Strategy And Personnel

The Sports Xchange

November 01, 2018 at 1:38 am.


–WR Torrey Smith’s knee injury must have been more hurtful than originally suggested. He suffered the injury late in the Oct. 21 victory at Philadelphia. He didn’t play last week against Baltimore and he wasn’t back on the field for practice by the middle of the week for preparations in advance of the Tampa Bay game.

–DE Taylor Heinicke is the backup quarterback, but he’s getting more practice reps as the Panthers try to conserve the arm/shoulder of QB Cam Newton. This could be a benefit for Heinicke if he’s thrust into more meaningful game action.

–DE Julius Peppers has had notable outings against Tampa Bay in his career. He has faced the Buccaneers 19 times, recording a total of 19.5 sacks in those games.

PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: LB Luke Kuechly. He’s a tackling machine normally, but he had only five stops in the Baltimore game last week. All his tackles (four solo, one assisted) came during the third quarter. He was active in other ways with two quarterback hurries and a pass defended. He’s familiar with Tampa Bay as a divisional rival and so expect his production to be back to normal levels on the statistics line as well.

GAME PLAN: The Panthers have found ways to spread the ball around in the passing attack, but that won’t distract them from grinding out yards on the ground as well. They see the value in the balance and head coach Ron Rivera feels the team’s identity is best established by showing it can run the ball and allow other areas to open up from there.

The defense had perhaps its best outing against Baltimore because of varied contributions. They’ll want to make it difficult on whoever the Buccaneers use at quarterback, though Ryan Fitzpatrick has been dubbed the starter for this week. The Panthers used defensive backs in a few blitzes against Baltimore and now that gives opponents something else to keep in mind. Carolina still has to be cognizant in run defense, something that has been troubling early in some games.

–Panthers WR DJ Moore vs. Buccaneers CB Carlton Davis. These are a pair of rookies expected to make major contributions, with Moore a first-round draft pick and Davis taken in the second round. The Panthers put Moore in the starting lineup for the first time last week against Baltimore and he produced 90 receiving yards and 39 rushing yards for the most productive game of his career. Davis has started every game this season and the Buccaneers need to see some better play-making in the defensive backfield to make opponents a bit more uncomfortable.

–Panthers safeties vs. Buccaneers TE Cameron Brate. The Panthers have been opportunistic in the secondary, particularly with S Mike Adams, who made his 30th career interception last week. He leads all active NFL players with 46 career takeaways. Still, last week against Baltimore, seven of the Ravens’ 26 receptions went to tight ends. After three consecutive games with a touchdown catch, Brate has only four total receptions (and none for touchdowns) in the past two games. In Brate’s last 18 games, his 64-yard outing against the Panthers in October 2017 was his biggest yardage game. That came on four catches, though he was limited to 13 yards on three catches in the 2017 rematch.