The Washington Redskins will kick off the John Beck era and look to get back on the winning track on Sunday following last week’s loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. This week they pay the Carolina Panthers a visit, and will try to avoid suffering a second straight loss to a one-win team.
The Panthers aren’t the typical 1-5 squad however, boasting a powerful offense that can put points on the board in a variety of ways.
Carolina’s main problems have been turnovers and an inability to stop their opponents.
The same was said of the Eagles last week, however, and Philadelphia did better in both of those areas and topped Washington.
Here are five story lines to follow in the Week 7 matchup between the Redskins and Panthers:
1.) Beck’s opportunity – John Beck’s long wait finally comes to an end as he readies to make his first start since his rookie year in 2007. Rex Grossman couldn’t take care of the ball, turning over the ball 11 times in five games, and so Mike Shanahan sat him down and now hopes Beck can make a difference with smarter play, a more accurate arm and better mobility. The coach believes Beck can play although the Dolphins and Ravens both deemed him incapable. Can the former BYU star prove Shanahan right?
2.) Patchwork offensive line – Last week, the Redskins lost starting left guard Kory Lichtensteiger for the season (torn ACL), and starting left tackle Trent Williams for at least a couple of weeks (high ankle sprain). Veteran Sean Locklear steps in at left tackle and center Will Montgomery slides over the left guard. First-year pro Erik Cook takes over at center. The Redskins have struggled to establish a run game even with their starters. Will the replacements be able to open holes for the backs and also keep defenders off of Beck?
3.) The Cam Newton show – The rookie quarterback can do it all, and defensive coordinator Jim Haslett has noticed that nothing seems to faze him. The Redskins will try to keep Newton in the pocket so he doesn’t hurt them with his scrambling ability, and they’ll try to mix up their coverages to confuse him. Newton has put up numbers each time out this season, but he also has committed turnovers (throwing nine interceptions), and wins have eluded him. Can the Redskins hold him in check, or will Newton and Co. put it all together this week?
4.) Rushing attacks – The Panthers excel in this department, boasting two strong backs in addition to Newton. Washington would like to produce here, but has yet to find a way to consistently run the ball. To have a chance in this game, Washington’s defense must keep DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart in check. Meanwhile, Ryan Torain, Tim Hightower and Roy Helu must finally find a rhythm. Torain had one monster game, but didn’t get many opportunities in his follow-up attempt last week. Hightower has been banged up, and Helu’s chance have been limited. One or all of them have to produce on Sunday to help ease pressure on Beck.
5.) Turnover battle – Both of these teams have struggled to hang onto the ball on offense, and the squad that manages to take care of the ball the best likely will come out on top. Haslett said he’s bothered by the fact that his unit has only eight takeaways this season (five interceptions and three fumble recoveries). With Washington’s offense struggling, the coach said the defense must step up and force more turnovers and set Beck and Co. with better field position.