. It was, however, disappointing to hear him admit to not giving Minshew accolades the two weeks previous.
If the ex-LSU running back can be both a physical and mental force within the organization, it speaks volumes for how the coaching staff has worked with him, how he has improved his self, and how his teammates respect him.
What storylines have your attention?