I watched the Panthers/Bengals game from last week and came away with this scouting report on the Panthers.
- When the Panthers run the ball they run the middle draw a lot. It was a mainstay of their running game, especially in the opening half. Bradie James and Akin Ayodele need to be aware of it and fill the gaps when DeShaun Foster gets the ball.
- The Panthers work the middle of the field well in the passing game. Steve Smith runs the crossing patterns and deep 'in' routes, while Keyshawn Johnson will line up in the slot and run the quick slant and also do the crossing patterns. They hit their TE for a TD working over the middle. This puts even more emphasis on the games of James and Ayodele, as well as Roy Williams and whoever plays FS.
- The Bengals blitzed close to 50% of the time in this game. I don't know enough about the Bengals to know if this was unusual, but it worked. It forced Jake Delhomme get rid of the ball quickly or throw under duress. Of the long throws he did attempt, he was off-target on quite a few, but it was an extremely windy day in Cincinnati. Of course, we know the Cowboys won't blitz near that often.
- The Panthers defensive line loves to run stunts. They'll criss-cross one or both sides of the line regularly. They also have great athletes up front; Julius Peppers, Mike Rucker and Kris Jenkins are good. They didn't get the sacks on Palmer, but they caused him to rush a lot of throws. The Bengals eventually went to a short passing game. They will create pressure on Tony Romo. They didn't do an inordinate amount of blitzing, but it was effective when they did. The Dallas line will have to deal with this better than they have or we're in trouble.
- The Panthers were stout against the run in the first half, but as the game wore on the Bengals started to move the ball on the ground. The Cowboys need to stay with the run game even if the results aren't great in the beginning. The Panthers are fast to the outside on defense, so up the gut or fast hitting off-tackle plays are the way to go. Get going north-south as quickly as possible.
- Watch out for Peppers dropping off into coverage on a zone blitz, it might confuse Romo and Peppers is a good enough athlete to make something happen. Steve Smith lined up on both sides of the field and occasionally in the slot. The Cowboys will have to move Terence Newman around if they want him to shadow Smith.
- The Panthers defensive line tries to anticipate the snap count, they're very agressive at trying to time the snap. Because of this, you can get them to jump offsides with some hard counts. Kris Jenkins is good at jumping the play, Andre Gurode needs to be on his game.