The Carolina Panthers and New York Giants are two teams with much in common. With the Panthers coming to MetLife Stadium on Sunday, Walker Clement of SB Nation’s Cat Scratch Reader gives us some insight on Carolina in this week’s ‘5 questions’ segment.
Ed: We know that Matt Rhule was considered the top choice for the Giants’ head-coaching job in 2020 before the Panthers gave him a seven-year, $60 million deal. Has that been money well spent? Do you believe Rhule will be a long-term, winning head coach for Carolina?
Walker: I’m a fan of a lot of what Rhule espouses in terms of decision-making and coaching philosophy. I think the guy has a good shot at being a good head coach in the NFL if he can solve one problem: scouting quarterbacks. He may be better than his record in this department, but so far he is 0-2 in guys that he actually brought in the building. Neither Teddy Bridgewater nor, apparently, Sam Darnold are going to be “the guy.” The biggest cause for optimism here is that he apparently had the Panthers ready to ship their 2021 first round pick (8th overall) to Detroit for Matt Stafford. Stafford is having a terrific year with the Rams and shows that maybe Rhule knows what a quarterback should look like, but is playing against a stacked deck at the moment.
As for whether or not David Tepper’s money is being well spent? That we’ll have to see about. The NFL always comes down to wins and Rhule is early in a rebuild that shouldn’t be churning those out just yet. I think he gets one more shot at identifying a quarterback. If he lands that fish Tepper won’t care how much his extension costs.
Ed: The Giants have a decision coming up regarding whether or not to give Saquon Barkley a rich second contract. Considering what has happened the past two years, is there regret over the mega-deal Carolina gave Christian McCaffrey?
Walker: Yes and no. McCaffrey’s injuries are both unpredictable and incredibly obvious. It is mostly soft tissue stuff that has lingered, not big joint and tendon affairs that traditionally derail second contract running backs. That said, when you run an entire offense through 200 pounds of running back you should probably be expecting a series of lingering soft tissue concerns. When McCaffrey is on the field he is one of the best players in the NFL. He has that Derrick Henry ability to take over a game, albeit with a mildly different skill set.
The question for Giants fans is whether or not they think Barkley can consistently break games by himself. That is a question specifically for fans because everybody who followed the Panthers over the last decade knows that Dave Gettleman won’t let a running back get away—unless y’all end up with another top five pick this year. Never put it past Gettleman to draft depth at a stacked position at the top of the draft.
Ed: If you could take one player off the Giants’ roster and put him into Carolina’s lineup, who would it be? Why?
Walker: Jabrill Peppers. The Panthers have a talented secondary, but their shallowest spot is at strong safety. Peppers would give them a second guy, opposite free safety Jeremy Chinn, who could play at any level of the defense and afford them more of defensive coordinator Phil Snow’s favorite qualities in a defense: flexibility and multiplicity.
Ed: Haason Reddick is a player some thought the pass-rush needy Giants should sign in free agency. What kind of impact is he having for the Panthers?
Walker: Reddick has been the perfect book end for Brian Burns. Both guys are incredibly fast off the edge and have often overwhelmed opposing offensive lines. He has posted 6.5 sacks, 9 quarterback hits, 8 tackles for loss, and forced one fumble in six games. That’s all while opening up opportunities for everybody else on the Panthers defense to record their own pressures. I don’t know if every team would have seen this level of production from him, as being in Carolina has reunited him with his college coaches in Rhule and Snow. These are the guys who coached him into being a first round pick out of Temple in the first place.
Ed: How do you see Sunday’s game unfolding? The Panthers win if what happens? The Giants win if what happens?
Walker: I honestly have no idea. I think anybody who bets money on this either has more dollars than sense or actually needs professional help. The Giants are a 1-5 dumpster fire with just enough un-injured talent to still be an NFL team (ie they can still win any given game). Meanwhile the Panthers are 3-3, with both a three-game winning streak and an (active) three-game losing streak to their credit. Carolina is in the middle of a rebuild and effectively have a Dodge Charger on offense with wheels but no tires and a toddler playing with the keys. They might go fast, but it will not be pretty and it may not always been in the right direction. This game has chaos written all over it, but I don’t think that will show up on the scoreboard.
The Panthers win if they can be successful with their new commitment to running the football. Limiting Sam Darnold’s opportunities while advancing the ball might just be their winningest formula at the moment.
The Giants win if they don’t turn the ball over and find themselves with a two-possession lead at some point. Being safe on offense and forcing, or even daring, the Panthers to throw the ball is what I would do if I were Joe Judge.