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Monday Morning Thoughts: O-Line Struggles, Fierce Defense, Chuba + More

A few takeaways from the Panthers' season opener.

The Carolina Panthers kicked off the 2021 season with a 19-14 win over the New York Jets. Things may have not gone as expected but nonetheless, the Panthers got the job and came out with a win. Now, it's time for the coaching staff to make some adjustments and get ready for the New Orleans Saints. 

Coming into the season, many had questions about the Panthers' defense and felt like the offense was going to carry them. I was not one of those people. My concerns were actually on the offensive side of the ball. The defense has a ton of good, young talent and it showed on Sunday.

The offensive line is a big problem for Carolina, as we expected. Aside from Taylor Moton at right tackle, there's not much consistency. Matt Paradis wasn't bad at center but both guard spots and left tackle appear to be a problem. Left guard Pat Elflein had a rough day and lost a good bit of his one-on-one's. Cameron Erving at left tackle was put on skates a couple of times and allowed an edge rusher to pressure Darnold in the pocket. These are all things we sort of knew coming into the season and it's even more apparent now. The problem is, I don't know that Carolina has the guys on the roster to be able to fix these issues mid-season. This will be an area of emphasis in the offseason.

Speaking of that Phil Snow defense, you have to give them a tip of the hat. Brian Burns said the gameplay coming in was to make Zach Wilson's first game hell and they did exactly that. Carolina recorded six sacks and 10 QB hits. They were coming at him from all sorts of different angles, looks, and Wilson just kept taking hit after hit. 

Linebacker Shaq Thompson easily had the best day of his NFL career registering 10 tackles, three pass breakups, one tackle for loss, one QB hit, and an interception. Who knows? Maybe it was the changing of the jersey to No. 7. 

The duo of Brian Burns and Haason Reddick lived up to the hype and has the look of becoming one of the best pass rushing duos in the league. With all the focus placed on those two guys, it allows Derrick Brown to do work in the middle. In the 2nd half, Brown bullied his way into the backfield and hurried Zach Wilson into the ground. Matt Rhule said in the postgame presser that he didn't think he was going to get back up. 

The secondary gave up a few plays here and there but overall, I liked what I saw. Those dudes can fly around and make plays. Donte Jackson and Jaycee Horn form a good starting combo and will even be better once A.J. Bouye can return to the field.

Flipping back over to the offensive side of the ball, I thought Sam Darnold showed some good things. As I previously mentioned, his offensive line didn't do him any favors and the receivers left some plays out there as well. I was a little shocked that Robby Anderson and DJ Moore didn't win more of their one-on-one matchups vs a Jets secondary that is littered with inexperience. It's only one game but I feel like Darnold is the right quarterback to guide this rebuild. He's only 24-years old, so he is still developing into a franchise-type guy.

Lastly, the workload for Christian McCaffrey was a normal workload. Is that scary? I don't believe so. This is a guy that takes extreme care of his body and prior to last year, didn't miss a single game in his NFL career. When you have a player like him on your team, you have to keep finding ways to get him the ball. I understand fans wanted to see a little more out of Chuba Hubbard but his role will increase as the season moves along. 

I didn't expect the score to be as close as it ended up being but at the end of the day, the Panthers are 1-0 and are off to a good start. 

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