Photo credit: Joe Mitchell, Charlotte 49ers
Timely Reynolds magic propels Charlotte to its first victory of 2022
Chris Reynolds had the game of his career, throwing for 401 yards and 5 touchdowns, along with 1 interception where it just appeared he and DuBose read the route differently. Reynolds was surgical, completing passes to seven different targets, four of which reeled in touchdowns: DuBose (2), Henry Rutledge, Elijah Spencer and Victor Tucker. Charlotte’s offensive line did a great job in protecting Reynolds, only giving up 1 sack and limited pressure overall. It’s also abundantly clear at this stage that Reynolds is not looking to run, and I don’t think he should at this point unless its an easy conversion and he can get out of bounds without sustaining a hit. Just feels like he’s one play away from being done for the season at this point.
Grant DuBose continues to look like an NFL prospect at wide receiver for Charlotte, the guy just make plays. That said, I don’t think Elijah Spencer is being talked about enough. While his touchdown numbers are down (for now) compared to last year, he’s putting up an eye-popping 19.9 yards per catch. He’s approaching 9 yards after contact per reception, just video-game like stuff.
While Charlotte didn’t notch a season-high in rushing yards, they did put together the highest yards per carry this season at 4.3. ChaVon McEachern shouldered the bulk of the load with 13 carries for 76 yards, good for 5.8 yards a touch. Another impactful running back was Henry Rutledge, who didn’t have a carry but did reel in 5 passes for 88 yards and 1 touchdown (first of his career). Rutledge, from nearby Charlotte Christian, was recently placed on scholarship during a practice by former Carolina Panthers standout Luke Kuechly (see it on Instagram).
The defense allowed 40-plus points for the seventh straight game dating back to the 2021 season, while giving up 602 yards. but also created 2 turnovers, after only 1 forced turnover in their first 3 games. Markees Watts scooped and scored early in the 2nd Quarter after Prince Bemah sacked Darren Grainger (on a blitz, something Charlotte seldomly does). Charlotte’s second forced turnover came on a Panthers play-action pass where Jalar Holley blew threw the line and hit Grainger as he tried to deliver the ball, which was ultimately picked off by Linebacker BJ Turner, the first of his career.
Charlotte lost defensive back Trey Creamer for the season after he suffered an ACL injury. For a room that has struggled mightily all season, this is a substantial loss. Given this turn of events, Charlotte’s secondary has to find a way to reinvent itself on the fly and find a way to help this defense get off the field on third down. Currently Charlotte is allowing opponents to convert 62.5% of third downs (FBS games only), that’s simply not a sustainable figure for a team to allow and win many games. Given that, I’d love to see more blitzes from this defense. If we are going to get beat via the air, might as well try and get to the QB and create a bit more havoc.
If this team wants to compete for a bowl bid, the defense has to turn it around. You saw the third down percentage, but they are also near bottom of FBS allowing 7.5 yards per play, 567.7 yards per game, and 46.7 points per game (all 3 stats are looking at FBS games only). The defense is just too porous, still. The offense can’t be asked to score 40+ per game in order to have a shot at winning.