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Can Keith Kirkwood make an instant impact for the Panthers?

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The Carolina Panthers have formally activated Keith Kirkwood for the first time, but can the wide receiver make an instant impact against the Chicago Bears?

It has been a long road to this moment for Keith Kirkwood. The wide receiver has endured a frustrating start to life with the Carolina Panthers but has now formally been activated to the 53-man roster in time for their Week 6 game against the Chicago Bears at Bank of America Stadium.

Kirkwood came into the organization at the start of training camp and has worked with offensive coordinator Joe Brady and quarterback Teddy Bridgewater before during their time together with the New Orleans Saints. If he was hoping this would give him an edge in pursuit of a prominent role with the Carolina Panthers, then he was out of luck initially.

A broken clavicle midway through the camp saw Kirkwood go to the injured/reserve list. But there was at least one encouraging sign for the player in that the Panthers didn’t completely cut ties when they were well within their right to do so.

He has worked hard to come back from the injury quickly and might see his first snaps of the season against Chicago’s vaunted defensive unit that has been nothing short of sensational through five weeks of the campaign. Kirkwood would be a surprise addition to the passing attack in terms of targets at this juncture, but there is nothing to suggest it is not a possibility, at the very least.

How Keith Kirkwood can help the Carolina Panthers.

Kirkwood is highly thought of by Carolina’s coaching staff, of that there is little doubt. He has some big-play ability in the right situation and his previous knowledge of the scheme should allow him to make a smooth transition to the lineup if they choose to go in this particular direction.

Another thing Kirkwood has going for him is the lack of production from roleplayers in the passing game. The likes of Robby Anderson, D.J. Moore, and Curtis Samuel have all made impressive contributions. But the same cannot be said of Pharoh Cooper, Seth Roberts, and Brandon Zylstra.

They have been used sparingly by the Panthers so far, and when one considers the absence of Christian McCaffrey coupled with almost no meaningful influence on proceedings coming from their tight ends, it only enhances Kirkwood’s potential to come in and make an immediate impression.



Kirkwood didn’t see much in the way of action for the Saints in 2019. But he did manage to bring in 13 of 21 targets for 209 receiving yards and two touchdowns in 2018.

It is unlikely that the Panthers will want the wideout to do a great deal in his first game back. But if he wants his fair share of targets going forward then he must make the most of opportunities when they come.

The wait is finally over for Kirkwood and Carolina’s loyal fanbase.

Getting back to health after a brutal injury was only half the battle. So delivering on the field when it matters most will be equally as important and if Kirkwood can achieve this, then it will be another big boost to an offense that has been a real bright spark for the Panthers this season.

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Atlanta Falcons prediction: Can the birds get their first win of the year?

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The Atlanta Falcons are back in action for the first time since firing Dan Quinn.

At 1-4 the Minnesota Vikings aren’t much better than the 0-5 Atlanta Falcons. This has all the makings of a really bad pillow fight among two teams that had Super Bowl hopes coming into 2020.

This will be the fifth time that these two teams have met over the last seven NFL seasons, the Falcons are 0-4 in the previous four meetings. The Falcons last win against the Vikings came in 2011 when Matt Ryan threw for 262 yards and three touchdowns.

Here is how the staff at Blogging Dirty thinks the game turns out.

Jeff Benedict – Site Expert

When these two teams met last season, I was shocked at how bad the Atlanta Falcons had looked. Minnesota jumped out 28-0 and never looked back.

Vikings running back Dalvin Cook evolved into one of the best pass-catching running backs in the league and while he was able to rush for 111 yards, he didn’t embarrass the Falcons like he did other teams across the league.

He will be out Sunday, which is a big advantage for the Falcons.

This Vikings team is much different on the defensive side than they were a year ago and I think the Falcons will be able to take advantage of that.

I think Raheem Morris starts his Falcons coaching career with a win.

Joe Beasley – Contributor

I expect the Falcons to play with some type of fire. If interim head coach Raheem Morris wants a shot at this job or any other head coaching gig, he has to show he can somewhat fix this mess in Atlanta.

The offense does get Julio Jones back which is good for everyone except a young Vikings secondary. Add that to the fact that Dalvin Cook isn’t playing and you have a perfect storm for the Falcons to get their first win.

Besides, I’m bound to get one of these right.

Justin Churchill – Contributor

Last week the Vikings were close to beating the Seahawks. They have a very good offense but may struggle without Dalvin Cook in the backfield.

Their defense will give up a lot, hopefully allowing Todd Gurley to get back into a groove. However,  I think the Vikings will win this one.

Ross Terrell – Contributor

It’s officially a new era in Atlanta. Maybe just maybe Raheem Morris was gunning for this job the whole time. So he sabotaged Quinn to get his shot as head coach. Or maybe the Falcons downward spiral will continue.

Let’s hope the latter isn’t true and the Atlanta Falcons finally pull themselves off the mat.

Next: Falcons have a chance to get out of sports purgatory

Ethan Johnson – Contributor

The Atlanta Falcons will not win this game. The team may come out inspired and rejuvenated, or heartbroken because their coach is gone.

Either way, it doesn’t really matter because they haven’t beaten the Minnesota Vikings since 2011, and that streak won’t end Sunday.

 

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Buffalo Bills: 4 defensive tackles to consider trading for this season

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Buffalo Bills

Sep 22, 2019; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Cincinnati Bengals defensive tackle Geno Atkins (97) jogs off the field following his sack of Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (not pictured) during the first quarter at New Era Field. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

These are four defensive tackles the Buffalo Bills should consider trying to trade for before the trade deadline.

The defensive line for the Buffalo Bills went through a significant change this past offseason. They saw free agents Jordan Phillips and Shaq Lawson leave in free agency but the front office replaced them with Vernon Butler, Quinton Jefferson, and Mario Addison as well as selecting A.J. Epenesa in the second round.

In addition to those offseason moves, the Bills had last year’s starting defensive tackle Star Lotulelei elect to opt-out of the 2020 season due to concerns around the pandemic.

After six games, it is clear that the changes have caused this defense to take a step backward stopping the run and the front office may need to look outside the organization on how to correct this.

The focus for general manager Brandon Beane should be to look for someone similar to Lotulelei in terms of a zero tech defensive tackle that can eat up space and take on multiple defenders. This will help force running backs into fewer lanes but also free up Tremaine Edmunds and the rest of the second and third-level defenders clear running lanes to get to the ball carrier.

These are four defensive tackles that could be available for a trade that makes sense for the Buffalo Bills.

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4 tight ends the Carolina Panthers should target in the 2021 NFL Draft

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Carolina Panthers

(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) Ian Thomas

Which college prospects are emerging as early draft candidates for the Carolina Panthers at the tight end position?

The Carolina Panthers clearly have a need at the tight end spot which needs to be addressed next spring. They are getting next to no production from either Ian Thomas or Chris Manhertz through six games of the 2020 season and this is a stark contrast to what the team got from prolific veteran Greg Olsen for so many years.

It’s hard to deny that this isn’t what the Carolina Panthers expected coming into the season. They had high hopes for Thomas to step up and fill the void left by the Pro Bowler, who opted for one more shot at a Super Bowl with the Seattle Seahawks before inevitably taking up a broadcast position next year.

Thomas hasn’t lived up to his billing this season. He has accumulated just six receptions, 39 receiving yards, and one touchdown from 11 targets, which simply isn’t good enough if the former Indiana standout wants to make a real go of things from a starting role.

Although all hope isn’t lost, he is clearly skating on thin ice.

There were fewer expectations on the shoulders of Manhertz. The veteran is seen as more of a blocking tight end and has aided the Panthers in this area. This has been of particular use to quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and running back Mike Davis, depending on what play is called by Joe Brady.

If things continue as they are then this might be priority No.1 for the Panthers once the dust has settled on the 2020 season. Whether they bring in a veteran during the free agency period is up for debate, but there are plenty of exciting tight end prospects entering the 2021 NFL Draft that will also warrant consideration during the evaluation process.

Let’s take a look at four players at the position who could come into Carolina and potentially make a big impression.

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