The Carolina Panthers take on the New England Patriots Friday night in Gillette Stadium for the second game of the preseason.
The black and blue came from behind in its' last game against the Washington Commanders for a 23-21 win. But the Panthers face tougher competition in Bill Belicheck and the Patriots in Friday's game.
While a win should be celebrated, even if it is preseason, there are some concerns. These do not cause panic immediately, but if Carolina must fix them in order to beat tough opponents. Some like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Los Angeles Rams in the regular season. The Patriots present a good tune-up for the Panthers, but there must be improvements.
Third down success rate
While the sample size is small with one game, the Panthers allowed Washington to convert on eight of 14 third downs. Also, the Commanders owned a 2-for-2 conversion rate on fourth downs. A conversion rate this big is a potential problem.
While the successful conversion rate does not automatically mean more points allowed, getting the defense off the field is crucial. In 2021, the Panthers ranked eighth in the lowest third down conversion rate with almost 38 percent. Carolina allowed an average of almost 24 points per game, which ranked 20th.
Moving into this second game, the defense must get off the field on these third downs. If not, then teams get more chances and better positioning to capitalize.
Carolina owns an impressive line featuring Brian Burns, but the departure of Haason Reddick might set the Panthers back.
That is why working on third-down and fourth-down conversions is critical now.
The emotional aspect of the game
These teams practiced together in the week leading up to the game. Two consecutive days fights erupted during practice that resulted in injuries, players kicked out, and an injured fan.
Both teams may play more aggressive for this game, more than other games, but it is imperative Carolina controls the emotional side of football. It is not a negative thing to play more aggressive, but it must not result in penalties that cost the team. In an already violent game like football, it may be hard to maintain composure and keep a cool head, but for a young team like the Panthers, it would serve the group well, if these players used the aggression that does not result in penalties.
The continued development of Matt Corral
The small problem with Corral was he seemed rattled at times, frustrated even. He is young, and no one expected the rookie to blow up immediately, but Carolina must develop him as a professional quarterback.
This is the most obvious problem and may be the easiest to solve. Corral will learn given more time, reps and advice from his peers. In his time against Washington he completed one pass on nine attempts and fumbled. Luckily, the fumble was overturned on a penalty, and he marched the Panthers into field goal range for the win. He led the team to a game-winning drive, but it felt luck played more of a part than his clutch ability.
It is not bad, and Panthers fans do not take this as bashing, it is simply evaluating the talent, and possibly future starting quarterback at where he is.
But upon first go at it, Corral needs more exposure so he does not seem flustered.
Kickoff is at 7:00 p.m. on Friday in Massachusetts.