DE ADAM CARRIKER: Carriker’s starting role appeared to be in jeopardy during the preseason because rookie Jarvis Jenkins was so impressive, but he has thrived in his second year in the 3-4 scheme. After Jenkins tore his ACL during the preseason, Carriker has become an indispensable member of the defense. Most notably, his 4½ sacks are tied with OLB Brian Orakpo for the team lead.
On the sack he split with SS LaRon Landry in the first quarter, he got his hands into RG Geoff Hangartner’s chest and drove him back all the way to QB Cam Newton. Carriker is one of the strongest players on the team, so he’s able to control most linemen if his technique is sound. Carriker was unblocked on his second-quarter sack. How generous of Panthers RT Byron Bell.
Carriker also played relatively well in run defense. He occupied two offensive lineman on a third-quarter run by RB DeAngelo Williams, allowing FS Reed Doughty to make the tackle for only a 1-yard gain. He later helped keep LB London Fletcher clean in a nickel formation, and Fletcher stopped RB Jonathan Stewart’s carry at three yards.
Smith turned Wilson around on a 33-yard catch near the left sideline in the third quarter. Smith threatened Wilson vertically, and when Wilson turned to run with him, Smith broke his route toward the sideline. Wilson recovered to make a play on the ball, but Smith’s hands were too strong in the air.
On the next drive, Smith converted second-and-17 twice against Wilson. On the first play, Smith got an inside release against Wilson’s press coverage and proceeded to run away from him on a dig route. Wilson was on Smith’s heels, but Newton made a perfect throw out in front of Smith. Seven plays later, Smith ran by Wilson on a go route, and Newton again put the ball in a perfect spot. FS Reed Doughty didn’t get over in time to help.
Wilson struggled on some running plays, too. He got sucked inside and lost the edge on RB Jonathan Stewart’s 29-yard run in the first half. He later missed a tackle on RB DeAngelo Williams’ 8-yard run that set up first-and-goal in the third quarter.
CB KEVIN BARNES: Barnes had a rough day in the secondary, too. Man, the Redskins really could have used Carlos Rogers’ cover skills on Sunday. Too often Panthers receivers released freely. WR Brandon LaFell caught an easy 2-yard touchdown against Barnes by quickly sprinting out against his inside leverage in the left slot. Given Barnes’ technique, he had no chance against QB Cam Newton’s timing and accuracy. All of the defensive backs played that inside leverage on the play, though, and I’m curious to know what Redskins coaches like about that considering how easily Newton connected with LaFell.
Barnes was caught in an awkward spot on first-and-10 from Carolina’s 47 in the third quarter. Before the snap, he dropped from the left slot to the safety position and played what appeared to be Cover 2. When LaFell stemmed his route to the sideline and went deep against OLB Brian Orakpo, the Redskins were at a major speed disadvantage. Barnes was late getting over after freezing when WR Legedu Naanee broke in on a post. It looked like the Panthers had a great play called for the look the Redskins threw at them.
Barnes also missed tackling Newton for a short gain on his 25-yard scramble on third-and-9 on the third play of the game. After CB Phillip Buchanon got back on the field on Sunday, I wonder if the Redskins will consider playing Josh Wilson in the slot.
LB LONDON FLETCHER: None of the Redskins‘ linebackers played particularly well for the second straight game. But Fletcher stood out to me, probably because he has set the bar so high for himself. When he doesn’t dominate, something seems off. It’s impossible to know everyone’s responsibilities, but the entire group seemed disjointed, just a step or two slow, against Carolina’s read-option running game.