by Sharon Thorsland
The Panthers will try again to pick up their first win of the season when they take on the New York Giants on Sunday. They nearly pulled off the win over the Browns last week in spite of a slow start by the offense and a porous run defense that allowed 214 yards on the ground. Sunday they’ll face another strong rushing attack in the Giants, who are coming off a surprising overtime win over the Titans. Fifth year running back Saquon Barkley is healthy for the first time in two seasons and racked up 164 yards while averaging a whopping nine yards per carry in the game. That means the Panthers have to tighten up the run defense and clean up the sloppy tackling that cost them 190 yards in yards after contact last week. “We’ve just got to clean up the details, clean up the small things,” said Panthers cornerback Donte Jackson.
The Giants have a new head coach in former Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, and in addition to Barkley they’ve got a slew of talented receivers, including Sterling Shepard and Kenny Golloday, and a dual threat quarterback in Daniel Jones. The former Duke standout looked solid against the Titans last week, and his ability to make plays with his feet makes him dangerous. “When you’ve got a mobile and fast quarterback like that it’s always a challenge,” said Panthers defensive end Henry Anderson. “He’s an athletic dude so we’ve got to make sure everybody’s where they’re supposed to be.” Anderson and the Panthers might have given up a lot of yards on the ground last but they did a great job limiting the Browns passing attack, allowing just 138 yards through the air (2nd in the NFL). Can they do that again against the Giants though?
The Giants defense had the opposite problem, giving up plenty of passing yards to the Titans but just 93 yards on the ground to Derrick Henry and company – that’s impressive. Former Ravens defensive coordinator Wink Martindale has installed his aggressive 3-4 scheme in New York, with veteran Leonard Williams and 2nd year edge rusher Azeez Olujari leading the attack, they combined for 14.5 sacks last season. Speedy cornerback Adoree Jackson anchors the secondary. The Giants will have their hands full with Christian McCaffrey though, and the Panthers will no doubt try to get him going early in this one.
The entire Panther offense needs to get off to a fast start Sunday. They certainly showed what they are capable of in the 4th quarter of the Browns game, and would like to keep that momentum going. “I think that’s the potential for all of our guys to look at, everybody just doing their job,” said Panthers quarterback Baker Mayfield. “Just focus on doing your job and just carry that momentum, realizing that we can be a very good team. Be confident in that and go believe it.”
Panthers fans might have to see it to believe it considering this team is mired in an eight game losing streak dating to last season.