Since he came into the league in 2011, Cam Newton was the Carolina Panthers. Even though there have been great players on both sides of the ball in Carolina alongside Newton, the 2015 NFL MVP was the straw, the glass and the liquid in Carolina's drink. But, years of physical poundings have seemingly taken their toll on Newton, who is dealing with foot and arm issues that will keep him out of this matchup.
Enter Kyle Allen.
If the name sounds familiar, that's because he was once the best high school quarterback in the class of 2014. Many figured Allen had a long NFL career ahead of him and he still may do just that, but he certainly didn't follow the path that many thought he would take. He started his career at Texas A&M and had a solid true freshman season. Then, in 2015, a hot shot true freshman named Kyler Murray came to A&M and the situation disintegrated into mush by the end of the season. He decided to transfer to the University of Houston. After sitting out the 2016 season based on transfer rules, he earned the starting job for U of H... for three weeks. When he struggled early in the season, he was replaced and never started again. He then declared for the draft and, not surprisingly, didn't get drafted. He did, though, find the perfect landing spot in Carolina and moved up to the number two job by the end of the season. With the Panthers out of the playoff hunt, Newton banged up and the New Orleans Saints locked in on the top seed, Allen earned the start in Week 17 and beat the Saints in his only start as a rookie.
Then, with Newton sidelined again last week, Allen stepped in once more and threw four touchdowns and no picks in a 38-20 win over the Arizona Cardinals. That was stop one on the Kyle Allen "This is your Life" tour - starting back home in Arizona. Now, he comes to stop two on the same tour "The College Years – Houston." He has oodles of talent and every asset that an NFL quarterback needs to have to flourish in this league. Plus, he's 2-0 as a starter. He should have EVERYONE'S attention this week and if he doesn't, then stars like running back Christian McCaffrey, linebacker Luke Kuechly and defensive lineman Gerald McCoy should.
With no further ado, let's get to know a gritty Carolina Panthers squad.
2019 Schedule - Record 1-2
L, Los Angeles Rams 30-27
L, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20-14
W, @ Arizona Cardinals 38-20
Panthers offense (in 2019):
Rushing yards per game - 113.0 ypg (12th in the NFL)
Passing yards per game - 256.3 ypg (12th)
Total offense per game - 369.3 ypg (11th)
Turnovers lost - 5 (1 INT, 4 fumbles lost)
Projected Panthers starting offense for Sunday's game vs. Texans:
QB - KYLE ALLEN
RB - Christian McCaffrey
WR - D.J. Moore
WR - Curtis Samuel
WR - Jarius Wright
TE - Greg Olsen
LT - GREG LITTLE (rookie)
LG - Greg Van Roten
C - MATT PARADIS
RG - Daryl Williams
RT - Greg Moton
Other key offensive pieces:
FB - Alex Armah
WR - Chris Hogan
WR/KR - Ray-Ray McCloud
**All caps indicates a 2019 addition
Keys to stopping the Panthers offense:
1. Do not allow McCaffrey to get to the first level with any sliver of space. His ability to get from first level to second level is uncanny. He's more sudden than most running backs the Texans face.
2. The RPO game is coming. If there's a way to force the give/run, do it. Then, let the big fellas eat it up.
3. Tashaun Gipson's tight end cover skills are sorely needed this week against one of the best of all-time - Greg Olsen. The Panthers legend had two touchdowns last week at Arizona. It would appear that a healthy Kyle Allen is doing what a banged-up Cam Newton couldn't early in 2019 - unlock Olsen's greatness, yet again.
4. Change the combination up front on second and third and long. The Texans defense did a masterful job of switching up the rush combinations throughout the game last Sunday. As such, the Texans will be facing an offensive line that has some potential changes on it heading into this one. As such, consistently changing the look is ultra-important.
5. Nothing deep. Nothing. This crew of Panthers receivers is getting better, but it's not going to put on a route running clinic like Chargers star Keenan Allen. But, they can get downfield in a hurry and nothing gets a quarterback going more than hitting the deep shot/one play drive for a touchdown.
Panthers defense (in 2019):
Rushing yards allowed per game - 166.3 ypg (2nd in the NFL)
Passing yards allowed per game - 129.0 ypg (24th)
Total offense allowed per game - 295.3 ypg (4th)
Turnovers generated - 3 (3 INT - Panthers are -2 in TO margin)
Projected Panthers starting defense for Sunday's game vs. Texans:
DE - GERALD McCOY
DT - DONTARI POE/Kawann Short (injured - inactive last week)
DE - Mario Addison
OLB - Shaq Thompson
ILB - Luke Kuechly
OLB - BRIAN BURNS (rookie)
CB - Donte Jackson
Nickel - Ross Cockrell
S - Eric Reid
S - TRE BOSTON
CB - James Bradberry
Other key defensive pieces:
DE - CHRISTIAN MILLER
DT - Kyle Love
DT - Vernon Butler
Edge - Marquis Haynes (sub-package pass rusher)
Edge - BRUCE IRVIN (plans on playing for first time all season)
**All caps indicates a 2019 addition
Keys to winning vs. the Panthers defense:
1. Get a hat on 59. Kuechly is special - he's fast as a lightning strike and smart as a Stanford PhD candidate. He knows where the ball is going perhaps before the offense does. Someone, anyone, must get a hat on him at all times.
2. Run right at the rookie edge defender Brian Burns and see if he can handle it. He's a blur rushing the edge, but he's not built to handle the run game just yet. Physically, pound on him when he's on the field in running situations.
3. Take advantage of double moves on cornerback Donte Jackson - the aggressive one and take what fellow cornerback James Bradberry gives you - the less aggressive one.
4. Get rid of the ball quickly. Move quickly. Snap the ball quickly. Put the utmost pressure on a defense that will have been on the road for the second consecutive week.
5. I don't really want to trifle with star safety Eric Reid, but I'll take my chances against fellow safety Tre Boston in the passing game. Isolate him in coverage with shifts, motions and personnel groups. There should be something there to attack him in the passing game.
Check out photos of your Houston Texans when they were younger.