Mon, 27 May 2019

Panthers intent on shoring up leaky defense

Sports Xchange
20 Sep 2018, 09:16 GMT+10

Even the areas that went awry on the offensive end for the Carolina Panthers in Week 2 were overshadowed by defensive malfunctions.

So going into Sunday's home game against the Cincinnati Bengals, the emphasis seems to be on rectifying the defensive snafus.

But first, a few things on the offense.

Quarterback Cam Newton notched a career-high 32 completions Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons, but that doesn't fit the way the Panthers were constructed. It's not ideal that Newton put the ball in the air 45 times, though facing a deficit against the Falcons was one reason for that total.

So the Panthers will look to restore more balance versus the visiting Cincinnati Bengals this weekend. Sure, they want Newton to display his athleticism and talent, but they need to have a more diversified offense.

Already, there have been calls for more opportunities for rookie receiver D.J. Moore, who made a scoring play against the Falcons and continues to become more comfortable in the offense. Without injured tight end Greg Olsen, the players are seeking to tap more sources.

But the defense was where the major issues developed.

Coach Ron Rivera and defensive coordinator Erik Washington were quite clear that there weren't many positives.

"The things that served as well in the past ... stopping the run, getting after the quarterback, did not serve us well," Washington said. "We have to play ahead of the play."

The Panthers just didn't seem to be in tune with what the Falcons pulled off. This was opposite from Week 1 when the Dallas Cowboys appeared well-scouted and unable to gain much momentum.

"Everyone has to be in the right spot at the right time," linebacker Luke Kuechly said.

Rivera is a defensive coach by nature, so it was particularly agitating to him when there were so many shortcomings on defense.

"I will not stand for that," he said. "I will get that corrected."

There are enough veterans on the defensive unit that the Panthers shouldn't seem so many glitches, particularly when it appeared that the Falcons had schemes for which the Panthers weren't ready.

And while it's a small sample size, Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton should arrive full of confidence. In two games this season, the eighth-year quarterback has thrown for six touchdowns with only one interception.

Because of the backgrounds of the players on Carolina's defense, these snags are correctable.

"The guys are very confident," Washington said. "They're able to look at it and see, from a man, where the breakdowns were. We'll go back to work."

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