Panthers Report Card Week 8

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By Rockin’ Reese

Carolina Panthers Week 8

With this being their bye week, it’s time to give a review for the 2023-24 Carolina Panthers. Needless to say, this review won’t be glowing, especially since they’re the only winless team in the NFL (0-6). However, despite the overall result, there were shockingly some postiives to notice. So, let’s look at the good, the bad, & the ugly on the report card for the Panthers.

Let’s start with (quarterback) Bryce Young. The rookie from the Alabama Crimson Tide has been going through his share of growing pains. He has completed 115 out of 182 passes, giving him a 63.2 completion percentage. He has thrown for only 967 yards (which is 3rd fewest among starting quarterbacks). Young isn’t a deep ball thrower. He has only completed 7 passes of 20 or more yards (which is tied for the fewest among starting quarterbacks).

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He is also 1 of 2 starting quarterbacks (Jimmy Garoppolo of the Las Vegas Raiders, being the other) without a pass of 40 or more yards. Another problem with Young is his ability to earn 1st downs. He only has 56, this season (only 8 starting quarterbacks have earned fewer). The biggest issue is production. He has 6 touchdowns, 4 interceptions, been sacked 16 times, & lost 2 of his 4 fumbles . Grade: D

Next, let’s look at his receiving core. One of the few bright spots for the Panthers has been (wide receiver) Adam Thielen. He has 49 catches for 509 yards, with 4 touchdowns. The 11-year veteran (who spent a decade with the Minnesota Vikings) is shining in his first season as a Panther. Unfortunately, the rest of his teammates aren’t doing as well. (Wide receiver) Terrace Marshall Jr. has the next highest amount of catches with 16. (Wide receiver) DJ Chark has the next highest amount of catching yards with 197 yards & he’s the only person besides Thielen with at least 2 receiving touchdowns.

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He’s the only person with a catch of 40 or more yards. The only other people with a touchdown are (tight ends) Hayden Hurst & Tommy Tremble. Though they have had only 91 drops out of 241 attempts, a lot of them have been in critical situations that ultimately cost them the game. Maybe using Laviska Shenault Jr. as a wide receiver, insteaf of a running back might be a good idea. Also, throwing to Tremble more than the 4 times he has been thrown to might improve the odds for the Panthers. Grade: C- (Thielen saved this from being a D)

The running game…the part of the Panthers game that frustrated me the most. I know that teams want to have a quarterback produce, but don’t forget that you have running backs to take the pressure off of him. Basically, this is a 2-man squad…Miles Sanders & Chuba Hubbard. Sanders has 61 carries for 190 yards (his longest run being 15 yards), but he only has 1 touchdown & has lost both of his fumbles.

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Hubbard has 54 carries for 242 yards (his longest run being 21 yards). Like Sanders, he also has only 1 touchdown. Hubbard doubles up Sanders on 1st downs (Hubbard has 18; Sanders has 9). Another rare bright spot for the Panthers has been that Hubbard hasn’t fumbled, this season. However, that being said, the fact that the Panthers only have 2 rushing touchdowns shows that they need to value their running game a lot more than they have.

Hopefully, some more activity from Raheem Blackshear will take some pressure off of Sanders & Hubbard. Maybe getting into some situations where (fullback) Givovanni Ricci can finally be used would also help. The facts that the Panthers are underutilizing Hubbard & aren’t giving Sanders enough protection are pathetic. Grade: D-

The offensive line…let’s keep it short & simple. They don’t protect Young enough. They don’t give enough run support for Hubbard & Sanders. They have 27 of the team’s 44 penalties. This line has nobody who is worth their weight in cubic zirconia, much less gold. Grade: F

The defense has been a mixed bag. There have been times, when they kept the game within reach. Then, there have been times, when they made the wrong play at the wrong time. Sometimes, that happened, because the offense turned the ball over & gave the defense a very short field to guard. Other times, it’s because they committed any of the 11 penalties they have earned.

The 186 points that they have had scored against them is the 6th most in the NFL, this season. The 23 touchdowns that have been scored against them are the 2nd most in the NFL (the Denver Broncos has given up 25). Of those 23 touchdowns, the 12 rushing touchdowns scored aginst the Panthers are tied (with the Indianapolis Colts) for the most given up in the NFL. The 10 passing touchdowns scored against them are in a 4-way tie for 9th most given up in the NFL.

Their rushing defense has given up 50 first downs, which is tied (with the New York Giants) for 7th most in the NFL. However, there have been some bright spots. While the passing defense has given up 65 first downs, that is the 5th fewest in the NFL. Their 8 1st down by penalty is in a 3-way tie for 3rd fewest in the league. They have the 2nd fewest 3rd down conversions allowed with 24 (the Cleveland Browns have 22).

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They have 2 interceptions returned for touchdowns, thanks (safety) Sam Franklin Jr. & (cornerback) Troy Hill. A trio of linebackers have been responsible for 9 of the 14 sacks that the Panthers have gotten. Brian Burns leads the team with 4, while Frankie Luvu & Yetur Gross-Matos each have 2 1/2 sacks. While the Panthers are winless, their defense has usually put in an effort. However, a lack of consistency is what has hurt them in all 6 games. Grade: C-

Another rare bright spot has been the special teams. You might not know it, because the Panthers are winless, but (kicker) Eddy Piñeiro is having another exceptional year. He has made all 11 of his extra point attempts & is 9 out of 11 in field goal attempts. In week 3 against the Seattle Seahawks, Piñeiro made the longest field goal of his career (56 yards).

He isn’t the only strong leg on the team, because (punter) Johnny Hekker has been solid with his 27 attempts. Only 10 of Hekker’s kicks have been returned…for a combined total of 70 yards. Thanks to his strong leg, Hekker has pinned opponents inside their own 20-yard line on 10 occasions. As for their returners, on kickoffs, Shenault Jr. has only had 5 returns, but his 136 yards he has on those returns average over 27 yards per return.

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The sole return by Blackshear was a 31-yard gain. As for punting, (wide receiver) Ihmir Smith-Marsette has returned 13 punts, with an average of 6 1/2 yards per return. If these guys were on a team besides the Panthers, they would probably be standing out more than they have been, this season. Despite that, they will be the ones earning the highest grade on this report card. Grade: B

Oh, coaches…I hope you didn’t think you weren’t getting excluded from this. Let’s start with (head coach) Frank Reich & (assistant head coach) Duce Staley. Reich led the Indianapolis Colts to 3 winning records & 2 playoff appearances, during his 5 seasons as their head coach. However, it seems like he had never coached a day in his life.

Despite being an original Panthers player, it’s clear to see why Reich only spent a year in Carolina. That may be true, if his coaching doesn’t improve. After success with the Philadelphia Eagles as a running backs coach, then assistant head coach, then replicating that in the second half of last season for the Detroit Lions, Staley has also seemed like he has never coached a day in his life. The worst part…Reich was the offensive coordinator on the Eagles team that defeated the New England Patriots at Super Bowl 52 in Minneapolis.

He & Staley have succeeded together. However, that success didn’t join them in Carolina. Speaking of offensive coordinators, Thomas Brown…another man who has been a Super Bowl winning coach (as the running backs coach for the Los Angeles Rams), but seems like he hasn’t coached a day in his life. Between him & Staley, you’d think there would at least be a proficient run game for the Panthers, but Brown can’t operate an offense to save his life. At the very minimum, you would think he or Reich (who was a Buffalo Bills quarterback, during their early 1990s AFC dominance) would tell Young when he held the ball too long, so he didn’t get sacked for a lot of yards.  

Last, but not least, (defensive coordinator) Ejiro Evero…who was with Brown on that Rams teams who won Super Bowl 56. When you were with the San Francisco 49ers & the Rams, you worked with good defenses. Sadly, you got stuck with the Denver Broncos, last season. It seems like you took the good of the 49ers & Rams with the bad of Broncos and mixed them up to get what you have with the Panthers.

Overall, with 4 recent Super Bowl Champions making up the top 4 components of the coaching core, you’d think the Panthers would have a better result than what they have shown this season. However, people are looking at these coaches and asking them a question that is also the title of one of Janet Jackson’s most famous songs…”What have you done for me, lately?” Grade: F

Ownership, y’all get to be the cherry on top. Between (owner) David Tepper, (president) Kristi Coleman, (general manager) Scott Fitterer, & (assistant general manager) Dan Morgan, I’m trying to figure out how Tepper became owner of any NFL team, Coleman has any sanity dealing with these 3, and how Fitterer & Morgan haven’t been fired, yet.

In the 5 seasons that Tepper has owned the team, the Panthers have never ended a season with .500 record or better and gone through 4 head coaches. Here in season 6 with Carolina’s 5th head coach, they may be heading for their worst record, yet. If there are some people who know how to own & operate a NFL team, please but Tepper out of his shares and fire damn near the entire front office. Grade: F

Well, there you have it. The Carolina Panthers, as you have them. Let’s see if they made any improvements, during the bye week or if they somehow manage to look worse. We’ll start to get some answers, when they host the Houston Texans. Panthers, for once, start pounding.

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