Turn up the heat on Russell Wilson
The Panthers defense is at its best when the front four is supplying pressure, forcing quarterbacks to move their feet and throw before they want to. Defensive ends Greg Hardy and Charles Johnson did an exceptional job of that last year, although the Seattle game was a notable exception. The Panthers sacked Wilson only twice, giving the former N.C. State star time to complete 19 of 25 passes for 221 yards. With an unproven secondary behind them, the Panthers have to make Wilson uncomfortable.
Let Shula show his creative side
While Steve Smith, Mike Tolbert and others are taking shots at former offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinskis too-cute schemes, his successor, Mike Shula, will get a chance to show whether his conservative play-calling in the preseason was a pattern or a smokescreen. Shula has said he wants to de-emphasize the zone read. But judging by the Panthers performance in four exhibitions, that might be the only way for them to run the ball. With the Seahawks missing two of their best pass-rushers, Cam Newton should have time to take a couple of chances deep.
This may be easier said than done against a Seahawks defense that was among the leagues best last year. In their 16-12 loss to Seattle in 2012, the Panthers converted just 2-of-11 third downs. Eight of those were third-and-7 or longer, allowing the Seahawks to come after Newton, who was sacked four times. Even with Seattle missing defensive ends Bruce Irvin (suspended) and Chris Clemons (injured), the Panthers cant afford to have Newton in third and long.
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