Welcome to the latest installment of Behind Enemy Lines: Carolina Panthers Edition. Ladies and Gents… WE WON AGAIN! Granted, it wasn’t the blowout or dominating performance that we all wanted, but right now, we have won three in a row. Our QB 1 is back and showing improvements, and right now, we have three home games to come against three teams with losing records. This must be what optimism feels like!
However, this weekend will be no walk in the park. Far from it. Whilst this Panthers team have been inconsistent and looked beatable at times, we are playing them at what could be the worst possible time. Our major struggles have come on offense, while their main strengths have come from defense. Their pass rush with Brian Burns and Hassan Reddick has been exemplary and our offensive line woes have been well documented. They have picked up Henderson and Gilmore into their secondary as we again face a weekend without Devante Parker or Will Fuller.
But flip that around, our defense seems to be showing up finally, and they have also too struggled on offense, so maybe we can match them, right? Well I am cautious there too, Carolina have Christian McCaffrey coming back from injury and looking bright again and of course, we all saw the I’M BACK videos! While Cam Newton may not be the QB he once was, he has a certain atmosphere and momentum around him right now that could see him continue to pose a serious danger.
So yeah, I am cautious going into this weekend, but this article is, as always, about getting the view from the opposing fanbase, so I spoke with Patrick Robertson (@PatrickR0720) to get the Panther fanbase’s perspective on our match up to see if there is anything we are missing to inform our views.
Hello mate, thanks so much for engaging with this. Great to add a new follower from around the league; you may well be my first Panther! Haha! So give us the low-down buddy, who are you and where did your Panthers journey begin?
Hey there! First and foremost thanks for reaching over the fence and having friendly conversations about the teams we both love and are passionate about. Lots of negativity in the world and this proves when we can actually get together and do something positive and in good spirits, it always ends up a good time.
My name is Patrick, married to my wonderful wife Elise, and two 11 year olds, Jayden and Sophia. Have lived in North Carolina all my life, and when we got awarded a team in 93, knew it would be my team from then on out. My dad took my brother, and I to a few games and that started the groundwork for the fan I am today. Over time, I’ve collected a lot of memorabilia with the memories that come with it. I’m a Panthers fan thru and thru.
Ah nice one mate, I appreciate that. One of my season highlights has been the interaction from fans around the league, and I am hoping that this series runs and runs in years to come too. So you’re a lifer then eh? Native of the team before the team was even a thing. I like it, seems I have stumbled on exactly the right guy.
You have had a bit of inconsistent season from an outside perspective. Starting well with Sam Darnold looking good, then faltering as he fell away and got injured. Another injury to McCaffrey too. But a defense playing like one of the best in the league and the return of Cam Newton! If ever there was a season for Amazon to follow you for All or Nothing, it could be this one.
How has it felt from inside the fanbase?
From an outside and also inside perspective we have been “a bit inconsistent” for some time now. We got a new owner in Tepper, a new coaching staff under Rhule, a new GM in Fitterer, and throughout this time we have seen players come and go – including multiple QBs. Sam Darnold did start the season well but in due time, it seems to have fizzled out and some of that may be with the injury to our RB1, Christian McCaffrey. Our offense relies on CMC to be in there and with him in the game, that opens a lot of the playbook. Defense has been playing at an elite level with the addition of quite a few names but Haason Reddick in particular – my man has been a beast.
Going to games this season in Bank of America has not been the same in the sense of truly having that home-field advantage where lots (and I mean lots) of away fans were attending. However, CAM IS BACK. The stadium was alive – electric, energetic, and fans were there rooting for the home team, the Carolina Panthers. As you said, if there was a season that would be wild to view behind the scenes, it would be this one.
The fan base is a passionate one, one that wants to win. We look to be trending in the right direction and can only hope that Cam can be that missing piece to get a late rally going.
Yeah what a story it is to have Cam returning, and just last season he caused us all sorts of problems in the first game against New England. He ran all over us, found our weakness, and absolutely exploited it.
But that could just be a side show really; your main conquering heroes have been on the defense! They have matched up well against pretty much everyone. Where has that comes from? What is it built on and who have been the main contributors?
Rhule drafted all defensive players in the 2020 draft (Derrick Brown, Jeremy Chinn, Yetur Gross-Matos), got Jaycee Horn with 1st pick of the draft last year, and picked up some key free agents in Haason Reddick, Morgan Fox, Frankie Luvu, and recently obtained CJ Henderson and Stephon Gilmore via trade this year. You give stars to Phil Snow (our DST Coordinator) and he has proven he can drive results. Let’s not forget our other leaders but not limited to Donte Jackson, Shaq Thompson, and Brian Burns.
Defense wins championships, and that unit hasn’t been the issue this year. Hopefully, we can retain a few to keep them together for the future.
Jeeeeeeeeeesus! When you list them like that, it’s an absolute roll call of defensive talent. Now you have said it; I’m sitting here wondering where our offense is going to find joy. All the aspects you have listed are lined up in favorable match-ups against our weaker areas. We are going to have to step right out to stay relevant in this game it seems!
But what is the Carolina perspective of Miami football in your opinion? Has our season surprised you or did you expect it would play out in this way?
I personally don’t pay too much attention to other teams outside of the Panthers and specifically our division. What I did have to put up with is the Deshaun Watson rumors in which Carolina and Miami were involved in. I’m glad we passed as I think it’s too much to wager the future on with unknowns and the allegations that have taken place.
The Bills have been good recently and the Patriots look to have found their guy in Mac Jones. That’s always going to be a tough match-up in your division. With that being said, I think your season is similar to ours in the hopes that we turn the corner but seem to be around where most teams currently are – middle of the pack.
Oh of course, you guys were right there in the mix for Watson too weren’t you! We were so consumed by the Miami rumors it was easy to forget there were other teams in the discussion. And day know what, right now I would take a middle of the pack, for a long period of this year it looked very much that we would be below even that level, so if we can bounce back to somewhere around even, then I shouldn’t complain.
So I know you said you don’t follow the world outside of Carolina, but where do you see us longer term? Is this just a blip, or will this drag on and on for us Dolphins fans?
This is though again because I don’t know much about the Dolphins. I don’t think Tua is bad but it is hard to ignore all the noise around him. I also am not sure about all the other pieces you guys have, there are obvious names like Xavien Howard and Jaylon Waddle, but with all the rookies, young players and roster turnover, it’s hard to keep track of just who is on the Dolphins roster just now. I believe it will end up similar to past seasons, some years, you’ll be close with no cigar, but the majority of the time end up as a wildcard if you’re lucky, just like the rest of us.
Well, that feels bleak, but actually from this position if we can rebound to recapture some of last year then maybe that’s not so bad. Any other year gives our youngsters time to develop, proves their determination and grit to bounce back from that rough start to the season. God, yeah, if we are to finish close to last year, then we will have to win a whole host of games to even things out… fingers crossed that starts on Sunday.
So you mentioned Waddle and Howard as two obvious names on our roster; what do you think of them over there, and could they pose a threat to you do you think?
Well Howard looks like he has been playing well the past few weeks and someone to watch out for. A good CB, no doubt. The stand out, impressive play was to force a fumble and run it back for a TD when he played the Ravens, the whole of the football universe saw that on prime time and so it will have put him back in everyone’s minds. AFC defensive player of the week for a reason, from our side, we need to see if one of our speedsters in DJ and Robby can get going against him.
As for Waddle, your own Speedster, he’s a playmaker that you love to see. If he gets hot, it’ll be hard to stop that Alabama connection with Tua. Waddle seems to be a favored target, and he seems to be becoming more and more reliable in that system too. Our secondary struggled a bit against WFT so hopefully they can get their act together and stop Waddle from getting going.
Yeah, for sure, I’d even throw in Mike Gesicki and Jevon Holland, who can compliment both of these players and who are both having very solid seasons. Whether we can string it together remains to be seen, but their strengths are pretty much as described there yeah, and both are getting better as the season goes on.
What about your own roster? Who do we need to be worried about?
We’ve mentioned the defense but we are looking for them to come back around and be what we saw in earlier games. Haason Reddick and Brian Burns are a hard duo to stop and if they get going, watch out. You say you have had offensive line trouble; well, these are not the two men you want to be facing in their current form. Hard rush, aggressive and finding their target again and again, regardless of opponent.
Plus, Cam is here to win, and that may have got some excitement and energy for the offensive group to start clicking more as well. You have to be aware of CMC and DJ Moore but looks like chemistry is forming with Robby Anderson too.
Some big names who are playing up to their reputation, then yeah? DJ Moore is one that worries me, it feels like he is just primed to make his mark and after slowing down as Darnold slowed down, maybe some of this rejuvenated energy from the Newton arrival could see him return to form.
Right then, mate, you are KILLING my optimism here. How do we beat you, if we are going to stay in this game and compete with you, where are we going to need to look and exploit?
Well, with the stuff you have been saying, you are going to have to account for CMC or he will eat you alive. His ability is nuts, seriously. He could make the strongest defense suffer, and if you guys are still warming up to top form, or if they already peaked with the Ravens performance, then CMC will take advantage right from the get-go.
I would say you need to establish a run game. Going back to the Washington game again, they did exactly that and had success. Our pass rush is so focussed on getting to the QB, so if you guys can get Tua handing off a bit more or get a run game so that our beastly rushers have to second guess each play. That could not only move chains and get points but it would also take the pressure off Levi.
A run game? Really. Oh well, that’s us screwed then. Our OLine and running backs have been struggling recently, so all the components needed for a successful running game are the ones where we have a weaker than weak track record. That said, we could see Phillip Lyndsey after we took him on waivers. I LOVE this pick up and I have hope that he could be a successful Dolphin.
But enough about him until he takes snaps and scores points. I can’t leave without asking about the most talked about guy on our roster, what is the Carolina fanbase view on Tua Tagovailoa, both for this season and longer-term?
I like Tua, he’s not bad and just needs the cast around him from my view. I haven’t watched too much of him in the NFL but remember him at Alabama, and he balled out. I don’t know if trading the future away for Watson would benefit as much since then you don’t have the capital to build around him like you could with picks so a bit of a toss-up.
There are definitely polarising opinions on our QB1 right now so saying it’s a toss up could not be more accurate. There are fans and there are haters both in and out of the Dolphins fanbase. Some over critiquing every mistake, and some providing excuse after excuse. For me, he needs more time, I’d give him another year and see if he can allay the fears that so many people are attaching to him.
But back to the game. How do you see it going? What is your prediction?
I see this as a close game for sure, but… I see Carolina coming out on top. Cam is back and played good ball; our defense just had a bad game previously. Defense steps up and we get the win.
So a match-up prediction without a score in there. Way to sit on the fence, mate haha. There is a significant part of me that fears you could be right. But I started this piece optimistic, and damn I plan on staying that way. So I will stay positive now too. I don’t know about score yet either, but a Jason Sanders field goal to win it all could be a wonderful piece to this narrative. He’s struggled himself this year; to get a game-winner could be the boost he needs. So yeah, that’s my prediction, and to be a bit more bold than you, I will put a score on it, let’s say 20 – 18, in favor of the Dolphins.
Seriously man, thank you for being involved in this. This has been a wonderful hook-up; I have loved chatting with you and am thrilled to have made your acquaintance. All the best as this season plays out, but hopefully, a blip on Sunday sees up come out on top.
After talking to Robert, I half feel like the roles are reversed from last week. As we approached the Jets I urged caution and professionalism. They were the underdog, and we were expecting to beat them. Make no bones about it, they will look at this week as another W in their win column this year. Just like the way we looked at the Jets.
Yet we have Xavien Howard, Jaylon Waddle, Christian Wilkins, Mike Gesicki and the phenom that is Jevon Holland. We have players that the Jets didn’t seem to have, difference makers. So we have players who could concern them if we can stay close in this game.
So maybe the roles are reversed, while the world now has US as underdogs, these Panthers need to not take us lightly, or else we could do to them that we did to the Ravens. There is still optimism for this weekend, and we need to capitalize.