Carolina Panthers

How to frustrate the Falcons? Who steps up at tight end? Panthers questions, answered

The Carolina Panthers’ loss of tight end Greg Olsen might be the worst of several ahead of Sunday’s game against the Atlanta Falcons, because of his value to the offense.
The Carolina Panthers’ loss of tight end Greg Olsen might be the worst of several ahead of Sunday’s game against the Atlanta Falcons, because of his value to the offense. AP

Carolina kicks off NFC South play early with Sunday’s game in Atlanta against the Falcons.

And as the players say, beating a divisional opponent counts for two — as does losing to one.

After a slew of injuries at key positions to both the Panthers and the Falcons, you naturally have questions.

I chose the five best inquiries from Twitter about Sunday’s 1 p.m. matchup at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Let’s get started.

Question from @Dash_0: Do the Panthers plan to keep (Taylor) Moton at left tackle?

Answer: So, a little background here. Take a deep breath, because it’s a lot.

Carolina’s starting left and right tackles, Matt Kalil and Daryl Williams, are both on injured reserve. Carolina is also playing third-string center Greg Van Roten at left guard. And the team will be without All-Pro right guard Trai Turner on Sunday, since he remains in the concussion protocol. Moton, a second-year tackle, was playing right tackle after the first time Williams got hurt in training camp. Then he switched to left tackle when Kalil got hurt.

Now, he might be switched back because tackle Chris Clark, the free agent signed by the Panthers this week after Williams went to injured reserve is, as head coach Ron Rivera puts it, “more of a left-handed player” and has recent left tackle experience.

If I had to guess, based on Rivera’s comments, we will see, from left to right: Clark, Van Roten, Ryan Kalil, Amini Silatolu and Moton.

Question from @ChadKHarris: Will Alex Armah have an increased role with the loss of Greg Olsen, Daryl Williams and Trai Turner?

Answer: This is a good question, because it takes into account not only the pass-catching tight end role of Olsen, who re-fractured his foot last week, but also the blocking help likely needed after the loss of Williams and potential loss of Turner.

Armah will be called on often on Sunday. But offensive coordinator Norv Turner really likes him as a fullback, too, and Armah had success last week with his 1-yard touchdown run. So I’d imagine that rookie tight end Ian Thomas gets most of the pass-catching reps while tight end Chris Manhertz and Armah are used in a variety of different blocking looks — of course, with Armah getting variable looks at fullback, too.

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Question from @ceffious: Bigger loss for either team this weekend, (safety Keanu) Neal and (linebacker Deion) Jones or Olsen and Williams?

Answer: To be honest, I think Olsen is the biggest loss on either side. He’s that much of a staple in Carolina’s offense.

But I also think that if there’s a silver lining for the Panthers here, not having Olsen against the Falcons while they are missing two Pro Bowl defensive players is a little bit of a break for Carolina.

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Question from @TomDunphy: (Falcons quarterback) Matt Ryan didn’t look like himself against the Eagles. What did Philly do to frustrate him that the Panthers might be able to replicate?

Answer: The Panthers’ red zone defense will be crucial this week, especially after the Eagles nearly shut out Atlanta from inside the 20-yard line.

Nothing — other than turnovers — can take the wind out of an offense’s sails like cruising downfield on a long, productive drive and getting stuffed in the red zone.

The Panthers, who were 2 for 5 in the red zone against Dallas, would know.

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Question from @DalyBeastMode: If a tree falls in the woods and injures all of your offensive linemen, do you light said tree on fire or see if it can start at right tackle? #wheresnorwell

Answer: Well, you can’t just plant anyone there.

Get it? Foliage humor.

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Jourdan Rodrigue: 704-358-5071; @jourdanrodrigue