PFW executive editor and resident Packers expert Dan Arkush presents the third of five key matchups this week in advance of the Packers' Week Two game against the Panthers at Carolina Sunday.
Packers running backs vs. Panthers linebackers
It would not be a shock at all this Sunday if the Packers' ground game piles up a lot more yardage than it did in Week One when it will be operating against a Panthers LB corps that suffered a major blow when MLB Jon Beason, the heart and soul of Carolina's defense, suffered a season-ending torn Achilles.
In Carolina's base defense, Beason will be replaced by dependable backup Dan Connor, a decent run defender who can get downhill quickly but is nowhere near as athletic or as good in coverage as Beason. In sub packages, the Panthers plan on replacing Beason with a committee of 'backers including James Anderson, Omar Gaither and Thomas Davis, who can move inside from his starting SLB spot.
Davis, who, in Week One, played his first game since mid-December 2009 after suffering two torn ACLs, looked pretty good against the Cardinals. He might have lost a little speed, but he is still plenty quick and packs a wallop. Anderson also has good speed but isn't as physical as Davis.
True to his word, Packers head coach Mike McCarthy very effectively divided carries between RBs Ryan Grant and James Starks against the Saints. Grant who played extensively early in the game, had nine carries for 40 yards and looked a lot sharper than he did in training camp and the preseason. Starks became the primary ballcarrier as the game wore on, gaining 57 yards on 12 carries and showing his great combination of power and niftiness on an impressive 17-yard TD run.
Starks and Grant each had one catch for a combined one yard.
Don't forget about FB John Kuhn, who showed his nose for the endzone (six TDs in 2010) with a one-yard TD run for the Packers' final score against New Orleans.