It is easy to think that the young Carolina Panthers are mainly to blame for the 300 receiving yards that Julio Jones racked up on Sunday. Afterall, expectations were very low for them coming into the season. After taking a look at the game video, there may be an even worse, more pressing issue.
Here is a breakdown of all Julio Jones 12 receptions and the yards each yielded for the Falcons. (300 total yards)
James Bradberry – 3 reception for 46 yards
Luke Kuechly – 1 reception for 18 yards (near interception)
Daryl Worley – 1 reception for 43 yards
Bene Benwikere – 7 receptions for 193 yards
This seems like a pretty condemning review of the Carolina Panthers corners, and Benwikere in particular. In Benwikere’s defense, he was the only Panthers player to cause incompletions when thrown to Jones. Those plays prevented at least another 60 yards to his total.
However, if you take a look at the receptions and take note of the ones where receivers received no help from safeties, it gets even worse.
Yards with no help from the Carolina Panthers safeties – 4 receptions for 203 yards
This is an even more troubling number, in my opinion. It was no secret who the Atlanta Falcons number one target was going into this game. Ask any average fantasy football player and they would tell you it was Julio Jones, all day long. With that being the case, how on earth does Julio Jones rack up over 200 yards with no safety help?
We expected the Panthers corners to start slow this season, but not the safeties. So whats up?
Answer: Poor communication and poor play.
In two of the receptions, the corner was simply left completely alone to cover Julio Jones. This should never have happened, and I think the Panthers coaching staff would agree. As such, I can only assume there was a miscommunication on the field or the safeties simply had no idea what their responsibility was. Either way, it isn’t a good look.
The other two receptions were made worse by poor safety play. Tre Boston was out of position for a 53 yard gain. Michael Griffin took himself out of the play with a poor angle on the final back breaking 75 yard touchdown.
In short, while the Panthers corners did not play well, the safeties played arguably worse. Add the two together and what do you get? 503 passing yards for Matt Ryan.