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Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Redskins - Panthers: 5 things to watch for vs. Carolina

October 13, 2018 - 11:53 am

By Ben Krimmel

The Washington Redskins are looking to rebound from an embarrassing loss in New Orleans with a win against another NFC South foe, the Carolina Panthers. 

On Friday, Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier gave five things to watch for in Sunday's game. 

Graham Gano's big leg

Former Redskins kicker Graham Gano has found a home in Carolina. Gano hasn't missed a kick this season and nailed a 63-yard field goal as time expired to beat the Giants last Sunday, his fifth field goal from beyond 40 yards this season.

"Yeah, he's good. It is weird, that he's good, and nobody seemed to recognize that he had all the tools to be really good and people wanted him out of town," Rouhier said.

Panthers bad red zone defense

"Carolina's defense is really bad when it comes to keeping teams out of the end zone in red zone and goal-to-go," Paulsen said "They don't keep you from touchdowns, they don't force field goals."

The Panthers defense ranks 31st in the NFL in red zone defense (allowing a touchdown on 89 percent of opportunities) and ranks 30th when defending from inside their own 10-yard line. Advanced metrics site FootballOutsiders.com ranked Carolina as the 26th overall defense in the league. 

Cam Newton turnover struggles

The Panthers pro bowl quarterback has turned the ball over four times in the last two games, including two interceptions against the Giants.

"I think he's going to give you a chance or two this week," Paulsen​ said, "but Cam Newton has never thrown an interception against the Redskins."

Newton has thrown nine touchdowns, rushed for two more, and has a 115.4 QB rating in four games against Washington, all Carolina wins.

"The way to get him, I think, to get that interception is that interior pressure," Rouhier said.

Christian McCaffrey is a tremendous talent

The second-year running back out of Stanford had an underwhelming rookie campaign, but is off to a fast start in 2018. McCaffrey is averaging 5.2 yards per attempt on 63 carries and 7.1 yards per reception. 

"He is outstanding. This is a pro bowl talent," Paulsen said. "This is a guy who is ultimately going to go down as one of the best weapons, maybe, of his era if his trajectory continues." 

Despite his meager touchdown total – just two in four games – McCaffrey is a huge part of the Panthers offense. 

Panthers' No. 1 rushing offense in NFL

"No team averages more rushing yards per game than Carolina," Paulsen said.

In this pass-heavy era, the Panthers are nearly a 50-50 offense, with 130 pass attempts to 122 rushes in their first four games. In addition to McCaffrey, Newton has put up 165 yards on the ground and three touchdowns on 36 carries. As a team, Carolina is averaging five yards per attempt and 154 per game.

This could be a big issue for the the Redskins, who have struggled at stopping the run. Football Outsiders' ranked Washington as the third worst team in the NFL.

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