Behind Enemy Lines: Previewing Week 11 with Washington Wire

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·4 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

The Carolina Panthers have seen plenty of the Washington Football Team of late — Sunday’s meeting will be their sixth over the past seven seasons.

To prepare ourselves for yet another somewhat familiar clash, we asked Washington Wire managing editor Bryan Manning to catch us up on the Panthers’ Week 11 opponent.

Panthers Wire: You might be able to say Panthers fans are pretty well-acquainted with Ron Rivera—nine years, three division titles, an NFC crown. But what has he brought over and meant to Washington now almost two years into his run?

Washington Wire: Leadership.

We hear a lot of talk about culture, and while culture is important, some things haven’t changed, but I don’t blame Rivera. He inherited a mess, and the mess he inherited had nothing to do with the players or the salary cap. His players respect him. Fans appreciate him.

However, one thing people worry about is perhaps he has too much power. We shall see if that holds true. But Rivera was the perfect hire at the right time.

PW: And with Rivera also came, of course, a carryover of some talent from Carolina. That includes quarterback Taylor Heinicke, who spent 2018 with the Panthers. What has he shown you through his nine games in 2021?

WW: Heinicke is a playmaker. The coaching staff tried to turn him into a game manager, but that doesn’t work.

He needs to be able to use his legs to make plays. He doesn’t have a big arm and isn’t always accurate, but he often keeps Washington in games.

I believe his future is as a high-quality backup who can win games. That means he will have a long career and make a lot of money.

Not bad for someone who was almost done with football 13 months ago.

PW: Luckily for the sake of the incredible moment we’re currently in, Washington seemingly passed on the prospect of signing quarterback Cam Newton earlier in the year. Do you think that was a mistake on their part and was there a clamoring for Cam amongst the Washington faithful?

WW: I believe Washington fans felt Cam’s best years were behind him for the most part. Whether that is true or not remains to be seen.

When Ryan Fitzpatrick went down, Rivera and his staff really wanted to see what Heinicke could do over a prolonged period. I believe they felt Fitzpatrick would return, lessening the need for another veteran.

I think Rivera is still a big fan of Cam, but he realizes he isn’t the future, so he just wanted to see what Heinicke could be given a large sample size.

PW: In a real bummer, Washington will be without their two stud defensive ends in Chase Young and Montez Sweat. How do you see, with the particular strength of that unit taking such a big hit, them moving forward at the spot not only in this Week 11 matchup — but for the rest of their season?

WW: It’s tough, for sure. However, Young and Sweat only combined for 5.5 sacks halfway through the season. That’s remarkable considering what was expected.

But their presence will be missed. Washington has several young, less heralded players all vying for time. None can match Sweat or Young’s power and athleticism. The defensive coaching staff will have to be more creative in sending pressure, something Rivera alluded to in his presser this week.

PW: Since they’ll be down a few key names, give us an under-the-radar name or two we should keep our eyes on for Sunday.

WW: You’re right. Washington will be down several key performers on Sunday.

But one name you should know is wide receiver/returner DeAndre Carter. Carter earned a spot with a strong summer and he has yet to slow down. With injuries to Curtis Samuel, Cam Sims and Dyami Brown, Carter got more time at receiver, and he’s proven to be Washington’s second-best receiver in 2021. He’s small and dynamic, can line up in the slot or outside, and has scored touchdowns in each of the last two games.

Running back J.D. McKissic is another name to watch, but I don’t really see McKissic as under the radar. He is one of the NFL’s top receiving backs. When McKissic is heavily involved in Washington’s offense, the unit is better as a whole.

Related

Washington HC Ron Rivera: Panthers 'very bold' to sign QB Cam Newton

Related

Steve Smith on Washington WR Curtis Samuel: 'Y'all overpaid, good luck'

List

Biggest storylines for Panthers vs. Washington in Week 11