A huge thank you goes out to Jaxon, El Gigante of SBN's Cat Scratch Reader, for taking the time to answer our questions regarding the upcoming game in Charlotte. Make sure to check out their version of this post here.
Question 1: We've seen a rough start to 2010 for the Panthers, but your team definitely has the talent to be successful. Do you think this season is a wash already, or can you guys turn it around?
Jaxon: Though it’s only four games realistically the season is a wash. It’s not that I wouldn’t be stoked about a turnaround but the fact is (1) the Panthers have a rookie QB (2) the offensive line has lost its’ mojo (3) Steve Smith is sidelined (4 weeks is my estimate) due to injury and (4) the defense is middle of the road statistically. That just doesn’t spell ‘playoffs’ in my experience of watching pro football for the last 30+ years. As much as I like Clausen and think he is our QB for the future the rest of the team has too many holes to overcome the anemic offense. I do think we are going to win some games but I’m thinking there is an 80% chance this team finishes with the worst record of John Fox’s tenure with the Panthers i.e.…less than 7 wins.
Question 2: Your defense seemed to have almost mastered the "bend but don't break" theory last week against the Saints. They moved the ball very well, but only scored 16 points. How do you see the Panthers defense holding up against the unpredictable Bears offense?
Jaxon: I think our defense matches up well with the Bears offense. We should be able to control the run and make the offense one dimensional. As you pointed out, after only giving up 16 points to Drew Brees the defense has to be confident they can contain Cutler to the same. The Panther secondary has done of good job of making plays on the ball and they know Cutler has had issues with throwing into coverage in the past. The key will be to contain Devin Hester and keep him from making big plays.
Question 3: It's no secret that the Bears DBs aren't really known for being able to cover WRs, but our run defense is stout. Do you anticipate offensive struggles against the Bears, considering you guys have a much better run game than passing game?
Jaxon: For the time being I expect our offense to struggle against every team. I’m especially worried about the pressure on 3rdand longs so I would expect the Panther OC Jeff Davidson to work more on protecting Clausen with a balanced game plan. But game planning on offense is not our forte so there is real potential for the Bears defense to dominant this game if the Panthers fail to protect the ball, something that had not done well until last week.
Question 4: There have been quite a few years of ups and downs with the Panthers... 7-9 in 2007, 12-4 and playoffs in 2008, 8-8 in 2009, but winning 4 of the last 5 games, and now starting the year 0-4. What's going on in the front office, and where do you see the team headed in the next few seasons?
Jaxon: We are about 90% sure a coaching change is imminent in the offseason. Me personally I like John Fox as a coach but agree it is probably time for a change. Reports are that his relationship with owner Jerry Richardson has deteriorated due to the veteran purge and the lack of a contract extension to date. GM Marty Hurney on the other is safe and I’m very happy about that. When you look at the Panthers draft picks in rounds 1 through 3 since Hurney arrived, out of 32 picks only 4 or 5 could you call a classic ‘bust’. Most either remain with the team or play elsewhere in the league.
5- We've heard a lot of Panther fans say that they don't miss Julius Peppers, and the defensive line this season for Carolina has been playing pretty hard, but how can people really say that they don't miss him?
Jaxon: This is a complicated answer and I’m sure many people outside the Carolinas still won’t understand or agree with my explanation. The answer is two-fold. First, the guy simply made it clear he didn’t want to be here so when he says "I had no choice but to leave because they didn’t offer me a contract" (which he said this week) well that is total crap. He received several offers in previous offseasons and turned them down because they would have only made him the highest paid player "by a little bit". This is the main reason fans have soured on him and his big head. On the field, sure Peppers is singly better than any DE we have on the roster. But by removing him we are now creating space for new leaders to emerge, leaders that want to be leaders and who want to make plays in big games. If you look at the Panthers big games in recent years Peppers seems to always disappear just when we need him. So, no matter how well he plays this Sunday I don’t think you’ll hear many Panthers waxing poetic about his days here.
Bonus round: Predict the final score of the game, and we'll send you a peppermint.
Jaxon: Panthers 20 Bears 13