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Cardinals vs Panthers: Five questions with Cat Scratch Reader

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NFL: Arizona Cardinals at Carolina Panthers Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

We head into the Arizona Cardinals third game of the 2019 season against a scuffling Carolina Panthers team.

We were fortunate enough to talk with Walker Clement over at Cat Scratch Reader to see what is going on with the quarterback situation, how the Cardinals can possibly stop Christian McCaffrey and more.

Thanks to Walker and good luck this week.

1. If it is Kyle Allen starting this week, how does that change what the Panthers do?

I’m not convinced it does. The Panthers haven’t been able to convincingly sell the threat of Newton’s legs all season. Theoretically, most of the plays that they have had success with so far are plays that could be run by any quarterback in their system.

The team has been enamored with a new package of trick plays they have installed that involved Christian McCaffrey taking a direct snap. They are entertaining plays that they have a habit of running in do-or-die situations, like 4th and less than one on the 1.5 yard line while trailing in a divisional game with less than a minute left on the clock. So maybe look for more of that in short yardage situations on Sunday. You know, because you can’t spell football without ‘fun.’

2. How did the Bucs contain Christian McCaffrey when it seems impossible?

The Bucs aggressively stacked the box, daring Cam newton to beat them with his arm. He met their challenge in the first half right up to the point where he ‘secretly’ reinjured his left foot and his mechanics took a subsequent nose dive. They still might have won with that gameplan regardless of Newton’s health since the Panthers offensive line is holier than a canonized block of Swiss cheese. Blitzing constantly, against both the run and the pass means the Panthers are left with fewer than two seconds to develop either type of play. Blitz the gap the run is heading towards (which is easy when you are blitzing multiple gaps) and you are playing smothering defense against the Panthers, no matter who has the ball.

McCaffrey is quite capable of running between the tackles and is lethal in space, but there is only so much he can do when he meets unblocked defenders at or behind the line of scrimmage while surrounded by his own linemen.

3. How have the additions on defense looked this year?

The ones we have seen have been great. Tre Boston and Eric Reid are one of the better safety tandems that the Panthers have fielded in a long time. First round draft pick Brian Burns is a massive upgrade on the edge. He brings a speed that few teams have anywhere on the field, let alone rushing the passer. Bruce Irvin, who was slated to start ahead of Burns, is slated to miss his third straight game with a hamstring issue, so the jury is out on him.

Overall, the switch to a 3-4 alignment has helped put a lot of their guys in better positions and none have benefited from that transition from Dontari Poe, who is now in his second year with the Panthers.

4. I think Curtis Samuel is the “X-Factor” in this game, who would you say is the Panthers X-Factor?

Daryl Williams is, on paper, a left tackle. On the field, he is either lost or outclassed. He spent his early career with the team as a decent right tackle before tearing his MCL and dislocating his patella tendon in his right knee last season and missing the whole year. Somehow that experience qualified him to come back and assume the left tackle spot with literally zero questions asked.

The X-Factor for this game is whether he can step his game up or the Panthers can support/replace him effectively. If not then the Cardinals route to victory is a simple one: Go straight through Williams and turn left at the quarterback.

5. Who wins this week?

Well, that’s a tough one. Vegas took the game off the market. A lot of experts are still picking the Panthers, anyway, and the Panthers never do well when a lot of experts pick them. On the one hand, the veteran team led by a veteran coach should be able to teach a thing or two to the young up-and-comers. On the other, the Panthers failing in new and ridiculous ways is incredibly on brand for them. If this were a primetime game, I would bet money on the Cardinals winning. Since it isn’t, look for Kyle Allen to light up the Cardinals’ defense only to have the game end in a tie. I hear Kingsbury likes those.