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by Sharon Thorsland

Panthersâ blitz scheme attributable to one man

Well, it’s been quite a week in Carolina. The Panthers fired their head coach, replacing Matt Rhule with secondary coach Steve Wilks. Starting quarterback Baker Mayfield went down with an ankle injury, and starting cornerback Jaycee Horn suffered a hip injury. And now the team has to go on the road to take on none other than the defending Super Bowl champs! The good news is the Rams are struggling offensively just as much if not more so than the Panthers. They’re just 2-3 on the season after a 22-10 loss to the Cowboys last week leaving fans in LA wondering what the heck is going on.

The Panthers are dead last in the NFL in yards per game, but the Rams are at the bottom of the league in nearly every other offensive category including total points and rushing yards per game, with Cam Akers and Darrell Henderson combining for just 289 yards on the season. Veteran quarterback Matt Stafford has thrown more interceptions than touchdowns, and he’s been sacked a league-leading 21 times. The only bright spot has been star receiver Cooper Kupp, he’s got 49 catches for 527 yards and four touchdowns. “He does everything right,” said Horn. “He catches the ball, plays real physical, he’s shifty. We gotta try to slow him down.”

Horn and the Panther defense have struggled the past two games but seem to be energized by the coaching change. The intense Wilks turned things up a notch in practice this week, and is looking for that to carry over to the game, particularly on offense. “We want to be aggressive in all three phases,” said Wilks. “We’re not going to sit back and react to the defense, we want to put pressure on them and have them react to us.”

With Mayfield dealing with an ankle injury, the offense will run through P.J. Walker, who you might not realize is undefeated (2-0) as a starter with the Panthers. What you probably do know is that Walker can be a risk taker, and that often leads to turnovers – he’s thrown eight interceptions in his two plus seasons with the team. This time out Walker will have quite the challenge from Rams star defensive tackle Aaron Donald. The three time Defensive Player of the Year is a quarterback’s nightmare – he’s racked up 46 and ½ sacks over the past three seasons, and has four sacks so far this season along with a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Add in six time All-Pro linebacker Bobby Wagner and star cornerback Jalen Ramsey and you’ve got quite the challenge. “Physical up front, great front seven,” said Walker. “Good secondary as well, lot of long

guys on the back end. We’ve gotta find a way to move the ball and try to attack them as best we can.”

Panthers looking for fresh start vs. Rams  was originally published on wbt.com