Three things to watch in Sunday’s Carolina Panthers game at Tampa Bay:
Can Jared Allen pump up the pass rush?
It was a wild week for the Panthers defensive line, which lost end Charles Johnson for at least eight weeks but gained one of the league’s best all-time pass rushers. Jared Allen struggled in parts of two seasons with Chicago. But he’s back at end in a 4-3 scheme after never fitting in as a stand-up linebacker when the Bears switched to a 3-4 this year. Allen will line up against rookie left tackle Donovan Smith, a second-round pick from Penn State. Allen will come at Smith with a variety of moves, although his bull rush suffered last year when he lost weight because of pneumonia.
Panthers will try to confuse Jameis Winston
When the Panthers face a young quarterback, defensive coordinator Sean McDermott’s scheme typically includes coverage disguises in the secondary (see Week 1 vs. Jacksonville’s Blake Bortles). Winston, this year’s No. 1 pick, fixed in on receiver Mike Evans last week against Houston, targeting him 17 times. Winston likely will be missing one of his favorite receivers: TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins is doubtful with a shoulder injury. If Josh Norman and the rest of the secondary can get Winston to hold the ball an extra half-second, it would help the front four turn up the pressure.
Newton facing a secondary in flux
Cam Newton is coming off a complete game against New Orleans. There should be opportunities downfield against a Bucs secondary in flux. CB Alterraun Verner, a big free agent acquisition last year, has been benched in favor of Tim Jennings. Johnthan Banks, the other starting CB, is doubtful with a knee injury. But the Bucs’ D has received a lift from rookie LB Kwon Alexander, the NFL’s Rookie of the Week after making 10 tackles and an interception vs. Houston. But the Bucs give up a lot of yardage and weight up front, so expect Mike Shula to try to establish the run game early.
Panthers at Buccaneers
Where: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa
When: Sunday, 1 p.m.