The job should be to stop the biggest threat and make Cleveland rely on Jacoby Brissett to make the plays. Taking away the biggest weapons and forcing the offense into relying more on the pass would've benefited Carolina more. This was a defense that in 2021 allowed the fourth-fewest passing yards.
In the final 1:13 of the game, the Browns marched down the field and booted a 58-yard field goal for the 26-24 lead with 0:13 left, which was the eventual final.
Despite the loss for Carolina, it was a tale of two halves for the black and blue. Trailing 17-7 going into the half, the Panthers outscored the Browns 17-9 in the second half. Baker Mayfield was 10-for-19 with 101 yards and an interception. In the second half, Mayfield went 6-for-8 with a touchdown and 134 yards. Mostly limited in the running game, Christian McCaffrey rushed for a lowly 33 yards on 10 carries with a touchdown.
There are some problems that will be addressed like containing the run game and mixing up the offense. The offensive line also needs improvement.
Inability to control running game on defense
The Carolina defense allowed 217 rushing yards in the contest. On 39 attempts, this averaged to be a whopping 5.6 yards per carry.
Nick Chubb is one of the better running backs in the league, but this was horrible by the Panthers. The reason being that the dynamic duo of Chubb and Kareem Hunt present the biggest offensive threat on Cleveland.
The job should be to stop the biggest threat and make Cleveland rely on Jacoby Brissett to make the plays. Taking away the biggest weapons and forcing the offense into relying more on the pass would've benefitted Carolina more. This was a defense that in 2021 allowed the fourth-fewest passing yards.
This being the first game, there is time to improve. Hope is not lost when it comes to a solid front defensive line and good secondary. But if Carolina cannot stop the run, then the team is easily exploitable.
The mixing of the offense
Carolina wants Christian McCaffrey healthy. After 10 games in two seasons, the cautious approach is understandable to a fault.
The Panthers relied on him almost too much, which made the team more one-dimensional on offense. Getting Mayfield put an emphasis on the passing game, and it was like since the Panthers got him, it ignored the star running back.
Again, he was injured in the previous two seasons, but to almost exclude him from the offense and letting him run is not the answer.
In the first half, McCaffrey carried the ball a measly three times for nine yards and one touchdown. He finished the game with 10 carries for 33 yards. When healthy, and again it is understandable, but when healthy McCaffrey is easily a top-five running back.
Mix him into the offense more, and not by just incorporating him in the pass game but running the ball. It was nice seeing CMC haul in four catches on four targets for 24 yards, but he's always been the workhorse running back, not exclusively a pass-catching back.
This problem may solve itself with more reps as McCaffrey’s health concern diminishes over time.
The offensive line problems
Cleveland sacked Baker Mayfield four times in the contest.
The offensive line for Carolina was the biggest project in the offseason. The Panthers signed Austin Corbett and Bradley Bozeman to help remedy the problem. With the sixth pick in the 2022 draft, Carolina selected Ikem Ekwonu, regarded as the best offensive tackle in the draft, to build the line up more.
Going against Myles Garrett, Ekwonu struggled, but most players would, so a rookie doing the same is not surprising. For Ekwonu it is just developing more since he is a rookie, and he matched up with an All-Pro, and one of the best in the game.
The rest of the line showed little signs of improvement from last year's line that ranked 31st on Pro Football Focus.
Heading into the next few games, the Panthers desperately need improvement from the line. The offense will benefit incredibly if Mayfield has more time in the pocket. Also, if McCaffrey has more and better blocks his offensive output will skyrocket.
The Panthers head to New York for a game against the Giants on Sunday, Sept. 18, kickoff is at 1:00 p.m.