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What is Panthers blog Cat Scratch Reader writing about this week?

Denver Broncos v Carolina Panthers Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Washington hosts the Carolina Panthers at 4:05 p.m. this afternoon in a game that could potentially clinch the NFC East title for the burgundy & gold. Let’s take a look at what’s been hitting the front page this week at our SB Nation sister site, Cat Scratch Reader.

Panthers at Football Team injury report: Christian McCaffrey doubtful, Brian Burns questionable for Sunday

The Panthers will likely be without several key players against Washington on Sunday.

The Panthers have released their final injury report heading into their Week 16 game against the Football Team, and several key names are listed as doubtful to appear for Carolina on Sunday.

Running back Christian McCaffrey, left tackle Russell Okung and cornerback Troy Pride are all listed as doubtful, and defensive end Brian Burns is listed as questionable. While the questionable status is normally used for players who are expected to play (it replaced probable a few years back), defensive coordinator Phil Snow said yesterday that Burns isn’t expected to suit up on Sunday.

The Panthers are 4-10 and in contention for a top-five draft pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, so I would hope they will hold these players back in the abundance of caution (i.e. - so we ensure we don’t actually mess up and win the game).

Former Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis has been ruled out for the Football Team with a knee injury, so it’s a bit of a bummer we won’t get to see him on the field again this weekend.


Panthers at Football Team offensive preview: Time to get a look at Walker and Grier

Seriously, it’s time.

This past weekend, the young defense played a damn good game in the frozen confines. The offense, however, couldn’t get things going. A large part of the offensive struggles stemmed from the play of the man under center. Yes, the offense was without Christian McCaffrey, but there were plays to be had that the quarterback has to make. CMC is likely not to play again this week, so why not see what the team has in backup quarterbacks PJ Walker and Will Grier.

Another week without CMC puts Teddy at another disadvantage this week. If I were in charge, Teddy would be sitting this week. Let PJ and Will show us what they have. It puts us one step closer to clinching a top four pick and gives a clearer picture of what possible backups the roster has on it.

Football Team Defense

Ron Rivera’s defenses have always been at their best when the defensive lines have been good, and boy does the Washington Football Team have a good defensive line. They are led by rookie Chase Young and second year player Montez Sweat off the edge, combining for over 12 sacks so far. Ryan Kerrigan has also chipped in 5.5 sacks in rotation.

The fantastic performance of the defensive line has allowed the linebackers to feast in the classic Rivera defense. Jon Bostic leads the team in tackles from the middle linebacker position, already posting over 100 tackles. The Football Team also has lock down corner Kendall Fuller.


Panthers 16 Packers 24: 3 plays to love, 3 plays to hate from Week 15

These key plays swung momentum and decided the Carolina Panthers 24-16 road loss against the Green Bay Packers, putting Carolina’s record at 4-10.

An offense led by Teddy Bridgewater will never be bad enough to be a disaster, but it’s rarely good enough to go out and win games. He can move the ball between the 20 yard lines, then when the field is shortened the offense tightens up. And I’m still perplexed as to why Joe Brady continues to get buzz about being on some short lists as a potential head coach. It’s only because he’s young, and “young” is the hottest buzzword among head coaches today. It’s the equivalent of “synergy”, “futureproof”, and “omnichannel”. If Joe Brady was a 58-year-old offensive coordinator, his play calling and schemes would go largely unnoticed nationally. Besides the poor play call to have Teddy leap over the pile, Brady couldn’t scheme Curtis Samuel or Robby Anderson open in this one. The normally dynamic duo caught just six of 14 targets for 63 yards.

After a promising 3-2 start, the Panthers have now lost eight of their last nine games. It’s a deflating way to go out.


Monday Morning Optimist: We are so close to being so close

Bear with us, guys. The Panthers couldn’t buy a win in 2020, but it shouldn’t take much more talent for this team to take off.

I know, I know. The Carolina Panthers lost another one possession game after having had the ball in their hands in the final minutes with a chance to win. They are zero for eight in even scoring points, let alone winning, in such scenarios this season. I’d say it was a twist that they did this against a good team for once, except that this is the third good team they have lost to by the skin of their teeth. The Green Bay Packers join the New Orleans Saints and the Kansas City Chiefs as truly top tier contenders who only narrowly survived a brush with the Panthers.

We’ve spent months at this point talking about heartening these close losses are for such a young team, for such a depleted team. But, like much of 2020, that’s wearing a bit thin. Even still, we have to take a moment to celebrate that the youngest defense in the NFL throttled Aaron Rodgers for three quarters. More interesting than the ‘kids did good’ angle is the weirdness of it. These Panthers should probably be one possession under dogs to every team in the league, from the New York Jets to the Kansas City Chiefs. It’s not an insult to say that they don’t have what it takes to win in the NFL, because it is a fact and because they are so close to greatness. It’s an odd balance.

Robby Anderson and Moore became the first duo of Panthers wide receivers to reach 1,000 yards in the same season since Muhsin Muhammad and Patrick Jeffers in 1999. That time period includes the a cultural explosion in favor of offense and the best receiver and best quarterback the Panthers have ever known.

It is going to be surprising if two Panthers receivers don’t reach this mark again next year. That is the difference that Rhule and Joe Brady have brought in less than one year. Personally, I wouldn’t bet on Carolina winning a Super Bowl at any point in the last 20 years. That bet does, admittedly, benefit from hind sight. It’s harder to say the same thing about the next twenty, but it is easy to appreciate a coaching staff that understands the modern game.


The Top three candidates for the Panthers GM job

Hurney is out, who will be in?

There are couple of different directions the Panthers could go for that change. They just fired the steady, traditional hand of Marty Hurney, so it’s probable they will want somebody more open to new ideas and math. My guess is that Rhule will probably have the most power in the organization after this shake up, so no matter what they’ll want to have a first time general manager who isn’t looking to put his stamp on top of everybody else’s. Will they be young and hungry or an experienced executive who is getting their first shot at the general manager chair? Here are your early top three candidates for the open Carolina Panthers job:

Samir Suleiman - Director of Player Negotiations, Carolina Panthers

Tepper has already come out in favor of greater integration of analytics into front office decision making.

The Panthers owner spoke of building a “collaborative” and data-driven football operation, one that involves more analytics and computerized scouting, but not one that ignores his admitted fondness for “old school” football.

- Darin Gantt, Panthers.com

A Suleiman hire would mean that the guy who knows how to pull the purse strings is also onboard with Tepper’s and Rhule’s visions for the future.

Dan Morgan - Director of Player Personnel, Buffalo Bills

The former Panthers great doesn’t actually have any connections to the current Panthers front office now that Hurney is out. What he does have is an impressive resume in the business of football.

Mike Borgonzi - Director of Player Personnel, Kansas City Chiefs

If you build the roster that wins the Super Bowl then you are going to get some interest for every general manager job that opens up, those are just the rules. He’s has the opportunity to learn under a variety of general managers while coming up the ranks in Kansas City, from Scott Pioli to John Dorsey. That means he has seen plenty of success and failure at that level. He’ll be another hot name that the Panthers will have to pounce on if they want to beat the Falcons or the Texans to the hire.