The Panthers' Week 2 matchup with the Bills will mark the homecoming for a few former Carolina fan favorites. Former defensive coordinator Sean McDermott will take on a defense he helped create. Former fullback Mike Tolbert will barrel through a defense that he once shared a sideline with. There's storylines aplenty, but more importantly for Carolina, it's an opportunity to build on the positives from Week 1 and another chance to prove that the 2016 season was an anomaly.
Ever since McDermott was hired as the Bills' head coach, he has poached talent from his old team. He, along with Buffalo general manager Brandon Beane - formerly Carolina's assistant GM - was the key to signing Tolbert and cornerback Leonard Johnson in the offseason.
The nickname has only gained significance in recent weeks as the Bills signed former quarterback Joe Webb and exercised a trade for Kaelin Clay.
Impressive ground game
It's no secret the centerpiece to Buffalo's offense is a rushing attack headed by LeSean McCoy. The running back is arguably the most dangerous runner in the NFL. What's not debatable is that McCoy was the most proficient running back in the NFL outside the tackles in 2016. According to ProFootball Focus, McCoy had a league-best 835 rushing yards outside the tackles last season, slotting him ahead of the likes of Ezekiel Elliot and DeMarco Murray. Against the Jets in Week 1, McCoy totaled 110 rushing yards on 22 attempts, an average of five yards per carry.
"It's tough, but when he hits you with those one or two plays and it's like you know what's coming and it happens, you get mad," Jets defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson said after the game. "You've got to play the next down and make sure that it doesn't happen again and correct it."
Tyrod to tight ends
When it comes to the passing game, first-year offensive coordinator Rick Dennison is turning quarterback Tyrod Taylor into an improved pocket passer and stressing tight end involvement. The sample size is small, but after Week 1, it appears Taylor and tight end Charles Clay are on the same page with Dennison's plan. Taylor targeted Clay a game-high nine times, and the two linked up for the game's opening touchdown. Heavy run defense
Throughout the preseason, the Bills emphasized run defense, and to great effectiveness. For what it's worth, the Bills defense apparently didn't lose a step entering the regular season. While it's only the Jets, Buffalo held New York to just 38 yards on 15 carries. New York's 2.5 yards per carry average, again admittedly a small sample size, would easily have paced the NFL last season. The Bills tied for second-best in terms of yards allowed per carry in the preseason. "We wanted to control the line of scrimmage, and I thought we did that on the defensive front," McDermott said. "Our run defense was outstanding."
If the Bills can maintain that type of success, it will force their opponents into a lot of passing situations, an area Buffalo's pass rush can exploit.
View the top photos from Panthers vs. 49ers by team photographer Melissa Melvin-Rodriguez.