The Seahawks are celebrating the 10th anniversary of their Super Bowl-winning 2013 season this weekend, but they also have a game to focus on as they try to build off the success they had last weekend in Detroit. For the Seahawks, Week 3 features a matchup with the Carolina Panthers, a team looking to reboot under new head coach Frank Reich and No. 1 overall pick Bryce Young, though the rookie quarterback is unfortunately not expected to play this weekend due to an ankle injury. To help you learn more about this week's opponent, Panthers.com senior writer Darin Gantt answered five questions about the Panthers:
Granted, the Seahawks likely aren't going to see him play this week, but since he's the No. 1 pick and all, but what has been the (probably way too) early assessment of rookie QB Bryce Young so far? And what will the Seahawks see in veteran Andy Dalton when he fills in for Young?
Gantt: All the off-field stuff that you can see, he's nailing. He's a show-up-early, stay-late guy; he studies, he works, he immerses himself in the material. He'll do quiet things like duck into the team's bubble to do core work alone after practice. On the field, there are signs, but he's had such a limited body of work it's too soon to really know. There are throws he makes that you say, "Yes, that one, he clearly gets it." There just haven't been enough of them, between his very limited preseason work and what we've seen so far. He has plenty of arm, if not the throw-it-over-the-mountain kind of strength. But he throws with such anticipation that he has a functional arm strength a lot of quarterbacks don't have. It's probably not unfair to say he'd benefit from pass-catchers who are better at getting separation, but that's true of most quarterbacks. He's not really an on-purpose runner, but he understands the pocket and knows when to get out of it. The injury issue that's popped up this week makes the people who were scared of his size nervous, but on the whole, the signs are positive.
With Young hurt at the moment (ankle injury, not expected to play), they'll turn to Andy Dalton. Dalton actually played quite well for the Saints last year after taking over for an injured Jameis Winston, and he's old enough and smart enough to know this is a short-term assignment. Dalton's smart, accurate, and can move the ball downfield (7.6 yards per attempt last year, up from his 7.1 career average).
It's not ideal to have your No. 1 overall pick miss time, but they signed Dalton early in free agency for a reason.
Speaking of newcomers, what has new head coach Frank Reich brought to the organization to make folks optimistic about the future?
Gantt: Optimism is a funny word to use in Charlotte right now, with an 0-2 start after five straight losing seasons. But the larger point stands. After only having defensive-minded head coaches throughout franchise history, Reich was the first one with an offensive background. That was on purpose. He's also assembled an all-star coaching staff. Frank uses the phrase "diversity of thought" a lot, and his staff represents it. Rather than just fill it with old buddies, he went out and hired a riser from a completely different system as his offensive coordinator (Thomas Brown, from the House of McVay). He hired young (Josh McCown), old (Jim Caldwell), and a few position coaches who are among the best in the league at their jobs (James Campen, Shawn Jefferson, Duce Staley). Now, getting all those new parts to mesh with a new quarterback will take time, but they're building this thing for the long haul.
He also has the ability to bring the temperature down, which is handy during an 0-2 start when you're No. 1 overall pick is hurt or when you're trying to build something lasting. In short, he's an adult. That's helpful.
The defensive numbers look pretty good for Carolina so far; is that unit good enough to keep the Panthers in games as the offense finds its way?
Gantt: As long as they don't keep losing one of their stars every week to injury, they should be OK. Cornerback Jaycee Horn going down in the opener with a hamstring, which will keep him out a month or so, was bad enough. Losing team captain Shaq Thompson to a season-ending broken ankle last week was a gut-punch for the team. He's the conscience of that defense, and even though backup Kamu Grugier-Hill is good, there's an emotional toll to losing those two in back-to-back weeks.
The thing they can do is get after quarterbacks. With Brian Burns and Justin Houston on the edges, and Derrick Brown throwing dudes around inside, and Frankie Luvu coming from god-knows-where on any given play, they have the ability to keep quarterbacks off balance.
The secondary is good, with Vonn Bell paying immediate dividends, and when Horn returns, that's a very talented group.
What player or players for the Panthers could be an X-factor in this game?
Gantt: Sounds goofy to say this, but the honest answer is probably the quarterback. With Young not expected to play, the question is whether backup Andy Dalton can spread the ball around enough to get them through. Dalton is smart and a good decision-maker (he completed 66.7 percent of his passes and had a 95.2 rating as the Saints starter last year, and has 100 more touchdowns than interceptions in his 13 NFL seasons). Also, he's almost 36. But he is 3-1 all-time against the Seahawks, so that's something, I guess — even though that one last year was kind of the Taysom Hill show (Sorry, too soon?).
What matchup(s) are you most looking forward to seeing on Sunday?
Gantt: I'm here for the old guys, and as you well know, having Bobby Wagner back in the middle is a huge boost for the Seahawks' defense. Regardless of which quarterback is playing, the Panthers need to run the ball well to have a chance here. They did in Atlanta, with 154 yards on the ground. That disappeared last week, with just 66 rushing yards on non-Bryce scrambles, but it was more about the volume than the production. They didn't run enough, or for enough yards. If the Panthers can keep some balance on offense with the run game, it might open some things up downfield. It's not the same physical style the Panthers were using last year, but between Miles Sanders and Chuba Hubbard, they have a couple of backs with burst.
The Seahawks and Panthers face off on Sunday, Sept. 24, 2023. Kickoff is set for 1:05 p.m. PT. Take a look back through history at the Seahawks' matchups against the Panthers.