New England Patriots defense looks to make statement against Panthers


The New England Patriots defense started the season off with some well under par performances. They have given up 95 points in just three weeks.

The New England Patriots defense started the season off with some well under par performances. They have given up 95 points in three weeks and they are ranked last in team defense in the entire NFL.

A matchup versus the Carolina Panthers gives the defense a chance to take a step in the right direction.

The Panthers offense is struggling.  Carolina’s offense is ranked 29th in the league. Cam Newton who is still considered to be a major threat by Bill Belichick is having a rough season after having shoulder surgery during the offseason and also acquired an ankle injury in week two. Belichick was heaping praise to the quarterback in his press conference today.

"“I think when you’re talking about mobile quarterbacks, guys that are tough to handle, tackle, can throw, run, make good decision – I mean, I would put Newton at the top of the list. Not saying that there aren’t a lot of other good players that do that, but I would say, of all the guys we play or have played recently in the last couple of years, I would definitely put him – he’s the hardest guy to deal with. He makes good decisions, he can run, he’s strong, he’s hard to tackle. He can do a lot of different things, beat you in a lot of different ways. We saw that in the game down there in ‘13, so I would put him at the top of the list. Not saying the other guys aren’t a problem, because they are, but he’s public enemy No. 1.”"

Newton’s Performance This Year


Cam Newton isn’t the same guy he was these past couple years. He isn’t as mobile and due to his injury has had to focus more on his passing game instead of being a dual threat. This makes it much easier for the Patriots who may not have to have a linebacker constantly watching Newton in case he tries to run. Also, Newton has only thrown for just over 500 yards this season. Tom Brady is already at 1000 yards. He is behind guys such as Blake Bortles and Josh McCown in passing yards on the season.

With that, I expect to see the secondary step up its play.  Stephon Gilmore got his first interception as a Patriot last week and I expect him to build on that performance. Also, Malcolm Butler had a bounce-back game after a rough start to the season. He received a lot of praise from his coaches including Matt Patricia.

"“I thought Malcolm [Butler] played really well. We certainly didn’t play great at all as a defense. I’m not saying that but I think the guy really tried to go out and play extremely hard. This is a very competitive guy. Malcolm steps up to the challenges that you place in front of him. He goes out and competes, he works hard, he tries to do it the right way and he really tries to get better every week."

The Panthers are also dealing with some big-time injuries to their offense. Kelvin Benjamin and Greg Olson are the most glaring. Both of these guys are Newton’s go-to targets in past seasons. Without them, we have seen him struggle a lot.

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What the defense needs to focus on

Christian McCaffrey may be the biggest offensive threat this week. He is both a threat running the ball as well as catching the ball out of the backfield. McCaffrey is also coming off an impressive game where he had 9 receptions for 101 yards. He clearly is a favorite of Cam Newton’s as he has 18 receptions on the season for 173 yards which places him as the top receiver on the team.

This will be a big test for the Patriots offensive line and linebackers. Trey Flowers and Deatrich Wise are leading the team in sacks. As a whole, the D-line needs to be able to get by their blockers to put Cam Newton under pressure as well as contain McCaffrey when he is running the ball.

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Also, it will be interesting to see who is going to cover McCaffrey when he is going out for passes. It would be an immediate challenge for Dont’a Hightower if he started on Sunday in his first game returning from a knee injury.  This may lead Kyle Van Noy or Elandon Roberts being forced to cover the speedy rookie.

No matter who is covering McCaffery the Patriot’s defense needs to step up their play. They have the perfect opportunity this Sunday versus the struggling Carolina Panthers.