The Panthers have the interior line to bother the Cardinals
The main purpose of the Panthers’ pass rush will be to force Carson Palmer out of the pocket and into poor decisions. The passing offense is the Cardinals’ biggest strength, and eliminating this strength is what will allow the Panthers to control the pace of the game.
Palmer is at his worst when he is under pressure and forced to move from his spot in the pocket. The Cardinals’ offensive line has allowed the fourth most combined quarterback hits, sacks and pressures in 2015, at a total of 213. A large part of this is the length of the routes the Cardinals run, but some of this is on an offensive line that has been inconsistent with their protection.
Palmer’s efficiency plummets when he is under pressure, and the Cardinals won’t be able to execute their offense, let alone get out to an early lead, if Palmer is not at his sharpest.
The best way to flush Palmer out of the pocket will be to pressure him up the middle. The key player for this task will be Kawann Short, whose penetration inside was a huge factor in the team’s halftime 31-0 lead on the Seattle Seahawks last week. The 6’3″, 315-pound Short works best using his baffling speed and agility to quickly rip past slower and less athletic interior linemen. But he also has the strength to separate from those linemen on bull rushes; with those two elements combined he can quickly close in on the quarterback.
Last week he was able to bother Russell Wilson, a quarterback much more competent at thriving on constant pressure and forced roll outs (to be fair, thanks to his line he has SO much practice). Against the Cardinals, Short will have an easier target once he gets past the offensive line.
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