Previewing the Eagles’ schedule.
Bleeding Green Nation’s game-by-game preview of the Eagles’ 2018 schedule continues today with Philadelphia’s Week 7 opponent: the Carolina Panthers. (Week 6 preview is here.)
Last year’s Eagles-Panthers tilt was one of my favorite from last season. Watching the game live was super frustrating thanks to Pete Morelli — it was literally the most lopsided officiating (in terms of penalty yardage) in NFL history! But it was cool to the Eagles overcome that adversity. Looking back, that was one of the early signs that the team was special.
I can’t help but feel that last year’s game would not have nearly been as close as it was (28-23) if it wasn’t for some bad calls in big spots. There were numerous occasions where the Panthers would have a drive stall and then get bailed out by a BS call to keep it going.
The Eagles will be out to further assert themselves over the Panthers in this year’s rematch at Lincoln Financial Field. It feels weird to say they’ll be looking for ‘revenge’ since they’re the team that won last year, but I think they’re looking for a cleaner result this time around.
They might get it. They might not. (#Analysis.) The Panthers are one of those teams where it’s hard to figure out what they are on a yearly basis. They’ve bounced back and forth between being good and bad for quite a few seasons now.
Cam Newton plays a role in Carolina’s inconsistency. The 2015 NFL MVP is clearly very talented. At his best, he can be very hard to defend as both a passer and a runner. But sometimes he’s just off. His 3.3 interception rate last season was tied for a career low dating back to his rookie year. Newton’s 80.7 passer rating was the second worst of his seven-year NFL tenure.
If the pattern holds, which certainly isn’t a given, the Panthers seem to be due for a step back this year. They’re not a roster completely devoid of talent but they’re probably a team that’s more in the mix for the wild card again than they are a division favorite.
Here’s a more in-depth look at the Panthers from our SB Nation colleagues over at Cat Scratch Reader.
Notable free agent additions: DT/RB/QB Dontari Poe, WR Jarius Wright, RB C.J. Anderson, CB Ross Cockrell, S Da’Norris Searcy, G Jeremiah Sirles. The Panthers also acquired WR Torrey Smith via trade with the Eagles for CB Daryl Worley.
Over/under 9 wins: Over. The Panthers have the talent on their roster to repeat their 11-5 record from last season, and could potentially improve it to 12-4 or 13-3 if the ball bounces in their favor.
Rookie I’m most excited about: WR D.J. Moore. It’s going to be interesting to see Cam Newton with another ‘Steve Smith type’ receiver at his disposal. One of the biggest issues the Panthers had last year was the lack of weapons on offense. Aside from Devin Funchess and Christian McCaffrey, Newton was forced to rely on backup-quality receivers for most of the year (Greg Olsen missed 9 games due to injury). The addition of Moore should alleviate that problem and make the offense more difficult to contain for opposing defenses.
Best position battle heading into camp: Left guard. After losing Andrew Norwell to free agency, the Panthers have to find a suitable replacement this summer. Amini Silatolu is currently penciled in as the starter, but the Panthers signed Jeremiah Sirles in free agency and brought in several UDFA options to compete in training camp. They also have Taylor Moton on the depth chart, but he’s more of a tackle prospect than a guard.
Biggest storyline heading into camp: Will the offense under Norv Turner be able to gel early enough to prevent a slow start to the season? The Panthers’ Achilles heel last year was the lack of quality depth in the wide receiver corps, and they addressed that concern in free agency and the draft. Will their additions be enough? That’s the story waiting to be told.
Under-the-radar storyline heading into camp: How will the Panthers defense operate with Shaq Thompson filling in for Thomas Davis at weakside linebacker for the first four games of the season? The Panthers drafted Thompson to eventually be Davis’ replacement in the starting lineup, and they’ll get a really good look at him in a starting role while Davis serves his suspension. This gives the Panthers’ brass an opportunity to determine whether or not they want to offer Thompson a contract extension, as his rookie deal expires in 2019 (the Panthers exercised his 5th-year option, so they have plenty of time to get something done if they choose).
Notable injuries heading into training camp: Luke Kuechly and Julius Peppers are recovering from offseason shoulder surgery, but should be fine heading into training camp. Curtis Samuel is working his way back from ankle surgery and should also be ready to go once the preseason starts. Chris Manhertz will begin the summer on the PUP list, which will open up a competition for the No. 2 TE spot.
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