I had a chance to sit down with Jaxon over at Cat Scratch Reader and get his thoughts on some of the positives and negatives of a Panthers season that, like the 49ers, began with high hopes, and has gone bad pretty quickly. Thanks to Jack for taking the time to answer my questions. I'll be getting him answers later today, which I'll throw up here as well.
NN:The Panthers seemed to be a preseason playoff pick (like my 49ers). Aside from losing Jake Delhomme, what is the reason for the Panthers struggles this year?
CSR:I think the three primary reasons beyond the poor QB play is (1) no #2 receiving threat, (2) no pass rush and (3) poor special teams play. The Panthers again have the worst special teams in the league and the best I can hope for from week to week is that they don't blow the game (like they have twice this season).
NN: The 49ers offense has been abysmal at times, although they're coming off their best performance of the season. I would even argue the 49ers offense is worse than the Panthers, Sunday's performance aside. So, what can 49ers fans expect from the Panthers defense? Aside from the freak Julius Peppers, who should 49ers fans pay attention to?
CSR: You'll see a lot of zone coverage and the occasional blitz. The Panthers have mainly been relying on their front four to put pressure on the QB. In my opinion the most exciting Panther to watch on defense is rookie MLB Jon Beason. The kid is lightning fast and makes great reads. He won't beat out your rookie MLB Willis for any honors but Panther Nation is very content to let him play the middle for years to come. I don't expect Dan Morgan to be back in Carolina next season. There's no one else other than Peppers I think the 49ers need to worry about.
NN: Jake Delhomme seemed to start the season on a solid note before the injury. Now the Panthers see themselves deciding between David Carr, Vinny Testaverde and Matt Moore. What is Delhomme's long term future in Carolina? Do you see them drafting a QB anytime soon or are they fine for the next few years?
CSR: They had better draft a QB next year AND get another free-agent to back up Jake. David Carr is history IMO and Vinny should retire. There is not a lot of history of QB's coming back from Tommy John surgery so no one is real sure what to expect from Jake. I'd like to think he will be back and in top form but I think that's a risky proposition. Matt Moore is still too much of an unknown to think he'll be ready next year. Hopefully we'll do a better job of evaluating QB talent this off-season.
NN: When is DeAngelo Williams going to pass DeShaun Foster on the depth chart? Or will this be a timeshare for the foreseeable future? Foster has never really fulfilled his potential coming out of college and Williams himself was quite the talent coming out of college.
CSR: Prior to this last game I was content letting Foster be the starter. He runs with power, is still fairly quick and makes good cuts. But then he fumbled three times which has always been one of his problems. DeAngelo on the other hand looks great at times and very average others. With the fumbles this just may be the week DeAngelo gets the lion's share of carries. Yet John Fox has been slow to make changes this season so honestly I don't expect any changes. Foster should get 12-18 carries and Williams 4 to 8.
NN: I was a big Dwayne Jarrett fan during his time at USC and would have enjoyed seeing him in red and gold. Is there any particular reason for his lack of playing time and production?
CSR: At first we were told he was too soft on his blocking. Then it was because he's having a hard time learning the playbook and reacting to on-the-field situational changes. He finally got some playing time the last two weeks but it was obvious to me he still has a ways to go. He's not running his routes correctly and was actually responsible for one of David Carr's picks this past week. He has great hands though and has been playing harder. I still have hope the kid will mature and be the #2 receiver we disparately need.
Jack's Prediction: Panthers 12 - 49ers 10
Thanks again to Jaxon from Cat Scratch Reader. This could be a real stinker, or a potentially explosive affair. We'll see how it plays out.