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Cardinals Pose Interesting Matchup For Panthers' Defense

Carolina might have to sit talented players to counter '10' personnel

WR Larry Fitzgerald found room to run against the Baltimore secondary on Sunday.
WR Larry Fitzgerald found room to run against the Baltimore secondary on Sunday.

The Panthers have an embarrassment of riches in their front seven.

The defensive line boasts Gerald McCoy, Kawann Short and Dontari Poe. The edge rushers are Mario Addison and Brian Burns (plus Bruce Irvin when healthy). The inside linebacker duo of Luke Kuechly and Shaq Thompson is among the NFL's best.

In an ideal world, Carolina keeps them all on the field together, but is that possible against the Cardinals? Coach Kliff Kingsbury has used '10' personnel the majority of the time through two games, which spreads the field with four wide receivers.

The Panthers didn't use a dime subpackage at any point in 2018, but went with a 3-2-6 alignment on some third downs in the season opener against the Rams. It may be something they must revisit against Kingsbury.

"(The defense must) come up with a good, solid plan for that particular look," Carolina defensive coordinator Eric Washington said, per Panthers.com. "They use it a lot, and it's a typical spread concept. Spread you out, get certain people (in favorable matchups). You have to address all of the different formations and receivers and still be solid if they decide to run the football."

The Ravens used a lot of dime to combat the Cardinals, but even so, gave up 349 yards passing on 40 attempts. Cardinals defensive coordinator Vance Joseph explained the bind defenses are put in against '10' personnel.

"You're lucky to have two (dependable) corners," Joseph said. "If you have four, you're very lucky. Most teams don't have four. You can't pay four good players like that, especially at corner."

If Carolina plays a 3-2-6 subpackage, defensive backs Ross Cockrell and Javien Elliott would replace two linebackers/defensive linemen on the field (the decision could be made easier if Short doesn't play due to a shoulder injury).

Most teams are well-equipped to play base defense and nickel in the present-day NFL, but dime is a bit trickier. It will be interesting to see what kind of personnel Carolina uses on Sunday.

"You can sit your best players when it comes to four wides, but you don't want to do that," Joseph said.

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