The Panthers are looking to bounce back from a disappointing loss to Washington when they take on the Dolphins in Miami on Sunday. After opening the season with a win over the Patriots, the Dolphins then reeled off seven straight losses. But they’ve won three straight now, including last week’s win over the Jets.
The Dolphins have been playing musical quarterbacks this season, rotating between former NC State standout Jacoby Brissett and second year player Tua Tagovailoa. But it seems to be Tua time again – the former Alabama star started last week and was impressive in the win over the Jets. Both quarterback’s favorite target is a rookie. Jaylen Waddle was the 6th overall draft pick out of Alabama and he’s made an immediate impact. His 68 catches rank 5th in the NFL, and he has 622 yards and three touchdowns. DeVante Parker and Will Fuller are both on IR, so Waddle starts alongside veteran Albert Wilson. Former Tar Heel Mack Hollins is a big play threat, he’s only got 12 receptions but three of them went for touchdowns. Tight end Mike Gesicki is second on the team with 49 catches and has two scores. They’ll face a Panther passing defense that is number one in the NFL allowing just 174 yards per game but struggled last week to stop Washington’s attack.
The Panthers also had plenty of trouble stopping the run last week, giving up 190 yards to Washington. This week they’ll face a dual threat in Dolphins running back Myles Gaskin, who leads the team with 433 yards and a score, and also has 41 catches, four of those touchdowns.
The Dolphins defense has had its own share of issues, and currently ranks 29th in the NFL in total defense and passing defense. But things seem to be on the upswing: over the last month, Miami is third in the league in scoring defense giving up just 15 points a game, and they’ve picked up 11 sacks and seven takeaways in the last four games. All-Pro cornerback and former Patriot Jason McCourty is on IR but they’ve still got fellow All-Pro Xavien Howard, who has a pair of interceptions and a forced fumble returned for a touchdown. The Dolphins are best against the run, ranking 13th in the league allowing 108 yards per game on the ground. The front seven is anchored by veteran defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah, he leads the team with five sacks. Rookie edge rusher Jaelan Phillips has been outstanding, he has three and a half sacks. Can they contain Cam Newton though? The newly acquired Panthers quarterback has accounted for five touchdowns since returning to the team, and with another week of practice under his belt should provide even more of a challenge for the Dolphins defense.
No doubt Newton and the Panthers are looking to bounce back after last week’s disappointing loss. Time is running out this season to pile up some wins and keep their playoff hopes alive. This would be a great time to do get a “W” and head into the bye week on a high note.
by Sharon Thorsland