Panthers Rivera: It is not about draft picks
Grading the Carolina Panthers for Sunday’s 33-14 win against New Orleans:
A Quarterback: Third-string rookie undrafted free agent quarterback Kyle Allen did an admirable job in his first NFL start. He was 16 of 27 for 228 yards, two passing touhdowns and ran one in himself. He wasn’t intercepted. He had to leave the game in the fourth quarter after taking a brutal hit.
B Running backs: Backup running back Cameron Artis-Payne took the bulk of Sunday’s workload, rushing for 56 yards and a touchdown.
A Receivers: Carolina’s young receivers, and rookie tight end Ian Thomas, showed their potential. Thomas was effective as a red zone threat and second-year wideout Curtis Samuel drew a crucial pass interference penalty on third down.
D- Offensive line: A tough way for center Ryan Kalil to finish his career. Allen took some brutal shots from unblocked rushers, including one that was game-ending. A serious overhaul is needed on the line this spring.
D Defensive line: Carolina’s defensive line did what they could to get Julius Peppers his 160th sack, but he was a half-sack short. He did have a big pass breakup and the line’s pressure came in spurts. The Panthers allowed third-string running back Dwayne Washington to rush for 108 yards. Another overhaul is coming here in the spring.
B Linebackers: Luke Kuechly was inactive and finished the year with 130 tackles, 20 for loss. Thomas Davis didn’t leave the game until late, and rookie Jermaine Carter Jr. played significant snaps.
A Secondary: Physical coverage and tackling cornerbacks were the name of Carolina’s secondary’s game on Sunday night. Rookie corner Donte Jackson led the team in tackles (eight) and corner James Bradberry was not far behind (seven). Rookie safety Rashaan Gaulden saw the most playing time he’s had all season and was good against the run while also breaking up a pass. Nickel Captain Munnerlyn also broke up a pass.
B Special teams: This grade is only brought down because of a missed extra point by reserve kicker Chandler Catanzaro.
B-plus Coaching: Allen’s first drive was scripted well by the Panthers’ staff. They also did a nice job calling the defensive line’s plays to try to get Peppers his last sack. A break in a seven-game losing streak means higher grades for everybody.