Joseph Person’s three things to watch in Sunday’s Carolina Panthers game against Washington:
Cam could have big day on the ground
Washington has been terrible against the run, giving up 135.3 yards a game, which ranks 30th. That plays to the Panthers’ strength, so expect offensive coordinator Mike Shula to feed Jonathan Stewart early to try to get him going. Aside from his dance following a 2-yard TD stretch, Cam Newton had a relatively quiet (nine carries, 23 yards) rushing game at Tennessee. You can bet Newton will be more involved against Washington, which has allowed opponents to run for 100 yards or more five games in a row. The Panthers’ streak of 20 consecutive games with at least 100 rushing yards is the league’s longest, and will be 21 by the end of Sunday.
Carolina needs to tighten up underneath coverage
The Panthers’ linebackers and safeties have to come up hard on Washington’s underneath routes. Quarterback Kirk Cousins doesn’t take a lot of deep shots, but he has been effective on short and intermediate patterns to wideouts Pierre Garcon and Jamison Crowder and tight end Jordan Reed, all of whom have more than 40 catches. Reed has been effective in the red zone, with five touchdowns in the past three games. Tennessee’s tight ends found the soft spots between the Panthers’ linebackers and safeties last week, although the Panthers didn’t give up a reception longer than 24 yards. The secondary again has to limit yards after the catch.
Panthers can’t sleep on DeSean Jackson
Jackson is rounding into form after missing six games with a hamstring injury he sustained in Week 1. When healthy, Jackson remains one of the league’s most dangerous big-play threats, which he showed with a 42-yard catch during Washington’s first series last week vs. New Orleans. While Garcon and Crowder have done most of their work underneath, Jackson has the speed to get over the top of any secondary. Expect cornerback Josh Norman to match up with Jackson, which will be must-see TV. Crowder has been Washington’s punt returner, but Jay Gruden could give Jackson a shot if the game’s close. The Panthers’ gunners need to corral Jackson before he gets a chance to break loose.
Washington at Carolina
Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte
Sunday, 1 p.m. (FOX)