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Outsider’s Perspective: The battle of the trenches could decide which NFC South team goes 2-0

A sit-down with Cat Scratch Readers’ Walker Clement before Week 2’s matchup.

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panthers square off Week two after defensive dominating performances in Week one. And honestly, that isn’t where the comparisons end. They both have Quarterbacks who were drafted high and are on their second team in seemingly better situations than they left at the time. Both teams have talent all over their defense but are lead by their defensive lines. And last but not least, both the Saints and Panthers have all-world running backs that have helped change backfield expectations around the NFL.

So week two will bring a little bit more clarity towards two teams that several around the league still have some sort of questions about. The Saints may be the team most league pundits are high on, but the Panthers are far from anything to sleep on. They’ll look to show exactly that on Sunday.

For more on Carolina, we got in touch with Cat Scratch Reader’s Walker Clement who was kind enough as always to answer our question ahead of Sunday’s game. You can find Walker on Twitter @MetaphorGuy and all of Cat Scratch Reader’s content at Walker also asked our team some crazy questions that we answered the best we could, look out for those as well. In the meantime enjoy the latest edition of Outsider’s Perspective.

I believe the Panthers are vastly underrated around the league from a talent perspective. For those that haven’t kept a close eye on Carolina as of late, can you go into detail about some of the names Saints fans need to familiarize themselves with before Sunday’s game?

Y’all met Jeremy Chinn last year and are well familiar with Shaq Thompson, both of whom had big games last week. The biggest name on defense to learn is Derrick Brown, a 2020 first round pick. The evolution of Brian Burns and Yetur Gross-Matos, and the additions of Morgan Fox and Haason Reddick have really opened things up for our interior pass rush to have some fun. Just watch this clip of Brown leveling Zach Wilson last week. Wilson is a shifty quarterback and I assume that if Brown can get him hemmed into a pocket that he’ll have no trouble catching Jameis Winston, either.

NFL: Carolina Panthers at Minnesota Vikings Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

On offense, Terrace Marshall Jr is a rookie wide receiver out of LSU that may be familiar to some of your fans. Darnold seems to trust him, even though he wasn’t able to get the ball to him successfully all that much. Two incompletions, in particular, make me think Marshall is primed for a breakout game sooner rather than later. The first was a deep pass down the sideline that was knocked loose on a good and lucky play by the defender. The pass was spot on and Marshall, though covered, was able to use his size and hands to make himself open. The second came on a target in the end zone. Darnold was. to be polite, less accurate than he’d have liked, but Marshall was open in the end zone and should have had an easy touchdown.

Why should we believe Sam Darnold can succeed as a Panther?

For the first time in his professional career, he has creative coaching that wants him to succeed. They didn’t ask him to do anything that he didn’t look capable of doing. Darnold responded with accuracy and consistent decision-making. He had two specifically worrying throws targeting Marshall, as mentioned above, and tight end Ian Thomas in the end zone that was just a hair outside of catchable.

NFL: New York Jets at Carolina Panthers Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The accuracy he displayed the rest of the day, however, inclines me to chalk those up as nerves over a mechanical concern. Still, we only have one game to go off of here, so we’re anxious to see if that develops into a trend or remains anomalous. Oh, and he has one hell of a defense at his back. Darnold shouldn’t ever be playing from far behind, which will help him get his feet under him during what we are hoping to consider his rookie year.

What matchup do you have your eyes on that could possibly determine who wins Sunday?

The Saints offensive line, in whatever healthy combination takes the field, against the Panthers pass rush. Carolina recorded six sacks and as many as eighteen quarterback hits on Zach Wilson last week. Meanwhile, the Saints lost their starting center, one of only four interior offensive linemen that they carried with them on their initial 53-man roster. I don’t know if the Panthers are actually going to be as good again as they were last week and I do think that the Saints offensive line is better than ‘beat up’ sounds. More than anything else, I think this game gets decided by how many times the Panthers hit Winston on Sunday.

What’s the biggest misconception right now about the Carolina Panthers?

That they aren’t deep. The Panthers don’t necessarily have top-end talent across the board (who does?), but they don’t have huge drop offs when you start walking down the depth chart. This team is talented and young. The roster has more potential than experience, but that seems to be the way that Rhule likes it. He wants players that he can coach up. That translates to a team that is more prepared than you might think and that will respond well to injuries to just about anybody not named Christian McCaffrey.

Your Outside Perspective on the New Orleans Saints?

That they have a lot of faith in the miracle powers of lasik. Sean Payton has a deserved reputation as an offensive mastermind in the game of football. But he also has a well-earned reputation (to the tune of $22.6M over five seasons) for seeing ghosts in Taysom Hill. Winston is absolutely the better bet, but he isn’t going to keep throwing a touchdown and no interceptions for every thirty yards passing.

NFL: Green Bay Packers at New Orleans Saints Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

My perspective is that this season is a big gamble for the Saints because they never had a plan for after Brees. Between the paranormal contracts and that lack of preparation, I’m wondering how much of his own press Payton has been medicating himself with and for how long. Hubris never ends well, no matter how good a play-caller you are.

Maybe Winston really did just need to see the field better. It’s not the hardest thing to believe. But that’s a big bet to make, and I’m glad it’s not my franchise making it. Yes, I know I just said that while the team I root for traded a second round pick and guaranteed a 2022 salary for Sam Darnold. I live in a glass house that has an unparalleled view of the street. This is me throwing the first stone.

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