PreGame Primer: Panthers At Redskins

Producer Ryan's Preview

Ryan Chell
October 13, 2018 - 7:37 pm

Charlotte - We've waited five weeks for it as Panthers fans, but Sunday will finally mark the debut of linebacker Thomas Davis for the 2018 season. 

Davis made his return to practice after his four-game suspension for PEDs on Monday with much fan fare - most of it coming from the Panthers social media department and with the help of several other Panthers players. 

"It's a great feeling to be back and be amongst my teammates," Davis told reporters on Wednesday this week. 

For Davis, as the clock churned down to the date of his potential return, the veteran linebacker's morale grew with each day. 

He knew that with each passing moment, he would soon be able to return to Bank of America and be with teammates that he called "brothers-in-arms" for the last twelve seasons. 

But last weekend, tragedy struck Davis and his family as his father passed away. 

Davis made his return to the Panthers this week with a heavy heart. 

"None of that really compares to the last four weeks of what I had to deal with," Davis told Jourdan Rodrigue of the Observer this week. "When you lose a parent...and not really have the guys around you that you depended upon so much over the years to be able to lean on, it makes it that much tougher."

But with guys like Luke Kuechly and Mike Adams welcoming him in the door upon his return on Monday, it was back-to-business for Davis amongst his NFL family. 

And just as much as Davis needed his teammate for his support, it's a symbiotic relationship, says Kuechly. 

They need him just as much as he needs them. 

"It's always great to have an older veteran on the field, but he's a lot more than that," the middle linebacker said. "When you see a guy come back from being gone awhile and you see the number of people who are happy and smiling, messing around with him, it shows the impact that they have on not only the team - but the whole organization."

Davis will be an essential cog on defense that needs to contain an effective short-yardage passing game with veteran quarterback Alex Smith at the controls, and will also be tasked with containing future Hall-of-Famer Adrian Peterson in the run game. 

Peterson, who suffered a dislocated shoulder last week against New Orleans, is currently ranked 8th in the NFL in total scrimmage yards per game with 94.5 yards. 

Meanwhile for Davis, with two more tackles, he will reach 1,000 tackles in his career. Only 25 players have reached the milestone in league history. 

Will Greg Olsen Return Sunday? 

Panthers TE Greg Olsen is listed as QUESTIONABLE for Sunday's game as he recovers from the cracked bone in his foot that he suffered Week 1 against the Dallas Cowboys. 

In his final meeting with the media before the team heads to Washington on Saturday, Panthers head coach Ron Rivera expects that his veteran pass-catcher will return to action Sunday. 

Olsen echoed those statement this week to the media as well, and if the "probable" tag were still in use on NFL injury reports, Olsen would have been given that label. 

"I feel good," Olsen said. "Fortunately, I didn't have to miss as much time as I did last year."

With some struggles Newton had last week - especially with his connection with rookie Ian Thomas-, Panthers offensive coordinator Norv Turner said having Olsen back provides him his safety blanket yet again in this passing game.

"It adds a player that Cam is comfortable with," Turner stated. "He will [also> draw attention so that will help other guys get coverages that are friendly to them."

Rivera was asked about easing Olsen back into a full game and trying to avoid re-aggerating his foot injury, in the same way, he did last year in Week 12 against the New York Jets, and he said the pressure is on him to make the best decision for both Olsen and the team. 

"We'll try to do the best we can with that," Rivera said this week. "Sometimes we just can't help ourselves. Guys are playing well, and he's a big part of what we do, and you want to get your best players out there. Greg is who he is for us on the football field, so having him back would be great and we'll definitely get a good feel for that."

Olsen needs one more touchdown to tie former Panther Wesley Walls with 57 career TDs, which would be good for 12th all-time among tight ends in league history. 

Cam Newton looking for a bounce-back game

Also looking for a "return" - a return to form - on Sunday is Panthers QB Cam Newton

Newton threw two costly interceptions last week against the Giants, but still finished last week's game with 237 yards and two touchdowns. 

The Redskins currently rank 7th in the league in net passing yards per game (227), but in they're coming off a game in which the Washington secondary allowed Saints QB Drew Brees 363 yards and three touchdowns on Monday night. 

Former Panthers CB Josh Norman was also benched at halftime of the game. 

The Panthers quarterback drew a little criticism this week for his surprise concerns about the play-calling of Norv Turner's offense, and expressing his appreciation of TE Greg Olsen being in the lineup to help with that. 

"I'm not the best playcaller," Newton told reporters this week. "Calling a play shouldn't be a paragraph...I told Norv we're going to have to call a one-liner ... 'Panther'. 'Tepper'. 'Rivera'. Something. I'll be in the huddle. I'm already tired. I ain't got time to be saying this, that, the third, the third, the third, ready, ready, break. You only get so much time."

But Turner said the length of the play calls is there to make sure everyone is on the same page. 

"There's a fine line between making sure everyone knows what to do versus making the calls as short as possible. When you have a lot of rotating players like we've had...sometimes you add another word or two just to confirm that the guy knows what he's doing."

The key for Newton will be getting this offense inside the Washington red zone. 

Newton leads the NFL in passer rating inside the red zone with 127.1. He's 9-of-12 passing for 66 yards and four touchdowns inside the opponents' 20-yard line and also has three rushing scores as well to his credit. 

Where is this pass-rush? 

One of the bigger concerns in last week's game against the Giants was the lack of pressure that the Panthers got on quarterback Eli Manning. 

Despite playing with a patch-work offensive line, the Panthers only sacked Manning once and hit the quarterback twice. 

The only sack came when Eli Manning gave himself up in front of Panthers LB Luke Kuechly. 

It may be some of the same action this week with Redskins OG Shawn Lauvao listed as doutful for Sunday's game. 

The Panthers come into their fifth game with just nine sacks on the season -tied for 24th in the league. 

Defensive end Mario Addison leads the team with 2.5 quarterback drops along with Kawann Short's two sacks. 

The consistent lack of pressure is a concern that defensive coordinator Eric Washington is aware of and is working to try and fix. 

"It's a combination of several factors...but I won't make any excuses as to why we don't rush the way we're capable of rushing. We have a very high standard where that's a concern, and if we have one person that's one-on-one, we expect that person to be a factor, and to at least affect the quarterback."

Washington made sure to note that it's been a huge emphasis in practice this week. 

"We'll continue to work on that. The first thing we have to do is affect the quarterback."

In a postive though, the Panthers defense did not allow a single third-down conversion against the Giants (0-for-7) and will have another favorable matchup against the Redskins, who are only converting 38.46% of their third downs - good for just 24th in the NFL. 

Graham Gano looking to build off big kick

Should the Panthers require his services again, kicker Graham Gano, who was with the Redskins from 2009 to 2011, should be in a position to be an effective weapon for this Panthers offense. 

After his 63-yard field goal on Sunday to win the game for the Panthers, Gano was named NFC Special Teams Player of the Week. 

Gano has made 24 straight field goals going back to Week 5 of 2017 against Detroit. 

He passed the franchise record for consecutive field goals made with 21 on Sunday formerly held by John Kasay

Evening the series up!

Carolina trails the all-time series with Washington, 6-7 and they are 2-5 away from Bank of America Stadium.

However, the Panthers are winners of six straight games over the Redskins going back to 2006. Both of Carolina's two wins at Washington have come under Ron Rivera, in 2012 and 2016 on Monday Night Football. 

Be sure to follow WFNZ and RyanChellWFNZ on Twitter for all your game analysis on Sunday during the Panthers game! And be sure to listen to the "WFNZ Tailgate" and "WFNZ Postgame Shows" with Nick Wilson, Jon Beason and Chris McClain on 610am and 102.5 FM! 


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