Joseph Person’s three things to watch in Sunday’s Carolina Panthers game against Philadelphia:
Can Cam Newton protect the ball?
The Panthers had turnovers on two of their first three offensive plays last year in a 45-21 loss at Philadelphia. Newton finished with four turnovers and was sacked nine times, the most in a regulation game in Carolina history. Newton has only four interceptions this season, but the Eagles are second in the league with 16 takeaways. Newton will have to be aware of outside linebacker Connor Barwin, who spied Newton throughout last year’s game and came up with 3.5 sacks.
Keep it away from Sproles
The Panthers paid for kicking to Eagles punt returner Darren Sproles last season. Sproles avoided a couple of tacklers and raced 65 yards for a touchdown. Carolina, worst in punt coverage last season, is marginally better this year. The Panthers kept Seattle rookie returner Tyler Lockett in check last week, but they can’t afford to take a chance with Sproles. Punter Brad Nortman has struggled occasionally with directional kicks. But the Panthers will have gunner Teddy Williams, who has cleared the concussion protocol.
Get Bradford off his spot
The last time Eagles quarterback Sam Bradford played in Charlotte, the former St. Louis quarterback left with a torn ACL when Mike Mitchell pushed him out of bounds at the end of a scramble. The Panthers aren’t looking to injure Bradford, but they do want to force him out of the pocket to disrupt the rhythm of the Eagles’ precision-based passing offense. Bradford has completed 63.2 percent of his passes, but he’s been intercepted nine times. The Panthers sacked Russell Wilson four times last week in Seattle with Jared Allen sidelined with a pinched nerve. Allen is back, but has a tough matchup vs. left tackle Jason Peters.
Eagles at Panthers
Where: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte
When: Sunday, 8:30 p.m.