NFL News & Analysis

NFL Preseason Week 1 Game Recap: Carolina Panthers 23, Washington Commanders 21

Landover, Maryland, USA; Washington Commanders quarterback Carson Wentz (11) is pressured by Carolina Panthers defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos (97) during the first half at FedExField. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

The Carolina Panthers defeated the Washington Commanders, 23-21, having lost the lead late in the game only to re-take it with a winning field goal at the death.

CAROLINA PANTHERS

Graphic via PFF's Nathan Jahnke

Quarterbacks

  • Baker Mayfield got the start and led the Panthers to points, making some plays to keep the drive alive. He went 4-of-7 for 45 yards and was 2-of-3 on third down.
  • Sam Darnold was next up and ended a drive with a touchdown pass to Rashard Higgins before Phillip Walker took over.
  • Rookie Matt Corral played late in the game but was under siege by the Washington defensive line. He completed one of his nine attempts, and penalties by the Commanders were largely responsible for his “game-winning drive.”

Running Backs

  • Chuba Hubbard and D’Onta Foreman evenly split the 12 snaps with the first-team offense. 
  • Hubbard had 11 yards on four carries, seven of which came after contact.

Receivers

  • Robbie Anderson was on the field for three snaps with the starters, two of which were passing plays, and one of those featured a deep shot 37 yards downfield. Mayfield looks set to try and rediscover Anderson’s deep ability this year.
  • Rashard Higgins played the most snaps (10) with the starting unit, and his touchdown won’t hurt his case to find some playing time this season even when players like D.J. Moore return.

Offensive Line

  • Rookie first-rounder Ikem Ekwonu played 12 pass-blocking snaps and allowed one pressure in a solid but unspectacular debut.
  • Brady Christensen played 28 snaps in his quest to lock down a starting spot in his second season. He didn’t allow any pressure.

Defensive Line

  • The defensive line featured little in the way of playing time for starters, with Brian Burns rushing the passer twice and free agent acquisition Matt Ioannidis just five times.
  • It also featured little in the way of pressure, as Washington got the ball in the air quickly. Nobody on the defensive line recorded more than one pressure.

Linebackers

  • Brandon Smith led the linebackers in playing time with 27 snaps on defense, 17 of which were in coverage as Washington passed to try and come back from a deficit. 
  • Cory Littleton played only seven snaps but will end up with the best grade of the group thanks to being in on Antonio Gibson’s fumble, knocking the ball loose as he went to the ground.

Secondary

  • The starters played just five snaps in coverage, with neither Donte Jackson nor C.J. Henderson seeing a target.
  • Chris Westry had three targets, giving up a catch each time for 39 yards, all of which went for first downs.

WASHINGTON COMMANDERS

Graphic via PFF's Nathan Jahnke

Quarterbacks

  • Carson Wentz played an extensive 22 snaps to start the game, completing 10 of his 13 attempts for 74 yards. His average depth of target was a very conservative 6.0 yards downfield, and he generated 5.7 yards per attempt.
  • Rookie Sam Howell entered in the third quarter and impressed. In addition to his 143 passing yards, he produced two rushing touchdowns and a go-ahead two-point conversion late in the game.

Running Backs

  • Antonio Gibson fumbled the ball early on one of his two carries, opening up a chance for rookie Brian Robinson Jr.
  • Robinson handled six carries for 26 yards, 20 of which came after contact. He also scored a rushing touchdown and will be pressing Gibson for playing time.

Receivers

  • First-round rookie Jahan Dotson played all 22 snaps that Carson Wentz was on the field, but he didn’t see a target in the game.
  • Terry McLaurin and Curtis Samuel each saw the majority of snaps with Wentz at quarterback and each had two targets. McLaurin almost made a play on an underthrown deep ball in addition to his one catch for 16 yards.

Offensive Line

  • Washington’s offensive line was excellent almost regardless of who was in the lineup. The only starter to surrender pressure was Keith Ismael.
  • Both Wentz and Taylor Heinicke had extremely fast average times to throw (2.4 seconds or faster), giving the Washington line a relatively easy task.

Defensive Line

  • Chase Young is still out, but Daron Payne, Jonathan Allen and Montez Sweat each played and rushed the passer at least nine times. All three players had multiple pressures.
  • Rookie Phidarian Mathis played 17 snaps, all but two of which were rushing the passer. He wasn’t able to generate much heat on the quarterback, ending with just one hurry.

Linebackers

  • Washington played just four linebackers in the game, with Cole Holcomb and Jamin Davis giving way to David Mayo and Khaleke Hudson.
  • Holcomb had a pair of defensive stops in the run game, and Mayo was the only linebacker to allow a first down in coverage.

Secondary

  • The starting cornerbacks played meaningful snaps early in the game, with Kendall Fuller giving up two catches from three targets for 16 yards and a touchdown. 
  • Danny Johnson played the most in the Washington secondary and saw the most passes into his coverage (five). He allowed four catches for 83 yards.
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