Know Your Opponent: Carolina Panthers

Michael Meegan gives a preview of the Jets-Panthers matchup.

Week 1 the Jets find themselves in a game filled with outside narratives.  They head to Carolina to face Sam Darnold their former QB who they traded away in April which kick started the Zach Wilson Era.  Now with the Jets 5 point road underdogs lets dive into Sunday’s matchup.

Coaching- The Panthers are led by a man who was almost the Jets coach once upon a time in Matt Rhule. Rhule enters his second season as Panther’s HC going 5-11 his first year with a very young team known for always competing with their opponents. Joe Brady is Rhule’s OC and is known as one of the up and coming offensive minds in the sport given his work with Carolina last year and being the mastermind behind LSU National Championship run in 2019.  Phil Snow a long time DC at the college level was brought to Carolina by Rhule after having previously worked together at Baylor.  Snow is known for his exotic personnel packages that are not often used at the NFL level, which makes him a difficult matchup to game plan against.

Offense- The Panthers bought into the reclamation project that is Sam Darnold this offseason.  Darnold was statistically one of the worst QB’s in the NFL the past 3 years in New York.  It remains to be seen if a change of scenery can unlock the talent Darnold flashed at USC.  However, he has the best skill group of his life surrounding him.  Christian McCaffrey is the best dual threat back in the league, DJ Moore is a budding superstar and our beloved Sun Gawd, Robby Anderson, showed he can be a complete WR during his first year in Carolina.  Rookie WR Terrace Marshall has flashed in preseason and TE Dan Arnold is a solid receiving threat that really rounds out the group.  Taylor Moton is one of the best RT’s in the league but the rest of the Panther’s OL leaves a lot to be desired.

Defense- The young Panthers defense is led by phenom Brian Burns.  Burns is one of the most talented edge rushers in the league and going into his third season he looks poised to take the leap into superstardom.  2nd year players DT Derek Brown and S/LB hybrid Jeremy Chin flashed in their rookie years and are looking to take that 2nd year leap to become true impact players.  The Panthers are betting big on rookie CB Jaycee Horn out of South Carolina to sure up their secondary as they took him at 8 overall in this past year’s draft.

Weaknesses- the Panther’s OL is bad like 2018-2019 Jets bad.  Cameron Irving at LT and Pat Elflein at LG is maybe the worst left side of the line in the entire NFL.  The Panther’s secondary has a lot of question marks.  Donte Jackson has been inconsistent since coming into the league in 2018, Jaycee Horn while talented is a rookie playing in his first game and corner is one of the hardest positions to adapt to in the NFL.  They also are betting on a bounce back year from AJ Bouye who really looked like his best days were behind him last year in Denver.

Matchup- I think the Jets matchup really well with Carolina.  This is a game they have the talent advantage in the trenches on both sides.  The Jets OL can really run block and Carolina is not a good team against the run.  This will allow them to control the clock and give Zach Wilson some really nice looks of Play Action.  The Jets DL should be able to overwhelm the Panthers OL.  We have seen Sam Darnold struggle when pressured and lead to turnovers.  The biggest disadvantage for the Jets is their corners cannot hang with Carolina’s WR’s in any capacity.  If they are not able to pressure Darnold they are going to get picked apart through the air big time.

Prediction-In Robert Saleh’s first game I think the Jets put together a statement win.  They get a lead early with a deadly ground attack and Zach does not have to do too much in his first game as pro.  Carolina has to lean on Sam to try to get back in the game and this leads to multiple turnovers.

Jets 27, Panthers 16 and a fantastic day for Jets fans not having to hear about how they should have stuck with Sam.