3TFO: Panthers @ Chargers, Week 15
After a dominating victory in Pittsburgh last week to snap a four-game losing streak, the Chargers finally appear to have a little bit of momentum. Denario Alexander helped in a major way, continuing his tear since he joined the Bolts in midseason. The pass rush also came together in a better effort, combining for 36 total hits, hurries, and sacks in 51 drop-backs. They will need to continue to dominate to slow down Carolina’s offense, which has been hot of late.
Speaking of the Panthers’ offense, Cam Newton has been on fire. He has posted a +16.3 grade in the past four games. In this form he is able to do it all, whether on the ground or through the air, as proved by his 287 passing yards and 116 rushing yards in Week 14. The Chargers’ defense will look to contain the ground game and count on our highest-rated safety, Eric Weddle, to help in coverage. If Newton continues to dominate as a duel threat it will be a long day for the Chargers’ defense.
Panthers Defensive Ends vs. Chargers Offensive Tackles
For the Panthers, almost all of the success from the defense has come from their top two defensive ends, Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy. Every other Carolina defensive lineman with more than a handful of snaps played has a negative rating, while this dynamic duo has combined for a +27.8 rating overall. Johnson has been a force as a pass rusher, tallying 10 sacks and 61 total pressures. He ranks second among 4-3 defensive ends with a Pass Rush Productivity of 11.9. His counterpart Hardy comes in at No. 5, as his 52 pressures on 384 attempts gives him a PRP of 10.8.
The duo has been tremendous, but you don’t really need to be when you face the Chargers’ offensive line. The usual starters at offensive tackle, Michael Harris and Jeromey Clary both missed last week’s game with an injury, but it wound up being a good thing for the Bolts’ offense. The tackle combo rank dead last and 48th in Pass Block Efficiency respectively. San Diego signed Reggie Wells, who got his first playing time of the season, and Kevin Haslam, who played in his second game. Both started and rated positively in pass protection, but they face a tougher task this week against the Panthers.
Chargers Front Seven vs. Panthers Offensive Line
The main reason the Chargers were able to dominate last week was the play of the defensive line. Cam Thomas rushed the passer only 21 times, but he totaled five hurries and a QB hit on the way to a +5.9 grade. Corey Liuget has continued to improve after a rough rookie season, as his six QB disruptions have helped propel him to the sixth-highest rating among 3-4 defensive ends. San Diego could use more pressure off the edge, as Shaun Phillips has seen a major drop-off in production and may be near the end of his career.
On the other side of the ball, Jordan Gross continues to stand out as the team’s best O-lineman, and it isn’t close. Carolina drafted Amini Silatolu in the second round of this year’s draft, but he has disappointed. He ranks 54 out of 56 qualifying guards, due to a negative rating in pass protection as well as run blocking — seven penalties do not help his case either. The interior line is not helped by Geoff Hangartner either. Allowing 22 pressures along with a -11.8 run block rating can really make life for the quarterback or running back difficult.
Chargers Receivers vs. Panthers Secondary
The Chargers’ receiving corps looked hopeless after the loss of Vincent Jackson, especially with the struggles of Robert Meachem and Eddie Royal. The midseason signing of Denario Alexander may have saved the group. He has totaled 555 yards in the past six games, and his quarterback, Philip Rivers, has a QB rating of 130.3 when throwing his way. Malcolm Floyd has had a solid season as well, as his two dropped passes on 56 catchable balls gives him a Drop Rate of 3.57, good for fourth among wide receivers.
As for the Carolina secondary, they are a group in need of playmakers. Cornerback Josh Norman has allowed 1.49 yards per snap in coverage, 15th-most among qualifying corners. His replacement in the Week 14 matchup against Atlanta, James Dockery, allowed even more, coming in at 1.71. Safety Charles Godfrey has been the worst defender of the group. His .42 Yards per Cover snap is solid for a safety, but his run defense grade of -6.9 only adds to the struggles of the front seven to defend the run. This is a group that will need to play better to contain the improved Chargers passing game.
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