The Carolina Panthers (1-1) host the Cincinnati Bengals (2-0) on Sunday at 1 p.m., and hope to head into the Week 4 bye with a victory.
Naturally, you have questions about the matchup. I picked the five best inquiries I got from Twitter to answer ahead of Sunday’s game.
Let’s get started.
Question from @Mathias4NC: Is (rookie safety Rashaan) Gaulden the new starter for (veteran safety Da’Norris) Searcy?
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Answer: Gaulden and veteran safety Colin Jones have been splitting snaps in practice all week with Searcy in the concussion protocol. And on Friday afternoon, Searcy was placed on injured reserve after suffering his second concussion in five weeks.
Gaulden is essentially relearning the position the way the Panthers play it after seeing a more hybrid role in college at Tennessee. And Carolina head coach Ron Rivera said this week that Gaulden will be the team’s future in the “big nickel” or “Buffalo” package, which matches up with bigger receivers and tight ends in the slot.
But without Searcy on the field on Sunday and his recovery time unknown, Gaulden will have to step up as more of a traditional safety.
Question from (one of Minnesota’s finest) @AndyCarlsonShow: Jarius Wright will lead the Carolina wide receivers in receiving this year. Question mark.
Answer: Wright has really impressed with his ability to get open, his consistency and his knack for clutch third-down catches.
Of course, this wasn’t news to Vikings fans. While in Minnesota, 41 percent of Wright’s 153 career catches were on third down, for 955 yards (about 46 percent of his career total 2,039 yards). He also averaged 14.7 yards per third-down catch, his highest average by down, with a 74 percent catch rate, which earned him the nickname “Mr. Third Down.”
He has also emerged as a popular target for Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, especially without tight end Greg Olsen on the field.
But this is a sneaky question, Andy, because it seems like Christian McCaffrey is on pace to lead the Panthers in receptions this season. He already has doubled the receptions of No. 1 receiver Devin Funchess through two weeks, with 20.
But McCaffrey is a running back, and you asked about “receivers.” Are you trying to trick me?
Question from @_JLC3: For the second week in a row, we face a team coming off of 10 days’ rest. Curious what the coaches think about how that affects things?
Answer: Great question, because those extra three days do matter in terms of recovery time. The Panthers, who are the fourth-oldest team in the NFL, certainly wouldn’t complain if they had them. Not that they’re complaining anyway.
Here’s what Rivera said this week: “No matter what it is, you still have to play the game. It doesn’t matter how many days you have off with it, you still have to play the game. So whether they get the extra few days or not, it’s who we’re playing. We just deal with it, cope with it. It’s not an excuse.”
Question from @PanthersGang4L: Do you think they’ll use D.J. Moore more as a whole?
Answer: Rivera and offensive coordinator Norv Turner both want to get rookie receiver Moore more looks, after his first NFL target was a 51-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown on Sunday.
I think we’ll see a lot of Moore through the middle and end of the season, but it might take a few games to get him worked into more of what Carolina does. While he has a ton of potential and certainly flashed it Sunday, he’s still a rookie and still at times making some mental mistakes. Carolina is doing well not to rush him, because he could really be a weapon for them in a playoff run.
Question from @RobGuy3: Who is the real ‘Queen City?’
Answer: I didn’t even know, until receiving that question, that Cincinnati was also referred to as the “Queen City.” So I’m going to go ahead and say Charlotte. Plus, what’s up with that awful chili?