You could probably say this about any NFL game, but it’s especially true in this Week 1 matchup between the New York Jets and the Carolina Panthers.
The battle of the trenches will likely decide who wins this football game on Sunday.
We learned early in game week that the Panthers wouldn’t be operating with a full deck after a surprising exit for one of their key cogs.
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COVID Disease Rears Its Ugly Head
During Panthers’ head coach Matt Rhule’s Monday press conference we learned that starting guard John Miller would not participate Week 1 due to a COVID situation.
Miller is a six-year pro that was entering his seventh season and with that came a depth of experience. The veteran has played and started in 74 games during his career.
“The offensive line is concerning,” Panthers Insider John Ellis to our Boy Green during their interview. “If you’re a Jets fan, where you have hope for a victory in this game is through the Carolina interior offensive line. John Miller was one of the most underrated players on this team. This news gives Panthers fans and specifically, Sam Darnold plenty of reasons for concern.”
With him out the Panthers have already announced that third-year offensive lineman Dennis Daley will plug into his place. The 25-year old has only started 12 games in his two-year career and will be thrust into the spotlight in Week 1.
This last-second change-up is just another brutal blow for a Panthers offensive line that was already pretty unappealing on paper.
Here is the current depth chart for Carolina:
Cameron Erving, left tackle
- 58 grade from PFF in 2020
Pat Elflein, left guard
- 48 grade from PFF in 2020
Matt Paradis, center
- 63.4 grade from PFF in 2020
Dennis Daley, right guard
- 64.7 grade from PFF in 2020
Taylor Moton, right tackle
- 81.6 grade from PFF in 2020
Moton is one of the best right tackles in the league, but everyone else in that starting group leaves much to be desired.
Mismatch Nightmare That’ll Decide the Game
The interior of the Panthers’ offensive line is below average and that’s a perfect recipe for a potential Jets upset.
Gang Green, despite losing a few key pieces (Carl Lawson and Vinny Curry), has a potent defensive line that is ready to eat in 2021.
Specifically, the players to circle on the Jets are Quinnen Williams and Sheldon Rankins.
Williams is coming off of offseason foot surgery and was slowly brought back to action by the Jets’ brass. Although he is raring and ready to go for Week 1 by all accounts.
Last season Williams was a disruptor notching a career-high seven sacks, but now in this new 4-3 scheme led by head coach Robert Saleh, he’ll be put in an even better position to make plays as an attacking style three-technique.
Rankins, the former first-rounder, naturally plays the same position as Quinnen, but he’ll slide next to him on the interior. He’s a few years removed from that magical 2018 campaign where he had an impressive eight-sack season.
If he can be half of the player he was back then, the entire NFL, let alone the Panthers better watch out.
Both players on their own individually have the potential to completely disrupt the Panthers’ game plan in Week 1. This is a dynamic duo that has a chance to be among the NFL’s best inside.
If the Jets can create havoc on the interior, there won’t be a pocket for ex-Jets quarterback Sam Darnold to step up into. We all know what that looks like for the former USC passer and that will result in happy feet.
If Darnold starts getting trigger happy and pardon the pun, starts seeing ghosts, then that is the path to victory for the green and white on the road in Week 1.
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