Strategy And Personnel

The Sports Xchange

December 20, 2018 at 1:01 pm.


–K Graham Gano was placed on injured reserve Wednesday with a left knee injury. That ends his season. He sat out the past two games because of the injury.

–DT Kawann Short played in the New Orleans game despite being listed as doubtful a few days prior to the game because of a calf injury.

–TE Jason Vander-Laan was added to the active roster. He spent 15 weeks of this season on the team’s practice squad.

–LT Marshall Newhouse made his first start with Carolina in the New Orleans game. He replaced Chris Clark, who has been struggling and not up to full strength. Head coach Ron Rivera said Clark has been worn down.

PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: LB Thomas Davis. He’s playing with an agitated edge in recent games, perhaps sensing again that his career is winding down. He ended up with 12 tackles in the game against New Orleans, so he seems to be going strong late in the season. Davis played collegiately for Georgia, so these games against the Atlanta Falcons are certainly a means to get him fired up.

GAME PLAN: The Panthers have to find a way to move the ball consistently when not counting on downfield throws. With quarterback Cam Newton out, then the Panthers won’t want to put Taylor Heinicke in position to make huge down-field plays. It’s clear that this is a tough spot for Heinicke, a third-year pro. Yet not much more can be expected from running back Christian McCaffrey and it’s time to wonder how he’s handling the wear and tear – and it could be more extreme because the Panthers are coming off a Monday night game.

The Panthers did a strong job defensively against New Orleans, yet that won’t be easy to duplicate against an Atlanta team that frequently gives them trouble. One of the keys will be if safety Eric Reid can come up with consecutive solid games and if the pass rush can become a big enough disruption to create glitches in Atlanta’s passing attack.

–Panthers C Ryan Kalil vs. Falcons DTs Terrell McClain and Grady Jarrett. Kalil is one of the acknowledged leaders of the Panthers and he has taken personal responsibility for the team’s recent decline. His upfront approach works well in the leadership department. He’s also closing in on the potential end of his career and he’s determined to make something good of the team’s situation. Jarrett, in particular, is trying to show that he can handle the rigors of the middle of the line on the defensive side. This is another chance for him to stake a better claim to his position.

–Panthers CBs Donte Jackson and James Bradberry vs. Falcons QB Matt Ryan. Jackson is continuing to have a notable rookie season and his swagger tends to be a blessing in the defensive backfield. Bradberry has been picked on by Ryan in the past, but he’s coming off a confidence-boosting game when he caused two turnovers against New Orleans – including notching his first interception of the season. Ryan threw two touchdown passes in the first meeting this season. He also was intercepted by Jackson.