ReFo: Panthers @ Buccaneers, Week 1
All you can ask for each week is to get to watch some entertaining football and this game had an endless supply of storylines to keep that ‘football is back’ smile on your face. Derek Anderson starting his first game in forever, defensive stars all over the field, a pair of rebuilt offensive lines all wrapped in a season-opening division game. I got lucky in the draw this week.
There were more than could be mentioned in this piece, but here are some of the players who stood out for one reason or another as the 2014 season got underway for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Carolina Panthers:
Carolina Panthers – Performances of Note
Greg Olsen, TE: +2.4
Breakdown: Olsen’s +3.1 receiving grade, eight catches, 83 yards and a touchdown, made you forget about his relatively even give-and-take day as a run blocker. A true seam threat, Olsen not only landed the tight end’s best friend: a ‘pop’ pass TD, but hauled in a 22-yard beauty just over tight coverage by Lavonte David that highlighted his ability to body-up while getting vertical.
Signature stat: His 83 yards and 28 snaps in a route produced a 2.96 Yards per Route Run figure that is fifth-best among tight ends in Week 1.
Luke Kuechly, MLB: +5.5
Breakdown: One of the biggest names at the position, Kuechly kicked off 2014 in a big way with a big-play kind of day. A forced fumble, a pass defense that landed in a teammate’s hands for an INT, and a get-off-the-field sack on a third quarter 3rd-and-long saw the middle linebacker all over the field. All that and tallying five defensive stops is a strong way to start off the year.
Signature play: 1Q 12:55 – Kuechly pulls off the classic run-stopping middle linebacker move, popping the fullback at the point of attack and coming off to stone the runner in the hole.
Kawann Short, DT: +5.3
Breakdown: The other half of the DT draft pick duo that cemented the Carolina front last year, Short took a moment to get going as a rookie, but not in Year 2. A hit, a hurry and a couple of TFL’s is a busy day spent in the Tampa Bay backfield and a sign that he’s hitting the ground running and ready to build on an impressive rookie campaign.
Signature stat: Joins teammates Star Lotulelei and Dwan Edwards among the Top 10 defensive tackles in Pass Rushing Productivity at this early point in the year.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Performances of Note
Lavonte David, OLB: +2.3
Breakdown: The fact that David still put up such a positive grade despite missing five tackles in the game points to just how much of an impact he had overall. Always around the ball, his eventful opener also included a hit on the QB, five stops and 11 tackles. “Dynamic” doesn’t do him justice.
Signature stat: Seven of those tackles and four of the stops came in 32 snaps of run defense.
Josh McCown, QB: -2.9
Breakdown: McCown’s move from throwing to one set of massive receivers to another brings some comfort I’m sure, but the playgroundish free-wheeling approach he took in Week 1 didn’t pay off as a pair of his ill-advised, desperate flips landed in the hands of the enemy. A -3.6 passing grade was the result, a mark that has him set in with the league’s lowest five QBs.
Signature play: 3Q 1:06 In a play you really have to see to appreciate, McCown came away from center looking to sling a quick ball out to the waiting WR screen, but lost it over his shoulder when cocking to throw. A fortunate bounce put the ball back in his hands after he spun to find it, but not satisfied, questionable decision making took over and McCown tried to fire again. Absorbing a hit from Charles Johnson, the ball fluttered into the arms of a Panther for the second such pick of the day.
Alterraun Verner, CB: +4.1
Breakdown: The man added to replace Revis, Verner matched a successful first outing in coverage with a strong showing in run support, notching one tackle for a loss and two more for short gains. Looking like he’ll fit in well.
Signature stat: Verner currently tops our CB overall rankings, sitting just above his former Tennessee teammate Jason McCourty.
PFF Game Ball
There were plenty of standouts to choose from, but I had to make a conscious effort to not mention Gerald McCoy. The destructive force in the middle of the Buc D shredded the preseason and carried it right over into the real deal. A couple of penalties are the only thing that kept his +5.5 from rising even higher.
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