TAMPA, FLORIDA - DECEMBER 02: Head coach Ron Rivera of the Carolina Panthers watches the replay board during the first quarter against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium on December 02, 2018 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

The Carolina Panthers are heading into the weekend on a four-game skid. They lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers (52-21), the Detroit Lions (20-19), the Seattle Seahawks (30-27), and most recently the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (24-17). Many questions are swirling over what has happened to the Panthers that started the season 6-2. Let’s talk about why the Carolina Panthers can’t get it right.

Why the Carolina Panthers Can’t Get It Right

Defensive Troubles

It is no secret that the Panthers have struggled on defense this year. No more than usual, but it just seems like the problems are more prominent this time around. Eric Washington took over the defensive play calling this year after Sean McDermott‘s exit and a year of Steve Wilks. Washington has tried to do a solid job but it doesn’t seem like he has a good handle on the defense. Head coach Ron Rivera doesn’t seem to think so either according to a Charlotte Observer report claiming he fired both defensive lines coach Brady Hoke and assistant secondary/cornerbacks coach Jeff Imamura. He also demoted Washington and will call the defensive plays for the foreseeable future.

Besides Donte Jackson and James Bradberry making plays here and there, it is safe to say that the secondary has always been a bit of a thorn in the Panthers side. They haven’t been able to find another ball hawk to replace Josh Norman.

Not just the secondary, but the defensive line seems to be stagnant as well. They’re not as quick off the ball as they were last year, partially due to having a new player in Dontari Poe. Trying to figure out how to use him has caused the line to play a little more confused. A line that was so good at hiding the problems in our secondary, can only bring them to light this season. Let’s see if the play calling improves with Rivera taking charge.

Questionable Offense

Besides the four interceptions, Cam Newton threw December 2nd against the Buccaneers, it seemed like he was having another MVP-caliber season. But some questionable plays that were called in two separate games not only costed those games but also did something to the remaining confidence they had. Sure, D.J. Moore has been crowned best rookie wide receiver by Pro Football Focus (according to Brandon Scott), and yes Christian McCaffrey is probably the most dynamic player the Panthers have seen in a long time–163 rushes for 863 yards and 80 receptions for 663 yards, but there are still a ton of gaps that need to be filled.

Devin Funchess has had an up and down season including a game in Detroit where he played in front of family and had the worst showing of his career (8 targets, 2 receptions for 39 yards). But his numbers weren’t the biggest issue, it was the dropped passes, passes that he normally catches.

Moore isn’t completely without fault either. During the game against the Washington Redskins, he lost two fumbles. Both were plays that could have easily gotten the Panthers back into the game but instead ended up giving Washington two opportunities to get points off those turnovers. Rookie mistake, sure, but it cost the Panthers that game. Still, he has done a lot for this team.

And then there is the offensive line that I thought had figured out how to play even with the injuries and such, only to find out that they, in fact, do not have things figured out. They struggled to keep Newton off the ground or defenders from getting through. Taylor Moton is only a second-year player but through the first six games, it seemed as if those worries would be a distant memory. Now it seems otherwise.

Graham Gano

Graham Gano isn’t completely to blame for any of the Panthers’ downfalls or losses, I mean the guy kicked a 63-yarder to beat the New York Giants, but you have to wonder how many more chances the Panthers will give him considering the team is at a mini-state of disarray right now. It was the lack of faith in Gano that prompted Rivera to go for the two-point conversion instead of kicking the extra point during the game against the Detroit Lions.

Last Word

The Panthers have had troubles on all sides of the ball. So many that they have just about kept themselves out of the postseason. They play the Cleveland Browns December 9th, but even if they win, they are miles away from what a super bowl team should look like. The Carolina Panthers can’t get it right this year. Maybe they will next year, we’ll see.

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