• 59°

Panthers’ 0-2 start ignites ‘tank for Trevor’ talk

By STEVE REED
AP Sports Writer

CHARLOTTE — Two games into the season the “tank for Trevor” talk has already begun in earnest in Carolina.

The Panthers have stumbled to an 0-2 start and local sports talk radio is abuzz about how they should lose as many games as possible in an effort to secure Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence with the No. 1 pick in next year’s NFL draft.

The loss of All-Pro running back Christian McCaffrey, the team’s most productive offensive player, for “multiple weeks” to a high right ankle sprain only added to that sentiment. McCaffrey left Carolina’s 31-17 loss to Tampa Bay in the fourth quarter and did not return. High ankle sprains are generally cause players to miss four-to-six weeks.

Players, of course, are having none of the talk about tanking.

“It’s not a rebuilding year,” cornerback Donte Jackson said. “We’re trying to take this thing to February, we’re trying to take this thing to the big dance, so it’s never ever a thought in our minds in the locker room that this is a rebuilding year, or that this is whatever people like to say, a tank year. It’s none of that to us.”

The reality is the Panthers may not have enough talent to compete, particularly on defense where they start three rookies.

Panthers first-year coach Matt Rhule is a big believer in the phrase “trust the process.” He certainly knew it was never going to be easy putting a competitive team on the field after losing 57% of last year’s roster, including a number of star players: Cam Newton, Luke Kuechly, Greg Olsen, Mario Addison and James Bradberry. The wacky offseason due to the COVID-19 pandemic has only made the task more challenging.

But while Rhule wasn’t thrilled with his team’s performance on Sunday, he does see a never-give-up mentality among his players — which could pay off down the road.

“With all that being said, nine penalties, four giveaways and it’s a one-score game in the fourth quarter,” Rhule said. “We have to find a way to overcome that and build off the competitive nature that we seem to have.”

WHAT’S WORKING
Newcomer Robby Anderson is integrating himself well into Carolina’s offense with back-to-back 100-yard receiving games to open the season. The former Jets wide receiver caught nine of 10 balls thrown his way on Sunday for 109 yards, although he did fumble once.

WHAT NEEDS HELP
Carolina’s run defense has been abysmal, a carryover from last season. The Panthers allowed a league-high 32 touchdowns rushing in 2019 and have already surrendered six this season. That puts them on pace to give up an NFL-record 48 this year.

STOCK UP
Cornerback Rasul Douglas is looking like a real find. He was claimed off waivers four days before the start of the regular season and forced to step in and play every down in Week 1 after Jackson went down with an ankle injury. On Sunday, Douglas got the start over rookie Troy Pride Jr. and made a team-high seven tackles.

STOCK DOWN
The Panthers drafted Derrick Brown No. 7 overall to make plays, not to cost them games. But the rookie defensive tackle had two bad penalties Sunday. He was flagged for unnecessary roughness after the Panthers appeared to stop Tampa Bay on a third-and-9 in the red zone in the first quarter. The penalty gave the Bucs a first down and Ronald Jones scored on the next play for a 7-0 lead. Brown was flagged in the third quarter for illegal hands to face on third-and-11, giving Tampa Bay another first down. Brown finished the game with one tackle.

INJURED
The Panthers will turn to Mike Davis at running back with McCaffrey out for multiple weeks. Rhule said he considers Davis a “starting running back in the National Football League” and praised him for his performance in training camp.

KEY NUMBER
10 — The Panthers’ current losing streak dating back to last season. Carolina’s last win was Nov. 3, 2019 vs. the Titans.

NEXT STEPS
Aside from dealing with the McCaffrey injury, the Panthers need to make sure they don’t dig themselves a big hole. In the first two games they’ve battled back from double-digit deficits to make it a close game with strong play late in the third quarter, but haven’t been able to pull out wins.
___
More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

Comments

Crime

Mother, son killed in weekend homicide

Ask Us

Ask Us: What are plans if hospitals reach COVID-19 capacity?

Elections

County tops 38,000 ballots cast during early, absentee voting

Elections

Political Notebook: Rowan Board of Elections receives more than 60,000 pens for voters

Nation/World

New storm Zeta a hurricane threat to Mexico, US Gulf Coast

Crime

Blotter: Teenager charged with felony firearm and drug offenses

Elections

GOP slowly gaining nationwide as early vote total surpasses 2016

Local

BlockWork returns for 10th year of beautification

Local

Big Chili Cook Off changes format, sells 250 tickets

Lifestyle

Kiwanis Club names five recipients of Centennial Awards

Lifestyle

Rowan County bridge dedicated to local police officer who made ultimate sacrifice

Local

Camp Barnhardt to host drive-in movie, trick-or-treat

Business

Spicing things up: Mise En Place food truck finds success serving Indian fare

Lifestyle

Church foundation distributes record amount of money

Business

Biz Roundup: ‘Forward Rowan’ continues to draw support, raise money

Education

School board set to vote on Faith, Enochville closures Monday

Health

Local health officials worry pandemic will cause long-term effects for children’s health

Local

Ordinance change needed to address night train noise in Salisbury

Elections

Election 2020: Heggins, Warren talk racial injustice, economy

News

Cunningham keeps low in NC Senate race marked by his affair

BREAKING NEWS

Two bodies found in home on Lincolnton Road

Crime

Man arrested in Kannapolis plotted to kill Biden, found with guns, explosive material, court documents state

Local

Flagger clipped by vehicle, taken to hospital with minor injuries

Coronavirus

County finishes week with five deaths, one of 36 to receive letter from state health officials