CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - You would think Panthers new head coach Matt Rhule would have a few butterflies in his stomach as he gets ready for his first game as a head coach in the NFL, but coach says he has too many other stuff on his mind to be nervous.
“Right now, I’m just caught up in the grind of everything and trying to coach as hard as I can,” said coach Rhule. “I never want to be the reason why we lost or I could have done more and we would have won. I’ll be interested to see how I feel right before the game.”
Coach may not be nervous, but he has plenty to worry about as he continues that grind to get this team ready.
Probably the most pressing issue for the Panthers defense will be stopping the run.
Last season, the Panthers were 29th in the NFL against the run... 29th out of 32 teams... not good.
The Raiders have one of the best backs in the league in Josh Jacobs. As a rookie in 2019, he had the 8th most rushing yards in the NFL.
Former Raider now Panther linebacker Tahir Whitehead had to take on Jacobs everyday at practice last season and knows his new team has its work cutout for them come Sunday.
“He runs angry,” said Whitehead. “That’s what I have been letting the guys know. We are going to have to gang tackle him. No shoe string tackles or arm tackles are going to bring him down. He’s not going to run out of bounds. Don’t underestimate him and expect it to be an easy tackle when the ball is in his hands because he’s looking to get into the end zone.”
Stopping the runs is just one of the many areas the Panthers are grinding on to get ready for Sunday. But back to the sense of calm that they are feeling. It has been a crazy off season with the pandemic, the social and racial injustices going on in America, and the normal everyday things that happen in life. For most of these players, they are truly looking forward to finally just stepping on the field on Sunday because of the peace it will bring them.
“It’s a three hour window, sometime four hour window where I can just focus on one thing and that’s the common goal of the team and I’m in paradise when I’m doing that,” said Panthers quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. I can’t control the fans. I can’t control some of my family things. At the end of the day, the only thing that matter is I have a Panthers logo on my helmet so that’s the only thing that matters."