When the Carolina Panthers host the New Orleans Saints on Sunday, the crew calling the game for FOX will include Chris Myers, who has worked as a play-by-play announcer or sideline reporter for the network since 2003.
For Myers, sports was his first love. When he was 16 years old, he’d call into the local radio show in Miami with a deep voice. He called himself “Chris, from Miami,” and give his sports opinion. A few minutes later he’d call back as “Duke from North Miami” in a different voice, and agree with “Chris from Miami.”
“I had that going for a year,” Myers said.
Eventually, he admitted to the radio station that he was both Chris and Duke, and he was soon hired as an intern to help out.
The rest is history. Myers has covered Super Bowls, NASCAR races, NCAA national championships, the World Series, the NBA Finals and other major events in every sport.
Myers will be joined by color commentator Darryl Johnston and sideline reporter Jen Hale for Sunday’s game.
The Observer spoke with Myers about the Panthers and their upcoming matchup with the Saints. Here is an excerpt from the interview:
Jonathan M. Alexander: What were your early impressions of the Panthers-Jets game?
Chris Myers: First thought was OK, (Christian) McCaffrey is going to get 30 touches and what he does with it, and just having him out there on the field, what that does for other parts of the offense. I love the Sam Darnold-Robby Anderson hookup connection, being reunited from their time with the Jets. There’s a comfort level seeing that struck me. I know the offensive line is still kind of getting in sync, and Sam Darnold was used to that on the run in his previous NFL stop.
I think the defense — I liked what I saw there, especially in terms of the speed and aggressiveness. The idea that they had six sacks from six different players, so who’s coming from where. You add a guy like Haason Reddick. Brian Burns, who is continuing to get better. Shaq Thompson. I think Jaycee Horn is going to prove to be a shutdown corner. ... Again, you’re facing a Jets team that’s rebuilding, and a rookie quarterback, but if I’m looking at what I liked in that game, what I saw that game, those are the things that jumped out at me.
JMA: Brian Burns is one of the guys on the verge of taking off. What do you think it will take for him to be a household name?
CM: I can see them moving him around a lot because of his speed and what he can develop into. But to get that Pro Bowl and national recognition, you need to get the sacks, compile a number of sacks. But I see him as being that kind of player. ... From just what I see on the TV broadcast, I think he’s on his way in that direction.
And you need a little help from other parts of the defense, so offenses can’t just key on one guy in double teaming or blocking him.
JMA: When you look at the Panthers on paper, do you believe they have the team to be a playoff-caliber team?
CM: Honestly, I don’t know if they are there yet as a playoff team. They need some more explosiveness on offense or quicker scoring. Doesn’t have to be strike right away. You don’t have to have Kansas City’s offense. But you can do what the Buccaneers do, that kind of offense. Obviously, you have Tom Brady, but you throw to your running backs. And maybe a tight end, that position has to add a little bit more in terms of the offense.
I think the defense can get there. When you touched on Brian Burns, if he can become — he or Derrick Brown— just more dominant, so that an offense fears a certain player or approach from the Panthers, that would put them in better contention. The problem too is you’ve got the Buccaneers in the division and the Saints. But I think there’s room now. Tampa’s not always going to be at the top with Brady. ... Certainly where Atlanta is, I think there’s room for the Panthers to push themselves for second in that division and challenge for the first. And you’ve got to stand up to the Buccaneers and teams like the Saints. I think people were already writing off the Saints without Drew Brees, and we’ll see with more than just one game if Jameis Winston has certainly transformed or if he is the same old Jameis Winston.
JMA: Speaking of the Saints, why did it appear they didn’t miss a beat?
CM: It’s only one game, but what I saw, and it did surprise me, the Saints dominance and I watched that game, too. In the trenches, their offensive line was solid. Their defense, I think is a little underrated. The way that even a beat-up secondary played against Aaron Rodgers, my goodness, that to me was very impressive.
But it’s only one game. And I think we’re all waiting — whether it’s fair or not — everyone is waiting for Jameis Winston to make a big mistake. His reputation is throw an interception or turn it over. But he’s in a different offense, with a different coach, with a different kind of pressure from a No. 1 overall draft pick. Just like Sam Darnold, a change, you get a different chance and you respond. I certainly know Winston has the arm to throw in the NFL and now with the system he’s in and as comfortable as he feels, that lasik surgery, he’s talked about that, it’s helped his eyesight a little bit, maybe that clarity helps along with Sean Payton. And they still have Taysom Hill to help them in certain situations that helps them in that quarterback situation.. ... It’ll be interesting to see how that offense responds. I think you may see a different approach. You may see them pound it with Alvin Kamara, and make that work against the Panthers, rather than what they did with Winston, when he had the five touchdowns against Green Bay and no turnovers. That was the key.
JMA: What makes the Saints defense as good as what it has been the past two years?
CM: I think Dennis Allen, their defensive coordinator, has been there consistently with Sean Payton and the offense gets a lot of credit, but they’ve drafted their defensive line. They’ve had Cam Jordan for years, who I think is an underrated defensive player. But they draft guys like Marcus Davenport, and even when other guys are rotated out. They lose a Trey Hendrickson — he had 13.5 sacks and he signs with Cincinnati and yet that line doesn’t miss a beat. So they are big and strong up front. Demario Davis is the leader at linebacker. Kwon Alexander, he fits in nicely. ... And the other part, and I think the Panthers can relate to this, is special teams. They’ve gone through some kicking transitions as well. That could be a factor in a close game.