As the NFL is more quarterback-centric than ever, Sunday’s matchup between the Seattle Seahawks and Carolina Panthers naturally is being billed as Russell Wilson vs. Cam Newton. And for good reason, as both are young exciting quarterbacks that are redefining how to successfully play the position.
Such comparisons don’t really make much sense to me, as Russell can’t play a role in stopping Cam himself, and vice versa. Rather it’s Seattle’s defense against Newton, and Carolina’s against Wilson.
Therefore let’s see what kinds of problems the Panthers defensive unit will pose for Russ, Doug and Co. and where they’re weak.
You can’t talk about Carolina’s defense without talking at length about their linebacking corps. Specifically Pro Bowlers Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis, with the latter earning All-Pro honors for the first time in his lengthy career. Together they cover the field sideline to sideline, not letting anyone run past them.
Both are studs against the run, as evidenced by Kuechly garnering more tackles than any other player in the league the past two years.
Don’t forget about former University of Washington star Shaq Thompson. Husky fans should already know what an incredible athlete he is, and he’s no slouch either, as no rookie starting on a 15-1 team would be.
Apart from Josh Norman, secondary is weak
Yes, Josh Norman is an All-Pro cornerback and one of the league’s best, but apart from that the Carolina secondary is severely lacking. At safety they have Kurt Coleman, a decent player and the ancient Roman Harper (who you may remember getting tossed about 6 yards in the “Beast Quake” as a member of the Saints).
They have been the beneficiaries of generating lots of interceptions, 24 in fact which leads the league. But if there’s one thing Russell Wilson does not do, it’s turn the ball over, therefore it will be a true test to see what they can do without relying on the interception.
In terms of passing yards given up, the Panthers do a decent job, but rank outside the top 10 in opposing passing yards. This coming against a schedule that frequently featured lesser competition, compared to what the Seahawks faced.
Tight ends have given the Seahawks fits all year. Tyler Eifert and Greg Olsen stand out, as they crushed their hopes late in games. All together, they are 26th in terms of yardage given up to tight ends.
Well, the Seahawks defense will have a chance to redeem themselves and prove they are really a different team than what we saw in the first half of the season.
Kam Chancellor will likely be tasked with defending Olsen for much of the game. Although from what he showed against Kyle Rudolph late against Minnesota, he is going to have his work cut out for him.