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Game Preview: Week 12 Vs. Panthers


2011 Record: 6-10

Overall Series Record: 5-2

Record at Lincoln Financial Field: 2-1

Last Meeting: September 13, 2009 – Eagles 30, Panthers 10

Game Recap: In the 2009 season opener, the Eagles thoroughly stomped the Panthers thanks to an 85-yard DeSean Jackson punt return for a touchdown and a fumble return for a touchdown by Victor Abiamiri. But the day ended on a sour note as the Panthers injured Donovan McNabb on a cheap shot to the ribs after a 3-yard touchdown scramble. That, though, opened the door for Kevin Kolb's emergence as a viable starting quarterback.

Key Offseason Moves
In: LB Luke Kuechly, G Amini Silatolu, RB Mike Tolbert, C Geoff Hangartner, S Haruki Nakamura
Out: LB Dan Connor, G Travelle Wharton, G Mackenzy Bernadeau, G Geoff Schwartz

In what promises to be an electrifying, high-profile matchup, the Carolina Panthers come to Philadelphia in late November for a Monday Night Football showdown with the Eagles. The reason that this contest was handpicked for national television is obvious; it's a showdown of two of the most dynamic quarterbacks in the league.

It's a familiar story isn't it? A quarterback is selected No. 1 overall and enters the league by storm thanks not only to his passing ability but to his talented rushing legs as well. Once upon a time, in 2001, that was Michael Vick. Last year, it was Cam Newton, who thrilled Panthers fans with an outstanding debut season in which he played all 16 games, winning six, and threw for 4,051 yards, 21 touchdowns and 17 interceptions while adding a record 14 rushing touchdowns.

Newton has Panthers fans and the rest of the league excited about his future, but the Panthers still have plenty of work to do to become a playoff contender. Much of that improvement is needed on the offensive line, where the team had significant turnover this offseason, including the addition of second-round pick Amini Silatolu, who is expected to start immediately at left guard.

Luckily, Newton has plenty of options on which to lean when it comes to handing the ball off. Already blessed with two quality running backs in DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, the Panthers added the versatile Mike Tolbert, who impressed especially in the red zone during his time with the San Diego Chargers. With Steve Smith dangerous as ever on the outside, the Panthers will present plenty of options to concern Eagles defensive coordinator Juan Castillo. Luckily, because of the Monday night timing, Castillo will have an extra day to prepare.

Meanwhile, the Panthers' defense is under a two-year remodeling that began last offseason when they hired former Eagles defensive coordinator Sean McDermott as their defensive coordinator. Last year, the Panthers ranked 28th in total defense, 27th in points allowed, 25th in rushing yards allowed per play and 32nd in passing yards allowed per play. Needless to say, there is work to be done – work that began with the selection of Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly with the ninth overall pick. A middle linebacker in college, Kuechly is expected to begin his career as the starting weakside linebacker with veteran Jon Beason holding down the middle.

Charles Johnson is a proven pass rusher while Terrell McClain, Ron Edwards and Sione Fua form a promising defensive tackle rotation. Beason and Thomas Davis have been mainstays for the Panthers at linebacker for a combined 14 seasons, but are said to be feeling the wear and tear of their time in the league. As evidenced by their numbers against the pass, the secondary certainly needs some work, with only cornerback Chris Gamble a surefire starter. While the Eagles look primed to take advantage on paper, never discount how much things can change between the offseason and 12 weeks into the regular season.

That said, if you want to look for one edge for the Eagles, consider that the Panthers, a warm weather team who plays in a division with two dome teams and a team from Florida, will be traveling up to Philadelphia on what is hopefully a chilly Monday night under the Lincoln Financial Field lights. As Andy Reid likes to say, "It's a beautiful thing."

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