Skip to main content

The Day After: Diversifying the offense


CHARLOTTE — The Panthers have kept five receivers active on game days this season, but they've only really used three of them.

Panthers head coach Matt Rhule said that's likely to change, among other adjustments they're trying to make to their offense.

While starters DJ Moore, Robbie Anderson, and Shi Smith have played most of the snaps, Smith in particular had a few key drops in Sunday's loss to the Giants, and Rhule said they have to work Terrace Marshall Jr. and Rashard Higgins in more often.

Both have been active for the first two games, but other than six snaps Marshall played Sunday, they've not done much. Neither of them contributes on special teams, making their lack of action an issue when it's time to put together the 48-man active list on game day.

"I think we have to start playing more guys at the receiver position," Rhule said Monday. "I think we want those guys out there; they're good players for us. But I think Terrace is coming on, Rashard's a guy we know can play. We just probably need to get those guys on the field more.

"We've been no-huddle at times; it's hard to rotate guys in. Those guys get worn out, those crucial downs, so maybe on those third downs, we're not playing as fast as we could be playing, especially on hot days like it was yesterday."

Rhule said they also see trade acquisition Laviska Shenault Jr. as "a weapon" they'd like to use, but he hasn't been active in the two weeks since coming over in a deal with the Jaguars.

But mostly, that will likely include more work for Marshall and Higgins, who has the advantage of familiarity with quarterback Baker Mayfield from their time together with the Browns. Rhule said Marshall had one of his best weeks of practice last week (while Smith missed a day with a groin issue), and Higgins was one of the most consistent players during camp.

"I think we would do good to get those guys in there a little more," Rhule said. "I just think Rashard needs opportunities. He's practiced well through camp. . . .

"That's one of those things, it's early in the week, but I just feel like there are players that can help us; we have to get in there."

Marshall said he'd be willing to do whatever's asked of him and just tries to stay prepared for whatever role he can play.

"Just a better feel for the game," Marshall said Monday when asked what's felt different lately. "The game has slowed down for me. Just getting ready whenever my number is called.

"Times like this happen in life. It's about perseverance. I just keep working hard, doing what I do, keep my head down, and when my number's called, be ready."

— The Panthers are the only team in the NFL that hasn't come up with a turnover through the season's first two weeks.

They're one of four teams without a forced fumble so far this season (along with the Bills, Packers, and Eagles) and one of eight without an interception (along with the Bengals, Broncos, Colts, Saints, Giants, Cardinals, and Seahawks).

But two of the veterans on defense aren't feeling a sense of panic.

Cornerback Donte Jackson said the defense needs to capitalize on opportunities they're given — like when linebacker Frankie Luvu dropped a potential pick-six Sunday at the Giants.

Jackson said he's focused on being aggressive when the ball is in the air, punching out the ball, and getting to opposing quarterbacks for strip sacks. He said the Panthers have been working at creating the habits to create turnovers. And he believes that once the first takeaway comes, more will follow.

"We know once the floodgates open, they come in bunches," Jackson said. "They come in bunches. We're just going to keep working at it, keep our head down, getting back and working."

Safety Xavier Woods was locked into the goal but also said he has previously been part of good defenses that weren't ranked toward the top of the league in takeaways. Woods mentioned the 2018 Dallas Cowboys team, which went to the playoffs and allowed the sixth-fewest total points per game that year, ranked 16th in the NFL in takeaways. Heading into Week 3, Woods said he didn't feel like there has been added pressure from the coaching staff as they emphasize winning the turnover battle. But there is an opportunity.

"There's no pressure – it's a challenge," he said.

— Rhule said the team was still awaiting the results of some MRIs, but didn't offer much more on the injury front.

He said defensive tackle Bravvion Roy's hamstring injury "looked pretty severe." He was replaced in the rotation by undrafted rookie Marquan McCall, whom Rhule referred to as "one of the bright spots" from the Giants game.

Jackson described himself as "day to day" but seemed positive about his chances to play Sunday against the Saints.

View the best photos from the field in Week 2 between Carolina and New York.

Related Content