The Redskins seek revenge from a 2016 Monday Night Football defeat from the Carolina Panthers in Week 6 at FedExField in Landover, Md.
Carolina Key Additions: Signed RB C.J. Anderson, CB Ross Cockrell, OT Jeremiah Sirles, S Da'Norris Searcy, WR Jarius Wright, NT Dontari Poe, WR Torrey Smith (via trade)
Carolina Key Additions: G Andrew Norwell, RB Jonathan Stewart, S Kurt Coleman, DE Charles Johnson, DT Star Lotulelei, TE Ed Dickson, WR Charles Johnson, WR Kaelin Clay
The Redskins host the Panthers after a game two years ago where the Redskins had to claw their way back in home action but ultimately fell short. Even though the Redskins lost 26-15, the positive turned to tight end Vernon Davis, who became the 12th tight end in NFL history to record 500 career receptions after his second catch of the day.
While Carolina managed to earn a spot in last year’s playoffs, the running game was not able to bail out the struggles through the air in a divisional round loss against the Saints. Despite the Panthers finishing fourth in the NFL in rushing yards during the 2017 regular season, they were 28th in the league in passing yards.
Finding depth in the wide receiver corps was the primary focus during the offseason, using the 2018 NFL Draft and free agency to fill those voids. Using the 24th-overall pick, the Panthers selected 2017 Big Ten Receiver of the Year D.J. Moore. The former Maryland wide receiver set the Terrapins' record for most receptions in a single season with 80 and lead them to the Quick Lane Bowl as a sophomore.
After trading Kelvin Benjamin to the Buffalo Bills at the end of October, veteran options were needed for quarterback Cam Newton. Trading for Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Torrey Smith should help in that area, who has totaled for 39 touchdowns in his career. Not only is the eight-year veteran coming off winning a Super Bowl victory, he has also put together almost 5,000 receiving yards during his career to date.
The Panthers also added seven-year veteran Jarius Wright from the Vikings to the passing game. Wright’s statistics may have been overlooked in Minnesota because of the emergence of Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen, but Carolina looks to use him in a greater capacity with their desire to upgrade in that area.
Not only did the Panthers improve Newton’s options through the air, the running game got stronger. Running back Christian McCaffrey stepped up in the passing game, coming up with 651 receiving yards and five touchdowns. However, he ran for less than 500 yards and only scored twice on the run.
Adding C.J. Anderson from Denver makes Carolina’s running game more dynamic. The six-year veteran is coming off his best season with the Broncos, rushing for more than 1,000 yards. Anderson’s presence allows Carolina to use a top-10 rusher as the focal point of the running game while using McCaffrey more to his strengths of coming down with receptions in addition to using his strength for short-yardage situations.
Having the third best defense against the run after only giving up 88.1 rushing yards per game, the Panthers’ defense against opposing passing games needed to improve to make them the most dominant defense in the NFL.
The signing of five-year veteran cornerback Ross Cockrell should help a pass defense that ranked 18th in the league in 2017. Playing in every regular season game the last two seasons for the Pittsburgh Steelers and the New York Giants, the former Duke defensive back combined for 112 tackles in those campaigns.
Carolina added speed in their defensive secondary by selecting former LSU cornerback Donte Jackson with the 55th-overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. Posting 49 stops and breaking up 10 passes in his final college season, the 5-foot-11 defensive back wowed the Panthers with a 4.32 second finish in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine.
One reason for the Panthers’ playoff appearance in 2017 was their success on the road, posting a 5-3 record in games away from Charlotte. Washington, meanwhile, has struggled against Carolina in recent years, losing the last five contests but will be seeking to rebound this year.
Having a shorter week of preparation after playing Monday Night Football against the Saints six days prior presents a challenge for the Redskins, who look for their first victory over the Panthers since Week 6 of the 2006 season.