You know the drill by now.
This week, we're talking to Jaxon of Cat Scratch Reader, who maintains SBN's informative Panthers blog. Jaxon was nice enough to translate my preguntas into English and answer those very burning inquiries.
Check it out after the jump!
Dave the Falconer: Has Jake Delhomme matched your expectations this year? Are you just happy to have him back after suffering through David Carr?
Jaxon: Yes and yes. Jake's elbow is obviously heeled with no concern in that regard going forward. Jake showed his comeback magic in the 1st two games of the year, something David Carr could not do. Can Jake take this version of the Panthers to the NFC South crown? That still remains to be seen as there area a number of concerns with the team as a whole. In summary, I'm ecstatic to have him back.
DtF: What's going on with your running back rotation? I've never been impressed with , and I guess I wonder if Jonathan Stewart will be overtaking him this season.
J: Just wait until the Panthers play the Lions & Chiefs, Williams will look as good as Michael Turner has ;) I expect Williams and Stewart too platoon for the remainder of the season with Williams the starter. Williams will get a few more carries per game and I don't have a problem with that. Stewart should get the call in the red zone and late in the game when the defense is worn down to be most effective. Next season is a different story though. By then Stewart may have proved himself the better back though that's no knock on Williams. Stewart is going to be a beast.
DtF: Julius Peppers once seemed to be the most promising and elite of all young defensive ends in the league, but his overall production has slipped noticeably. Is he still capable of putting things together for the Panthers, or is he due to get overpaid as a free agent?
J: I think it's safe to say now that Peppers benefited from having a dominant DT next to him in the form of . He is still very disruptive in ways other than sacks but too often he is neutralized by a single blocker. I'd love to be able to say the "old" Julius Peppers is back but I haven't seen it on the field yet. He's still a very good player, maybe even All-Pro, but he just doesn't seem to be the game changer he was in years past. Will he get overpaid? Probably. I still want the Panthers to sign him and I'm still going to pray he returns to form this season and proves me wrong in this assessment.
DtF: How did the Panthers lose to the Vikings last week? What are the vulnerabilities that we can exploit, err, expect to see this weekend?
J: Three reasons for the loss: (1) Penalties (2) Poor pass protection (3) Poor pass rush. I imagine the Falcons will unleash Panther nemesis John Abraham as much as possible. Converted LT Jordan Gross struggled against Jared Allen last week so I expect Abraham to stay home on the right side. If the Falcons can stop the Panther run and short passing attack on 1st and 2nd down then bring the blitz on 3rd down they will contain the Panther offense. Since you don't have to antagonize Steve Smith you'll need to keep an eye on him with double coverage.
On offense the Falcons should look to go deep and often to . Panther rookie FS Charles Godfrey is good but has made rookie mistakes when put on an island. The one-step-too-late Panther pass rush won't hurry Matt Ryan too often.
DtF: Who wins this one, and where do the Panthers end up for the season?
J: I think the Panthers will win this one and here's why: The Panthers defend the run well, having held both LaDanian Tomlinson and Adrian Peterson under 100 yards and no TD's. The Panthers will keep Turner in check too forcing Matt Ryan to throw the ball. Ryan is good but I'm hoping the Panthers force him into making some mistakes. The Panther defense is opportunistic at creating turnovers and given you don't have TE Algae Crumpler killing us in the middle of field we should be able to limit the scoring.
On offense the Panthers should go back to running the ball given the Falcons front line is not as talented as the Chargers, Bears, or Vikings. You have to admit, that's three tough defenses to start the season with. Once the running game gets going that will allow Jake to take his shots to Smitty and given the Falcons weakness to date has been the CB's the Panthers should put points on the board. Of course turnovers can change any game so if the Panthers give away TD like they have the past two weeks then all bets are off. I'm predicting that doesn't happen.
Panthers 27 Falcons 17
Thanks again to Jaxon, and be sure to check out Cat Scratch Reader this weekend for my answers to his questions and his analysis on the game.