This week, we talked to Cat Scratch Reader’s Walker Clement about the Panthers. Despite some pointed barbs and a score prediction that will make you mad, he seems pretty concerned about Carolina this week.
Dave Choate: Are you at all concerned about your offensive line this week given that you have to play an actual NFL defense this time around?
Walker Clement: Tremendously concerned. Now that Trai Turner has been added to the injury report with a concussion, the Panthers only have one lineman playing in the same position he spent practicing in training camp. That is Ryan Kalil, who noticeably and notably played through a high fever against Dallas. The guy to watch out for is Amini Silatolu, number 65. He could play anywhere but center on Sunday. He is probably the weakest link on any professional offensive line, regardless of where he plays.
Well, this is unfortunate. pic.twitter.com/LvPhmnc8DB— Jeremy Igo (@CarolinaHuddle) September 10, 2018
He is the guy who blocked the Panthers’ own snap on what became a botched extra point to keep the Cowboys within a single possession for the 4th quarter. It’s not hopeless for the Panthers, though. There is every chance that the Cowboys fielded a more talented and healthier defense than the Falcons will have for the rest of the season.
Dave Choate: Cam Newton has a shiny new toy in D.J. Moore. Are we thinking he’ll be the man who lifts Newton’s completion percentage over 52.9%, or are there other weapons stepping up?
Walker Clement: Clearly, you missed Wednesday’s ground-breaking report that Newton is now good. The Panthers are going to be focusing on more quick, short passes to speedy receivers who can get yards after the catch instead of their old, deep-bomb style of yesteryear. Fans are hopeful this new philosophy will minimize the impact of the ever-lengthening injury report for the offensive line.
As for Moore, you will likely see more of him as a return man than a receiver if they stick to the same script as last week. The plan wasn’t to focus on any one receiver who isn’t Christian McCaffrey as they implement this new offense.
Dave Choate: Without Greg Olsen, is your tight end position hot garbage, lukewarm garbage, or cold garbage?
Walker Clement: It is really a toss up at this point. That position could range anywhere between hot and cold garbage. Rookie Ian Thomas looks pretty good, but he’s a rookie, and Chris Manhertz can throw a decent block. Nobody is replacing Olsen on their own. Look to see the lion’s share of his 3rd and medium catches that go just for a first down and not an inch further to be taken on by Devin Funchess. If anything, this could be where Moore’s opportunity to see more meaningful snaps comes from as the Panthers look for anybody who can produce, regardless of position.
Dave Choate: That defense looks pretty scary, but so did the original Exorcist movie and it didn’t age well. I guess what I’m trying to ask is if Carolina’s secondary is any good.
Walker Clement: Yes? I honestly don’t know. The corners are solid and finally, for once, fast enough to keep up with anybody y’all have. The safeties are where the real questions are this year. Mike Adams looked like he found one of the steps that he lost a few years back and has seemed a whole new man. Da’Norris Searcy looked at least serviceable in his most-of-a-game action before getting a little dinged up. The big question is rookie Rashaan Gaulden. He took the lion’s share of first team reps at strong safety in training camp but then sat behind Colin Jones, a perennial journeyman who always looks in need of a compass, when Searcy was injured against the Cowboys. Good luck sorting that mess out.
Dave Choate: What is your prediction for this game, and how ugly is it going to be?
Walker Clement: This game is going to be ugly. Uglier than Matt Ryan trying to complete a pass in the 4th quarter of a Super Bowl. That said, I think the Panthers’ injuries play into their own strengths a little bit and the Falcons’ injuries also play into the Panthers’ strengths a little bit. It seems early for a game as important as this to be tipped by that factor, but here we are. I say Panthers 24 Falcons 10. As a caveat, if it is one possession game in the final minutes of the 4th quarter then the Falcons win in heartbreaking fashion.