It’s time for 5 Questions. This week’s edition is with the excellently-named blog Cat Scratch Reader and its blogger Jaxon. Enjoy!
Blogging The Boys: How are the Panthers liking Matt Moore so far? What do you think the QB situation will be next year, is Jake Delhomme still the man in Carolina?
Cat Scratch Reader: Jake will still be the man next season but right now we are elated with Matt Moore. Moore stunned us all by playing with poise, protecting the football and not making any big mistakes, something we have sorely missed this season. I still think the Panthers need to look for another veteran QB next season (good bye David Carr) to compete with Moore in case Jake isn't ready to go at the start of the season. So in summary, thanks for cutting him.
BTB: Steve Smith isn't having his usual fantastic season. Is it all because of the QB problems? Are there other issues affecting him?
CSR: Smith has had a few drops this year but overall it's because the QB has struggled to get him the ball. Also, with no true #2 WR on the other side teams are learning to play Smith tight at the line to defend the quick pass in the flat. The FS is then usually cheating over to his side to help cover the deep ball though the Panthers have struggled to throw deep since Jake got hurt.
BTB: Until recently, your defense was not playing like everybody thought they would? Break it down for us.
CSR: Except for a couple of our victories (Rams, 49ers, Seahawks) the Panthers have struggled to get a pass rush and to defend the short pass. I suspect some of it is due to the aging and injury of key players (Morgan, Rucker, Jenkins) but overall they seem to lack leadership. When Mike Minter retired the Panthers lost a key locker room and big game player. The key against the Seahawks was our interior linemen (Jenkins, Kemo) setting the tone early by stuffing the run and forcing third and long situations. From there the defense played inspired all day and we look for some more of the Saturday night.
BTB: Is John Fox on the hot seat? Have the fans or the media turned on him?
CSR: John Fox has certainly been in the hot seat with both the fans and media but this latest victory may have turned the heat down a little. I think he still needs one more victory to secure his job for next year. I'm more focused on GM Marty Hurney and the FA failures that have come to light. Cutting Keyshawn, letting LB's Will Witherspoon and Chris Draft leave, not drafting a safety and signing David Carr all leave me wondering whether we know how to evaluate talent. We know Jerry Richardson (JR) is not cheap so why aren't the Panthers going after the FA's like a NE (Moss, Stallworth, Thomas) or Dallas (TO, L Davis, Hamlin) does? JR hasn't weighed in on the Fox situation yet but I'm sure Fox will be given every chance to prove he is still one of the top coaches in the league.
BTB: What's your game plan for beating the Cowboys Saturday? And you can't say fly Jessica Simpson to the game. I kid!
CSR: We're going to fly in Jessica, Britney, Carrie and TO's publicist and sit them all together behind the Dallas bench and let the mayhem ensue! Romo will be a blithering idiot by the time it's over.
Seriously, the Panthers have been very predictable on offense and defense this season. On occasion they have mixed it up but here's what you can pretty sure expect.
Offense: 30+ carries between DeShaun Foster and DeAngelo Williams either off-tackle or the stretch play in either direction. Steve Smith will get his touches with both hand offs and passes. He usually gets a few hand offs on reverses or simple end arounds and some misdirection. The passing will include mostly short passes to Steve Smith in the flat, the TE or WR. The Panthers only go deep if they see a mismatch at the line of scrimmage. They will try to get rookie TE Dante Rosario matched on a LB on a seam route which they executed for 54 yards against the Seahawks. Though we were expecting a lot of screen plays in the pre-season the Panthers only run 1-2 a game. You might also see Steve Smith lined up at QB and Moore split out wide, another attempt to get smith more touches.
Defense: The Panthers play a lot of zone and try to protect their safeties from getting beat down the middle of the field and on the RB coming out the backfield. Though we run disguised and delayed blitzes on obvious passing downs the Panthers mainly rely on the front four to get a pass rush. LB Na'il Diggs has had the most success blitzing and disrupting the passing game. Keep an eye on rookie MLB Jon 'the Beast" Beason who makes plays all over the field and will be good for at least one tackle for a loss. We love this kid and expect him to anchor the middle of the defense for many years to come.
Special Teams: The Panthers are pretty much terrible on special teams in both kick returns and kick coverage. Rookie KO returner Ryne Robinson has improved over the last couple weeks but has yet to break one past the 50 yard line. The best we can hope is that they don't blow the game by turning the ball over.
Game Score Prediction: Panthers 23 Cowboys 20 Game MVP: Steve Smith