Panthers can’t bite on Brees’ play fakes
Mark Ingram’s career-high 172 yards rushing against Green Bay didn’t just bolster the Saints’ running game. Ingram’s success also opened up the play-action game for Drew Brees, whose fakes drew in the Packers’ linebackers and allowed Brees to throw over them. Ingram rushed for 83 yards on 13 carries in Week 16 against the Panthers last season. But the Panthers’ pass rush overwhelmed Brees, who was sacked six times, including three by Greg Hardy.
Several times before this year’s draft, the Panthers met with Oregon State WR Brandin Cooks, who went 20th overall when the Saints traded up to take him. The Panthers grabbed Kelvin Benjamin at No. 28, and both Cooks and Benjamin rank among the rookie receiving leaders. Cooks, a dynamic playmaker who is smaller and faster than the 6-foot-5 Benjamin, last week became the first Saints rookie since Reggie Bush in 2006 to score a rushing TD and receiving TD in the same game. Benjamin’s huge catching radius has helped him pull down five TDs, tied with Buffalo’s Sammy Watkins for the most among rookies.
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The left side of the Panthers’ line
The Panthers will turn to a pair of undrafted rookies to protect Cam Newton’s blind side. With left tackle Byron Bell out with knee and elbow injuries, French-Canadian David Foucault will make his first career start. He’ll play alongside guard Andrew Norwell, who in his first start last week against Seattle was the only Panthers’ starter to finish with a positive pass-blocking grade, according to Pro Football Focus. The Panthers will use running backs DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart to help Foucault with the likes of edge rusher Junior Gallette, who leads the Saints with four sacks.