Panthers: Passing game faces stiff test
Carolina Panthers quarterback Derek Anderson was asked to fill in for the injured Cam Newton in the Panther’s game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last Sunday, for the second time this season. On both occasions, Anderson got the job done. Week 1 saw Anderson go 24 of 34 for 230 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions and a +1.1 passing grade. Last week, Anderson had another strong performance, going 25 of 40 for 277 yards, one TD, no INTs and a +3.2 passing grade. The small sample size cautions against putting too much stock into these performances, but Anderson’s 98.54 PFF QB Rating is the highest mark of any QB who has started a game this season.
However both of Anderson’s starts came against the Buccaneers, who have a cumulative -32.8 grade in pass coverage. This week the Panthers will face an altogether different challenge against one of the league’s best pass coverage units: the Cleveland Browns. The Browns have a cumulative +45.9 pass coverage grade, thanks to standout performances from several players. Starting safeties Tashaun Gipson and Donte Whitner, have allowed just 0.33 and 0.35 Yards per Cover Snap, respectively, each ranking in the Top 15 at the position. While slot cornerback K’Waun Williams leads all rookies with an +8.9 coverage grade, the eighth-best mark among all corners.
Newton’s status for week 16 remains uncertain, and he hasn’t had his best season to date. His 80.54 PFF QB Rating ranks 24th among qualifying quarterbacks, however he did have a +3.1 passing grade in Week 14 ahead of his accident and his return to would give the Panthers a boost. Regardless of which quarterback plays, they will have to be sharp against the Browns.