Strategy And Personnel

The Sports Xchange

December 14, 2018 at 5:05 pm.


–K Chandler Catanzaro joined the team prior to the game at Cleveland after kicking earlier in the season for Tampa Bay. He was 2-for-2 on field goals and 2-for-2 on extra-point attempts in his Carolina debut. K Graham Gano, who has an ailing left knee, didn’t return to active participation in workouts by Thursday so Catanzaro likely gets the call for the game vs. New Orleans.

–T Chris Clark didn’t practice Thursday because of a knee injury. The ailment apparently stems from gradual wear and tear and not a specific play.

–LB Thomas Davis recovered two fumbles in the Cleveland game for his first two takeaways of the season. Those recoveries gave Davis 11 fumble recoveries in his career. That ties the franchise record set by former defensive back Mike Minter.

–QB Cam Newton should be able to make it through the season even with his sore shoulder, head coach Ron Rivera said. Newton has previously shrugged off suggestions that he might have to come out of the lineup. Newton went above the 3,000-yard passing mark for the season on his first completion in the Cleveland game. He joined Peyton Manning as the only players in NFL history to pass for at least 3,000 yards in each of his first eight seasons in the league.

PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: WR DJ Moore. He’s proving that he was worthy of being a first-round draft pick. Moore is the top rookie in the NFL in receiving yards with 676. He has 826 yards from scrimmage this season, needing 183 more to produce the most in franchise history by a rookie receiver.

GAME PLAN: The Panthers have to find ways to make plays on offense when the pressure is on. They’ve been unable to convert in key situations and that has resulted in the recent slide. With quarterback Cam Newton’s shoulder in question, it might not be logical to expect them to try to take many shots down the field, but they must find other ways to involve speedsters such as wide receiver Curtis Samuel in the game plan. Running back Christian McCaffrey remains a logical outlet, but if the Saints suspect that Newton is limited they’re bound to gang up on McCaffrey.

The Panthers never solved Saints quarterback Drew Brees last season and they know that getting pressure on him and making some of the passing lanes difficult is the best way to disrupt him. Carolina will have to be ready for lots of downfield action after the defensive unit has been hurt over the top recently, meaning more resources might be needed on the back end. If so, it will put a premium on linebacker play to make sure the Saints don’t unleash a relentless rushing attack.

–Panthers LB vs. Saints RB Alvin Kamara. The Saints like to give Kamara his fair number of shots and that’s likely to be the case again. He has scored 11 rushing touchdowns this season, so he gets the ball when it’s time for scoring. As if there’s not enough to worry about with the Saints’ passing attack, the Panthers will count on LB Luke Kuechly and LB Thomas Davis to help keep tabs on Kamara, who was limited to 23 rushing yards on 10 carries in last January’s playoff matchup.

–Panthers TE Ian Thomas vs. Saints S Kurt Coleman. Thomas is coming off a strong game but he’ll be matched at times with a hard-nosed veteran in Coleman. Thomas has been good in limited action at finding openings for shorter routes. Coleman is a former Carolina player in his second season with New Orleans since leaving the Panthers and so he’s well-versed in some of the tendencies of his former team.