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Chicken Tikka Zavala

You thought I was going to make a pun based on Bryce, huh? Forever Young? Only the Good Die Young? Young, Wild and Free? Or the former jewel of my heart and mock drafts, Jammie Robinson? Jammie Dodger? Jammie Doughnut? Instead, I honour Ant and NC State by naming this game preview article after his player, as he was taken before Jammie, and totally not because he has been the worst pass-blocking lineman in the league thus far.


Offence:

The Panthers are heavy users of 11 personnel, employing it on 86% of their snaps. On these plays, they pass the ball 72% of the time for -0.13 Expected Points Added per play. The only other personnel set Carolina uses on more than 3% of their offensive plays is 12, which they use 10% of the time, running out of these formations 59% of the time for 0.07 EPA/play. Overall, the Panthers pass the ball on 68% of their offensive plays for -0.13 EPA/play.


It should be the first overall pick Bryce Young under center for Carolina on Sunday, rather than the Red Rifle. While this might bring up some bad memories of a certain Week 1 Monday Night Football game, this should be good news for us. In his three games, Young has dropped back to pass 121 times, attempting 103 passes for 67 completions (65.0%), an average depth of target of 6.2 yards, and 4.9 yards per attempt for a 47.0 PFF passing grade. These throws have led to thirty-one first downs, one drop (1.5%), ten throwaways, two batted passes, one big-time throw (0.9%), six turnover-worthy plays (4.5%) two touchdowns and two interceptions.


According to PFF, Young inevitably gets worse when he is pressured by a measure of three PFF grade points, 0.1 yards per attempt and a 25% completion rate decrease. However, his ADOT more than doubles to 10.2 yards. Conversely, Young improves passing-wise against the blitz. His PFF grade increases by nearly six points, his yards per attempt increases by nearly two yards and his completion rate increases by 6%, while his ADOT drops by over two yards.


When it comes to depth of passing, Young is worst when targeting between ten and nineteen yards beyond the line of scrimmage. He only completes 44.4% of his attempts in this area for 6.1 yards per attempt, three turnover-worthy plays (10.3%), ten first downs and both of his interceptions on the year so far for a 44.6 grade. In particular, he is weakest when targeting outside the numbers on these throws, with a 41.1 grade when targeting the intermediate left, and a 30.4 grade when targeting the right. However, Young is strong working the short game (zero-nine yards beyond the line) with a 73.5 grade when targeting this area. He has only missed three of his thirty-three attempts into this region for 6.3 yards per attempt, twelve first downs and both of his touchdowns this season.


Per PFF, Carolina's best receiver has been running back Miles Sanders with an 80.6 receiving grade. He has corraled fifteen of his twenty-one targets (71.4%), with an ADOT of 0.8 yards, for 5.4 yards per reception (5.9 yards after the catch per reception), 0.96 yards per route ran, one drop (6.3%), a 0% (0/1) contested catch success rate and four first downs. At tight end, Hayden Hurst has earned a 57.8 grade with a 66.7% catch rate (10/15). His catches have an ADOT of 7.1 yards, he averages 0.68 yards per route ran, 7.9 yards per reception (2.3 yards after the catch), a 33.3% contested catch rate (1/3), one penalty, five first downs and one touchdown.


As for their wide receivers, veteran slot man Adam Thielen is leading the way with a 77.5 receiving grade. He has been targeted thirty-three times for twenty-seven receptions (81.8%), an ADOT of 8.1 yards, 1.70 yards per route run, 10.6 yards per reception (3.9 yac), a 33.3% (1/3) contested catch rate, eighteen first downs and one penalty. On the outside, Chark has been the better of the two starters. He has brought in 50% of his targets (7/14) for 18.4 yards per reception (4.4 after the catch) and 1.05 yards per route run on an ADOT of 15.5 yards. He also has a 22.2% drop rate, a 100% success rate on contested catches (2/2), four first downs and one touchdown. On the other side, rookie and former Ole Miss Rebel Jonathan Mingo has performed slightly worse according to PFF. He has brought in eight of his eighteen targets (44.4%) on an ADOT of 11.8 yards for 0.67 yards per route ran, 8.0 yards per reception (1 yard after the catch), an 11.1% drop rate, a 25% contested catch success rate (1/4), two first downs, one penalty and a 54.2 grade.


Thielen is the big threat receiving-wise, but given how well Sutton has played thus far this season, he should able to keep him in check while moving into the slot. However, given the height advantage Chark has over Jerry and that Moseley is coming off his injury and will be taking his first snaps in a Honolulu blue uniform, he might end the day as the most productive receiver for Carolina.


Looking at the offensive line that will be trying to protect Young, in the passing game, the line has let Young have an average time to throw of 2.95 seconds and allowed fifty pressures on him, including eleven sacks (22% pressure to sack rate) and two hits while he was throwing. The best pass blocker has been RT Taylor Moton with a 74.1 pass-block grade. On his 199 pass-blocking snaps, he has allowed twelve hurries for a 96.8% pass-blocking efficiency while also committing two false start penalties. The worst has been far and away rookie Chandler Zavala, who has given up a league-worst twenty-eight pressures (three sacks, seven QB hits and eighteen hurries) and two false start penalties for a 91.6% efficiency and a (again) league-worst 7.2 grade.


LT Ikem Ekwonu has been sub-par in pass-blocking with a 54.3 grade and a 97.0% efficiency. He has conceded seven penalties, one of which was declined, while giving up nine pressures (two sacks, three hits and four hurries). C Bradley Bozeman hasn't played much better, conceding one penalty and nine pressures (one sack, one hit and six hurries) for a 97.6% efficiency and a 41.8 grade. Waiver pick-up and name bracket candidate Calvin Throckmorton has been around league average in pass protection, allowing four hurries and no penalties for a 98.3% efficiency and a 60.7 grade.


As for run blocking, Ekwonu leads the way with a 73.1 grade, followed by Bozeman with a 63.1 grade. The other three starters all grade below the average in run-blocking. Throckmorton has earned a 57.8 grade, Moton has a 57.4 grade, and Zavala brings up the rear with a 45.1 grade. The line itself creates an average of 2.2 yards before contact per attempt which is the eighth-worst figure in the league.


Speaking of rushing, lead back Sanders has been the worst of the two backs with a 49.9 grade. He is averaging 2.9 (2.09 after contract) yards per attempt on his fifty-four carries, with four of his carries going for more than ten yards, having forced three missed tackles on the season. Sanders has also converted seven first downs, fumbled once and he has hit paydirt once so far this season. He has been his best rushing through the left B-gap, getting six yards a pop on his six carries in this gap. Conversely, he has been at his worst through the right-hand C-gap, losing three yards on his three carries in this gap.


Back-up back and Canadian Chuba Hubbard has been Carolina's best rusher with an 80.6 grade. He is averaging 4.6 yards a carry (3.96 yco/att) on twenty-six carries. Four of his carries have gone for more than ten yards and he has forced nine missed tackles on the season, converting eleven first downs on his carries. Hubbard has taken his one carry up the left C-gap for 21 yards, while he is worst at rushing up the A-gaps, averaging 3.7 yards on carries in these gaps. On his six scrambles so far this season, Young has averaged 8.7 yards per attempt (4.71 yco/att) and five forced missed tackles. Two of his runs have gone for more than ten yards, but he has also fumbled three times this season, earning a 63.4 rushing grade.


Overall, I would actually try and minimise the availability of throws underneath for Young and try and dare him into throwing it deep where we should be able to either force turnovers or get sacks as Young holds onto the ball too long. However, I would also shade coverage towards the side Chark is lining up over so that we aren't beat deep if whoever is covering him loses their rep against him. Along the line, Zavala is definitely someone we need to target when rushing the passer, even if it's to make the Panthers commit to giving him help from Bozeman, leaving Throckmorton with a one-on-one to handle or even to get a free rusher on a blitz. As the Panthers try to be a run-first team, shutting down rushes and putting them into third-and-longs and then into a game state where they are behind and have to abandon the run is the best-case scenario.


Defence:

As you can see, the Panthers are transitioning from the 4-3 Seattle 3 scheme under Steve Wilks to the 3-4 Fangio scheme under new DC Ejiro Evero. Because of this, their most frequent personnel group is 2-4-5 nickel, which they use on 40% of their defensive snaps. In this set, they face a pass on 69% (nice) of the time for -0.14 EPA/play. They also use a 3-3-5 nickel look on 23% of snaps, facing a run on 66% of these snaps and allowing 0.30 EPA/play. They use their base 3-4-4 personnel on 17% of snaps, giving up 0.25 EPA per play on a 38% pass rate. The Panthers also use a 1-5-5 dime set on 7% of plays, facing a pass on all 16 snaps they have used this set so far this season, for -0.68 EPA/play.


The Panthers' best run defender is IDL Derrick Brown, who is the only Panther with a grade higher than 66 in run defence. His 72.1 grade has been earned by him making twelve run stops on his hundred run defence snaps (12.4% run stop rate) and by him missing none of his twenty-two tackles, all with an average depth of tackle of 2.6 yards. He also has picked up one penalty. His bookend on the defensive line DeShawn Williams has the worst run defence grade of their line with a 44.7. He has missed one of his ten tackle attempts (10%), while making six run stops on his 80 run defence snaps (7.6%) with an average depth of tackle of 2.9 yards. NT Shy Tuttle has got a 64.8 grade on the season with an 11.1% missed tackle rate (one of his nine attempts), five run stops on 86 snaps (5.8%) and an average tackle depth of 2.8 yards. He also conceded one penalty but this was declined.


In their linebacker room, Frankie Luvu is the leader in run defence with Shaq Thompson out injured. Luvu has missed four of his nineteen tackle attempts (21.1%) with an average depth of 3.8 yards but he has also made eight run stops on his ninety-eight snaps (8.5%) for a 65.7 grade. His inside linebacker partner Kamu Grugier-Hill has been the Panthers' worst overall run defender with a 35.3 grade, missing two of his eight tackle attempts (25%) with an average depth of 10.3 yards and has made no run stops so far this season.


At outside linebacker, star edge rusher Brian Burns has been the best of their starters with a 52.9 run defence grade. He has missed one of his ten tackle attempts (10%) with an average depth of 1.3 yards, and on his ninety-four run defence snaps he has made four run stops (4.3%). He also has conceded one penalty. On the other side, Yetur Gross-Matos has been the worst of their edges against the run with a 38.2 grade. He has missed one of his six tackles (16.7%) with an average depth of tackle of 1.7 yards. He has also made two run stops on his fifty-six run defence snaps (3.6%).


If I were Ben Johnson, I would be targeting those linebackers in the run game. We know Monty is able to force missed tackles like nobody's business, and we all want Gibbs to get a few more snaps if he plays through his hamstring injury. This could be a good game for the two of them to get some good work on the ground. Then again, if I were Ben, I'd have also run the Alim McNeill fullback dive on the goalline by now...


When it comes to rushing the passer, Burns is the leader in the clubhouse. It is worth bearing in mind as we dive into the stats here that as the Panthers are now a 3-4, their edge rushers will not rush the passer on all passing downs as they will have some coverage responsibilities on some downs. On his 111 snaps on passing plays, he has rushed the passer on eighty-nine of those snaps (80.2%), creating nine pressures (four sacks, two QB hits and three hurries) on a 14.5% pass-rush win rate and a 78.3 pass rush grade.


On the other side, YGM has also been productive, albeit on a lower snap count. On his sixty-four snaps in passing situations, he has rushed the passer fifty-six times (87.5%) for seven pressures (three sacks, one hit and three hurries) with a 13.7% win rate for a 72.6 grade. The next man up is veteran Justin Houston, though he has played more passing downs than YGM so one could argue he is the starter and Gross-Matos is the third man in the rotation. On his eight-one passing snaps, Houston has rushed the passer on sixty-nine (nice) times (85.2%), creating nine pressures (one sack, two hits, six hurries) and one penalty on a 10.8% win rate; all for a 65.6 grade.


Up front, Brown is the best rusher with a 70.4 grade. He has rushed the passer 120 times for five pressures (one sack, one hit, three hurries) for a 9.1% win rate. Tuttle and Williams have both rushed the passer fifty-nine times. Williams has been the more productive of the two in this role with a 61.0 grade, creating two pressures (one hit and one hurry) on a 5.7% win rate. Tuttle has one sack with a 0.0% win rate which suggests this was a clean-up sack where the QB ran into him rather than him forcing the issue, leaving him with a 56.6 grade.


Decker might have his hands full with Burns, even discounting the ankle injury. However, as the rest of their defensive line doesn't scare me, we should be able to double-team Burns with Jonah and Decker, leaving the rest of the line to win one-on-one against the other rushers, while perhaps putting a back or tight end in on a block-and-release on obvious passing downs to chip any blitzers.


The Panthers have had a revolving door in the secondary, making it hard to crystalise who exactly to look at. However, I will go off the OurLads depth chart (that I have transcribed into Excel for your use on Sunday) to analyse their "starters". In the slot, Jeremy Chinn has played seventy coverage snaps on seventy-six passing snaps (92.1%), earning a 70.8 coverage grade. On these snaps, he has been targeted eight times for six receptions (75% catch rate) for 8.7 yards per reception (7 yards after the catch per reception) on an ADOT of 4.1 yards. He has also had two pass breakups so far this season (25% forced incompletion rate).


On the outside, CJ Henderson has been targeted twelve times on his eight-four coverage snaps, allowing ten receptions (83.3%) for 14.7 yards/reception (2.9 yac) on an ADOT of 13.4 yards. He has also drawn two DPI penalties, one of which was declined, and forced one incompletion (8% FI rate) for a 52.0 grade. On the other side, Donte Jackson has been thrown at seventeen times on his 111 coverage snaps, allowing eleven receptions (64.7%) for 18.4 yards/reception (5.9 yac) on an ADOT of 13.9 yards. He has also broken up one pass (6% FI rate) and allowed one touchdown; getting a 52.5 grade from PFF.


In the safety room, Woods has been near elite on his seventy-five coverage snaps, earning himself an 80.4 grade. He has been targeted three times with an ADOT of 8.0 yards and only allowed one reception for three yards, whilst also somehow forcing three incompletions (so one assumes he wasn't the targeted defender but came and broke up a pass a la Tracy Walker for Jacob's first pick last week). At strong safety, Vonn Bell has fared worse with a 59.9 grade. On his 133 coverage snaps, he has been targeted seven times with an ADOT of 4.7 yards, for four completions (57.1%), 8.5 yards per reception (8.8 yac), and one pass breakup (14% FI rate) which was an interception.


In the linebacker room, KGH has been the better of the two starters with a 67.2 grade. On his sixty-five snaps facing a pass, he has been in coverage 90.8% of the time. On these fifty-nine coverage snaps, he has been targeted seven times with an ADOT of 2.6 yards. He has allowed a 100% completion rate for 9.0 yards per reception (5.0 yac), and he has one interception on the season. On the other hand, Luvu has been meh, posting a 52.2 grade in coverage. Of his 117 snaps in passing situations, he has been in coverage for 90 of them. He has been targeted sixteen times (ADOT of 3.9 yards) for thirteen receptions (81.3%), 8.3 yards per reception (4.9 yac), and one touchdown.


If I were Ben Johnson, I'd be targeting the outside corners like there's no tomorrow. We know the damage St Brown and LaPorta can do over the middle, and they will get their dues in these areas, but they will also open up space for Kalif, Reynolds and potentially Jamo to do some work outside the numbers. The Panthers' defence might rank high in passing yards given up per game, but this is more due to game situation than any performance on their part as they are usually trailing so the opposition is just running the clock out along the ground instead of risking turnovers through the air.


Overall, while Evero is a really good defensive coordinator who deserved the head coaching looks he got this past off-season, this defence is still transitioning between the old Wilks scheme to his own scheme. While these schemes do share some similarities, the change in defensive front has meant that the defence hasn't fully settled yet, leading to some bad play. That, along with the injury to star corner Jaycee Horn, has led to a slow start from the Panthers, which is something our offence can exploit.


Special Teams:

Who is the highest-graded Panther in special teams? Yes, you guessed it right. It's my boy Jammie Robinson, who has earned an 84.0 special teams grade on his forty-two such snaps so far this season. Did I only mention this because it is Jammie?


Their long snapper JJ Jansen has been graded as the second-best at his position in the league by PFF special teams grade so far this season with a 76.9 grade.


Eddy Pineiro has a 74.0 field goal grade this season, having sunk all five of his extra point attempts and having only missed one of his nine field goal attempts, which was one from more than fifty yards back.


Johnny Hekker has been poor so far this season, earning himself a 57.3 punting grade from PFF. His punts average 4.31 seconds of hangtime. Eight of his twenty punts have been to inside the opposition's twenty-yard line. 45% of his punts have been returned for an average of 7.8 yards per return. One of his punts went for a touchback, one went out of bounds, three were downed and the other six were fair-caught.


Both Pineiro and Hekker have attempted kickoffs this season. Of the two, Pineiro has been the better of the two. It should be pointed out, however, that both of Hekker's kickoffs have been onside kicks, so his stats shall be disregarded. On Pineiro's kickoffs, he has averaged 3.89 seconds of hangtime, and the opposition has had an average starting field position of 25.9 yards. Only 40% of these kicks have been returned for an average of 26.2 yards, with the other nine going for touchbacks.


On his ten punt returns, Ihmir Smith-Marsette has fair caught two and taken the other eight for an average of 6.1 yards, all for a 65.7 punt return grade. Laviska Shenault Jr. has a 57.7 kick return grade, taking his two returns for a 30.5-yard average.


Three Keys to Victory:

  • Win the trench battle against their offensive line- The Panthers have a couple of pieces that grade well in either pass- or run-blocking, but not both. We should be able to win this battle, and we have to if we want to assert our dominance and control the game. Get it done, we don't want a repeat of last season...

  • Target the linebackers in the run game- The Panthers' defensive front is fairly stout against the run, but their linebackers are weak. Given Monty's contact balance and ability to force broken or missed tackles, and Gibbs' speed when in open space, we should look to target this weakness as often as we can on the ground.

  • Work outside the numbers when given the chance- The Panthers' outside corners haven't started the season that well. Reynolds is one of the most in-form receivers in the league right now, Leaf is a burner, and Jamo is back and will hopefully get some snaps. When given the chance to by the defence, we should really test the corners and force the issue.

Hot Take for the Game: In the potential absence of the Sun God, and with how weak the Panthers' outside corners are, Kalif Raymond has a "breakout" game, catching at least 80% of his targets for the most receiving yards on the field.


Prediction: This does have the slight aroma of a trap game, or that might just be the smell of the stinkers the Panthers have laid so far this season. While a part of me wants to lose so the Bears have a lesser chance of drafting at first overall and potentially getting a franchise-changing talent like Caleb Williams or Jared Verse, imposing ourselves on the NFC is far more important than that. Given Chicago's talent development over recent years, us winning is not doing those lads a favour but screw it. Our Lions cover the ten-point spread at the time of my writing this.


Detroit Lions 27, Carolina Panthers 17


How do you think the game will go? Will our Lions avenge last year's loss, or shall the Panthers continue to be a thorn in our paws? Who do you think will be the stat leaders, and what will the final score be?

 

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Comments (2)

Ash, thank you so much for doing these. You and the rest of the ROTL UK gang are fantastic!

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Jerimy Walker
Jerimy Walker
30. Apr. 2023

Greetings, I was glad to listen to your interesting interview. The season went really well. I liked the quality of your broadcast, which application did you use for this? Is it on this list? I just want to do live broadcasts

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