Panthers vs. Saints: Week 3 players needed to help turn the ship around
By John Hendrix
Since the Carolina Panthers entered the league in 1995, they have faced off against the New Orleans Saints 40 total times. The Panthers currently sport a 21-19 record over the black and gold. Saints fans haven’t exactly had much to cheer about this season, as the team has found themselves in a deep 0-2 hole. The adversity is stacked high for the Saints, as Drew Brees will miss his first career game due to an injury in his 15-year career.
With that being said, there are plenty of players that will need to bring their ‘A-game’ and then some for the Saints to avoid an 0-3 start. Let’s look at my impact players.
Cam Newton holds a 4-4 record against the Saints. In those games, he’s 127/226 (56 percent completion), 1,601 yards, 9 touchdowns, and 5 interceptions. Here’s the kicker: Newton has 344 rushing yards in those eight games (second most among any team Newton’s faced), and has added 4 rushing touchdowns. If the Saints want to win this game, they’ll have to account for Newton accordingly. Stephone Anthony figures to be someone who steps into a QB spy role for this game to help contain Newton. Basically, a QB spy’s responsibility shadows the quarterback, and wherever he goes, the spy goes while floating just off the line of scrimmage. Anthony, like many of the Saints rookies, are really developing.
We saw the impact of C.J. Spiller on the field against the Buccaneers immediately.
Spiller will likely see increased reps against the Panthers, and not having him listed on the injury report this week is an encouraging sign for his usage. Ultimately, we’re most interested in seeing how he’ll be used in a three-headed hydra running back attack with Mark Ingram and Khiry Robinson. Not having Luke Kuechly on the other side of the ball would be a huge boost for the Saints running backs. Regardless of whether Kuechly plays or not, Spiller will be in to cause a ton of mismatches and/or be used as a decoy.
If there’s been one real bright spot on defense, it’s been, Hau’oli Kikaha. Kikaha is one of Pro Football Focus’ top five rated rookies right now, and it’s easy to see why. Kikaha has had a knack for keeping his head up and staying with plays, which has led to him forcing a fumble in each of the first two games. He’s been heavily involved in Rob Ryan’s defense, and is quick off the ball. Kikaha picked up his first sack of his professional career against Jameis Winston, and he’ll need to produce a similar outing against Cam Newton.
Zach Hocker is one player that finds himself in some hot water right now. This is the third week in a row that I put Hocker on my list, and it’s because those points are that important. If Hocker didn’t hook his kick and have an extra point blocked last week, it could have changed things up. His first game against the Cardinals was perfect, but his home opener was rough. In a tight divisional matchup, you can’t afford to leave any points off the board.
The Offensive Line
Okay, so this is technically cheating. However, with Luke McCown set to start for the first time since 2011, the offensive line must play better. Drew Brees was hurried six times and sacked four times last week. Zach Strief was abused during the contest, which hasn’t exactly happened in quite some time.
Protecting the quarterback is one thing, but how about the rushing attack? The team did manage to crack the century mark against the Buccaneers with 104 rushing yards as a team, but they opted for 38 passing plays as opposed to 27 rushing plays last week. Last year’s road contest with the Panthers featured a heavy dose of Mark Ingram, who carried it 30 times in a Saints 28-10 victory last season. Ingram added two rushing touchdowns.
The Saints have won the time of possession battle in each of their first two games, so controlling the tempo with an effective running game should remain top of mind. The offensive line will be without Jahri Evans due to a knee injury, so Senio Kelemete will make his first start with the Saints.
Who are your impact players of Week 3 when the Saints take on the Panthers?