As we prepare for a very important Seahawk road game this afternoon, it’s time to take a look at the Carolina Panthers by having the editor from the Panthers affiliate of our network join me for a quick Q&A.
Joining me this week is Ken Dye from CatCrave.com
Q. Cam Newton hasn’t been as bad as the national media would want everyone to believe, but he hasn’t taken the next step into becoming an elite QB either. Is this just a case of a “sophomore slump,” or are Panther fans actually concerned about this being a bigger problem?
A. Cam’s problems are a bit overblown. The entire team has been streaky and everybody was awful that first game against the Bucs when OC Rob Chudzinski was calling pass plays 2 to 1 over running plays. When he rectified that in week 2 and ran two to one, we won. Newton is most effective when he runs a dozen times a game. RBs DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart make a formidable duo and we even added Mike Tolbert. The backfield is the strength of this offense. We get that going, then the play action and QB scramble are all available. Cam’s not a QB who is going to out-duel people in a pure aerial shootout very often, despite a gaudy start to his rookie season.
Q. Carolina is giving up 135 yards per game on the ground, and the Seahawks come in with the league’s leading rushing in Marshawn Lynch. It seems like a mismatch on paper. Do the Panthers have the personnel to contain a player like Lynch?
A. The defense has been a concern going back to last season when we had lost so many players to injury. I think they’ll have their hands full with the Beast all right. With Russell Wilson struggling a bit, perhaps they can focus in more on Lynch. We’ve got the linebackers to do it with now but we’ve had unsteady play from the defensive tackle spot, putting extra pressure on those linebackers at times. Jon Beason’s an All-Pro coming off an ACL tear and first-round pick Luke Kuechly is a college MLB playing the weakside in our 4-3. He’s also the NCAA 2nd all-time leading tackler, who did it in only 3 seasons, so he’s used to run-stuffing. James Anderson on the strong side had 145 tackles last season and Thomas Davis is one of the defenses’ few bright spots coming off a third major knee surgery. We’ve got the personnel but Ron Edwards could use some help on the inside. We’ve yet to find good help to add there.
Q. Carolina has two good (and highly paid) running backs, and a solid running attack, yet the Seahawks sport one of the league’s best run defenses. Do you think the Panthers will make a major effort to run the football, or are they more likely to put the ball in Newton’s hands for most of the game?
A. I say the Panthers are a run-first team, period. As I noted, we signed Mike Tolbert, a fullback who can do it all as well as the halfbacks. We drafted a small-college guard at the top of the second round….Amini Silatolu was a tackle that we drafted to play guard because of his run-blocking skills. To try to become an “Air Rivera” style attack would be a crime, and one that Newton isn’t equipped to dish out quite yet. He still has some learning and maturing to do but he’ll get there. We’re paying and drafting like we want to run and we should do just that.
Q. After a couple of off years in ’09 and ’10, Steve Smith had a fantastic 2011. Is he back to being the dominant player that Seahawks fans will remember from the 2005 NFC Championship game?
A. I don’t think he’s slowed down much from those days from what I’ve seen. The guy is just sooo strong for his size and has such good balance he is unreal. Now we’ve got Brandon LaFell making some clutch catches on the other side and Olson running around as well but defenses still routinely put him in bracket coverage because he’s so tough against press coverage – he’ll flat-out burn your behind if you try and pull that on him very often. He’s just too strong to handle off the line, and that’s where I don’t think he’s ever really gotten the recognition he deserves. I’ve seen too many plays where someone goes to jam him and winds up trying to catch him from behind…and then it’s too late.
Q. How do you think this game will play out, and what’s your prediction for the final score?
A. I think both offenses are going to find things sluggish most of the game and I said earlier this week I think the first team to 15 points wins it. A rookie QB on the road is a hard win to hang a hat on, so I’m taking Carolina by 3 due to home field. In Seattle, I’d say Seattle by 7. It’s weird how teams come in there and wilt!