The Carolina Panthers are currently in second place in a weak NFC South division. Before the season began, the Panthers’ division was suppose to be one of the toughest in the league. So far, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Atlanta Falcons have had many injuries or mishaps, and are considered huge busts for the season.
The Panthers still have a shot at a positive record. They are 2-3 and their next three opponents are at .500 or less. The Panthers’ offense have had their ups and downs, but their defense has been consistently strong and dangerous.
Under young defensive coordinator Sean McDermott, the Panthers’ defense is ranked third in the league. In McDermott’s first season with the Panthers in 2011, the defense was ranked 28th. The following season they improved to 10th. Now they are currently ranked third for several reasons.
The Panthers are one of three teams to allow less than 300 yards per game. They are second in scoring defense with an average of 13.6 points per game. They are fifth in takeaways per game averaging 2.2, and they are also ranked fourth in preventing touchdowns when opponents are in the red zone.
The Panthers are happy with their performance on defense, but aren’t satisfied with the No. 3 rank. They still believe they have much to improve on in order to claim the No. 1 rank. It starts with the defensive play calling by McDermott. He does a great job knowing when to blitz and how to disguise it. In Week 6, the Panthers had many defensive play calls where the corner backs or safeties were blitzing. That is uncharacteristic of the Panthers, which is why it worked so well. The superb play calling led the Panthers to three sacks and allowed them to hold the best running back in the league to under 65 yards.
The Panthers’ defense has been very consistent through the first six weeks of football. The defense has kept the Panthers in competition with the opponents, but sometimes the lack of production from the offense is what hurts them. Although the Panthers have had several major injuries to their defense, they still hold strong and everyone is pulling their weight.
A key thing they need to focus on is their stamina. In the first two weeks, the Panthers lost both games to late fourth-quarter scoring by the opponents. The defense did the best they could, but with the offense lacking first downs, the defense had little time to rest. With one of the toughest schedules in the league, the Panthers need to prepare for the worst and condition harder than ever. Not only do they need to be prepare physically, but also mentally. If the defense can continue to perform at the same level or better, expect the Panthers to make a run for the playoffs.