In Week 9, our Indianapolis Colts will travel to take on the Carolina Panthers. Knowing the show was hitting the road this weekend, I sat down with Walker Clement of Cat Scratch Reader. You can find him on Twitter @MetaphorGuy. We swapped questions about the Colts and Panthers and what follows is what I learned about this week’s enemy.
You can find my answers to his questions here.
Chris Shepherd: Bryce Young hasn’t had the start anyone could have hoped for. Have you seen signs that things have been improving and what do you need to see moving forward from the young signal caller?
Walker Clement: He’s faced an uphill climb as a rookie with a dense offensive system, a poor wide receiver group, and a porous offensive line. There is still plenty of optimism around his future, however, and the only two things we need to see to grow that optimism are consistency (which is as much on his teammates as him) and an improved ability to connect on deep passes. The latter bit is entirely on Young and represents the only real growing concern about his game.
CS: If you were an offensive coordinator tasked with beating the Carolina Panthers defense, what would your game plan look like? Who are you targeting? What are you avoiding?
WC: I’d start with a smash mouth running/quick passing game that transitioned into a play-action deep passing attack as soon as the Panthers defenders started to tighten their cushions in coverage. All of that would be disguised with a lot of presnap motion and running different plays out of the same look.
Stress their communication and the athleticism of their secondary. The Panthers are thin on defense, pretty much everywhere, thanks to multiple injuries to key players. Targeting the nickel corner, who is often actually a third safety, and the inside linebackers are you keys to victory at the start, while avoiding wherever Brian Burns and Frankie Luvu are lined up.
CS: Teams have found a lot of success against the Colts offense by running their base offense and daring Gardner Minshew to throw. If the Panthers take a similar approach, do you believe they’ll be able to have success against Gardner Minshew? Do you believe the Panthers can cover Josh Downs and Michael Pittman Jr.?
WC: I believe the Week 1 Panthers could have. Donte Jackson and C.J. Henderson are good or growing cornerbacks, but the team is still missing the talents of Jaycee Horn in the secondary. Downs and Pittman will have their opportunities, it may just come down to how well Minshew can take advantage of them.
CS: The Panthers offensive line has been, well, rough. How have teams exploited those weaknesses so far and do you expect them to have success this weekend against a struggling Colts defense?
WC: It’s been either penalties or pressures, but the Panthers line struggling to put it all together in one game has been a large reason why the team started 0-6. The Texans posted a season high six sacks against the Panthers last week. They entered the game with only nine sacks all season.
The line is the healthiest it has been since Week 1. Second year left tackle Ickem Ekwonu has struggled in a more complicated offensive scheme, but has been putting it together bit by bit each week. This could be the week they take a massive step forward, but I’ll believe it when I see it.
CS: As of right now DraftKings Sportsbook has the Colts as -2.5 point favorites on the road. Is that a fair spread? How do you see this game playing out and what will be the final score?
WC: I truly don’t know. The Panthers from last week are a night and day different team from the Panthers of Weeks 2-5 or so. Progress is often incremental in this league and not noticed until it reaches a major tipping point. Have the Panthers rolled over that point or was last week a fluke? It’s hard to say with only one data point.
I’ve been saying for weeks that you shouldn’t trust the Panthers until they have proven consistent, replicated success. Y’all are the lucky fan base that gets to bear witness to their first attempt at repeating success. All of that is to say that I wouldn’t bet on the Panthers winning this week, but I also wouldn’t be terribly surprised if they did.
I just want to thank Walker Clement for taking the time to tell us a little more about the Panthers. Hopefully Sunday’s game is good and both teams leave the game as injury free as possible.
As always, go Colts.