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The Panthers Take on Some Familiar Faces in Home Opener

Sharon Thorsland
September 15, 2017 - 7:12 am

Here we go – it's the Panthers home opener and it should be a good one. Former defensive coordinator Sean McDermott brings his Buffalo Bills to Bank of America stadium, with plenty of former Panthers on his roster. Both teams are coming off season opening victories – the Panthers beat the 49ers on the road 20-3, while the Bills racked up whopping 408 yards of offense in a 21-12 win over the Jets.

These teams are similar in many ways, starting with their dual threat quarterbacks. Of course, the Panthers have former league MVP Cam Newton, while the Bills start Tyrod Taylor. Who, you say? Taylor is a 7th year player out of Virginia Tech who has been pretty darn impressive in his two seasons as a starter in Buffalo. He's passed for over 6,000 yards and rushed for 1.100 more. Last season Taylor threw 17 touchdowns and just six interceptions. “He's a guy that can sit in the pocket, he's looking to make the throw but he can extend the play, and also he has the ability to run the football,” says Panther safety Kurt Coleman.  “Which means the d-line has to stay in their lanes, and as a secondary, you have to be able to cover probably a lot longer than you're used to covering.”

For some odd reason, the Bills parted ways with Taylor's top two receivers, sending Sammy Watkins to the Rams and letting Robert Woods leave in free agency. But they did pick up Jordan Matthews and drafted former East Carolina standout Zay Jones. And keep an eye out for former Tar Heel and awesome return man Brandon Tate. Tight end Charles Clay led the bills with 57 catches last season.

Both the Panthers and Bills like to run the ball first, and both teams boast some of the best running backs in the league – Jonathan Stewart for the Panthers, and LeSean “Shady” McCoy for the Bills. Behind McCoy, the Bills have led the NFL in rushing the past two seasons. The five-time Pro Bowler rushed for 1237 yards and 13 touchdowns last season, and picked up where he left off with 110 yards against the Jets last week. McCoy teams with fellow Pro Bowler and former Panther Mike Tolbert, the dancing bear had a touchdown last week. Panther linebacker Luke Kuechly says McCoy is tough to defend. “He's very elusive, he's shifty,” says Kuechly. “It's fun to watch, he's fun to play against, but you gotta make sure you know what you're doing. Cause if you take one bad angle, you over-run it too much, then he's going to be going the other way.”


With McDermott running the show, you would expect the Bills defense to be top notch. They looked impressive against the Jets, holding them to just 214 yards of total offense, good for second in the NFL. McDermott implemented a 4-3 scheme, and he's got an outstanding front seven to work with, headlined by Pro Bowlers tackles Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams. Veteran linebacker Lorenzo Alexander led the bills with 12 and a half sacks last season. The secondary is more of a work in progress, McDermott sent all of the starters packing so now it's a mix of young and veteran guys, including former Panther cornerback Leonard Johnson and first round pick Tre'Davious White. Former Packer Micah Hyde teams with Jordan Poyer at safety, they each had an interception last week.


A lot of people might be penciling this in as an easy win for the Panthers. But they're certainly not looking at it that way. They know they'll be facing a Bills team that looked pretty darn good last week, not to mention the fact they'll be lining up against former teammates and coaches. So what's their approach? Treat it like any other game. “You know, Buffalo is a great team that we're very familiar with,” says Newton. “We've just got to be on top of the things that they do. The familiarness is something that we've got to use to our advantage.”


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