Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Know Your Enemy - CAR


Carolina had a terrific season in 2008. They won the NFC South and looked like a team to be reckoned with in the postseason. And then Jake Delhomme had one of his nightmare games against Arizona. The Panthers and all the hype behind them were undone by INTs and Larry Fitzgerald.

The key players are all back for 2009 and expectations are high. The Panthers have one strange trend to buck. No NFC South team has repeated as champs since the division was created in 2002.

2008 - CAR
2007 - TB
2006 - NO
2005 - CAR
2004 - ATL
2003 - CAR
2002 - TB

Here is a good article where you can read some background on the Panthers roster.

* Panthers Breakdown *

Here is their Depth Chart


The Panthers offense is built on a power running game. They like to attack up the middle and on the edges. Their OL are mainly run blockers. Their TE is more blocker than receiver. Ditto that for FB. CAR is very effective because they block well, stick to the run, and have gifted runners. Deangelo Williams is the star and big play guy. Jonathan Stewart is the bigger guy and dangerous change of pace runner. Defenses have to adjust from the speedy and shifty Williams to Stewart. Then they have to re-adjust when Williams returns to the field.

Jonathan Stewart isn't healthy right now and may or may not play. That could have major impact on their offense. His backup is rookie Mike Goodson from Texas A&M. Goodson had a great preseason and looks like a player to watch. However, he's a speedy back. What makes the Williams/Stewart combo so deadly is the differing size and skill sets of the two runners. Plus, Goodson has yet to face an NFL defense in a regular season game. That can take some adjusting to.

The passing game is built around one key man - WR Steve Smith. He caught 78 passes last year and is an explosive playmaker. Smith is fast enough to run by CBs. He is also deadly on short passes because of his RAC ability. The rest of the Panthers pass catchers are basically move the chains type of guys. QB Jake Delhomme is very streaky. On his good days he can shred a defense with big plays. On his bad days he is a turnover machine and looks very shaky.

Carolina brought over a new Defensive Coordinator this year, Ron Meeks from Indy. He's put in a new scheme. That change means a lot of unknowns for CAR and their opponents. Meeks Colts teams were built around speed. He wasn't an overly complicated Xs and Os guy. He preached hustling to the football. He believed in a lot of Cover 2, but also would mix in man coverage and some blitzing. I assume that is what he'll do in Carolina.

The two key players are DE Julius Peppers and LB Jon Beason. Peppers can be a force off the edge. The question this year is where they'll play him and how he'll perform. Peppers was quiet in 2007 at LDE. He moved to the right side last year and posted huge numbers. Peppers lined up at LDE in the final preseason game. The official team depth chart has him at RDE. I'm not sure where he'll play or maybe they'll move him around.

Beason is battling an injury, but expects to play. He's a good athlete and outstanding tackler. Beason might not be as effective without his big NT (Ma'ake Kemoeatu - out for year) controlling the middle of the line. Beason isn't the best LB at shedding blocks.

CB Chris Gamble is the best player in secondary, but he has been very up and down this summer, in large part due to adjusting to Meeks ways of doing things. Gamble excels in man coverage. Playing zone is something that he'll have to get used to. He really struggled in the team's loss to the Ravens, giving up several completions, including 2 that went for more than 25 yards. This has to make Andy Reid happy.

Special Teams is a mixed bag for the Panthers. Jon Kasay is doing his Morten Andersen impression. He just keeps making FGs despite the fact he's 137 years old. Punter Jason Baker is solid. The Panthers use a KO specialist and he puts a lot of kicks deep into the endzone. That negates a good KOR.

There are a couple of vulnerable areas. Carolina has a new LS this year. JJ Jansen might do just fine, but he could be nervous and maybe a little erratic. Their return game is a major mystery. Mark Jones was the main man last year, but recently failed a physical. Kenny Moore is expected to be the PR with Goodson as the KOR. Moore hasn't played in an NFL game yet. He struggled as a PR this preseason.

Tomorrow I'll get into matchups and strategy.


I've gotten a few questions about Tony Curtis and Alex Smith. I liked Curtis. I'm not gonna say anything bad about him. You do have to think about injury scenarios. If Celek were to go down in a game would you rather have Curtis (11 career catches) or Smith (129 career catches) ready to take over? Smith makes more sense when you look at it that way. It would have been great to keep a big guy with some blocking ability, but we are a passing team. While that frustrates me, at least we're adding the right kind of skill players to fit that style of play. We didn't need Martha Schobel to blow open a huge hole vs the Bears last year. All we needed was him to slow down the DE to 100mph. I think Smith can be a functional blocker. Schobel wasn't.

Others think keeping only 2 TEs is risky. Maybe. Tom Heckert pointed out that we don't often have all 3 guys active. That means you'd only have access to a pair of TEs on gameday. If someone gets hurt you get by for a week or make a roster move at that time. I'd love to have 3 TEs active, but then you'd have to cutback somewhere else. There is no true ideal scenario. You're always going light somewhere.

I don't think the team has mis-played this situation or made any errors here.


Stephen said...

Carolina seems like a strong opponent to open the season. It's definitely an immediate test of our inside run defense, though I wouldn't be surprised if they try to get Gaither running sideline to sideline either, because as one poster pointed out before we seem to struggle with containment on stretch plays early in the season.

Steve Smith is an explosive player but he seems to be as streaky as Delhomme sometimes. When he's on fire he's hard to stop, but there are other games he disappears in.

I think we should alternate our shots between runs attacking that softer middle of their DL now with Kemoatu out, and a mid to deep passing attack that the Panthers seem to be vulnerable to right now. Ideally I'd like to see 50/50 but we all know that won't happen so if we can keep it to under 60/40 pass/run I'll consider it a win.

I envision Desean Jackson ripping it up this game, I think he'll be out to establish himself week 1.

orangecrush007 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
orangecrush007 said...

Our DTs plug up that middle. I don't think teams will be able to run on us like in the past.

It comes down to the offense and whether they run out of the gate or limp out of the gate like they normally do. Judging from the preseason and how inconsistent McNabb has been, I dont think this team will be up for a fast start. Not to mention this team is hardly ever prepared to play in week 1. I think last year against the Rams was the only time they came out firing and the Rams were very weak. Looking at 2004 they whooped up on the Giants too, but I think that is the only years under Reid and in his second season also where they kicked the onsides kick were they successful in week one. Maybe Reid overworks them in training camp. I don't know. So I expect the Eagles to lose this one.

Prem Prakash said...

Carolina definitely has some stregnths, but we match up well. Our DTs plug the line but the linebackers will need to step up and make plays. I imagine Delhomme will try and get Smith 1:1 against Harris. Since Jake is immobile a good pass rush by the front 4 will be important. Here's hoping McDermitt is really ready to take the reigns.

When we have the ball I am very optomistic, especially if Westy is healthy. If there are any witchdoctors reading this, please give us a healthy Westbrook. I am also optomistic about our O line (please don't shatter my hopes, guys). Even though they haven't spent time as a unit, it's a strong and talented group. I think Weaver is going to be a big part of our running game, carrying and blocking, and Peanut should start the season burning up the Panthers weak secondary.

One more thing, if we score a td from the red zone, drinks are on me.

Cliff said...

I was just looking at the team statistics for the 2008 season and came across a really weird occurrence.

Our preseason games were really sloppy. We were tied for 11th most penalties in the league. In the 2008 regular season, we were 29th in penalties (26th in penalty yardage).

But here's what I think is the weird part. The two Super Bowl teams in 2008 were 5th (Arizona) and 12th (Pittsburgh) in penalties. One would think the Super Bowl teams would be the most disciplined.

A little more scrutinizing of the numbers and I can't find any correlation at all between wins and "discipline." Tennessee, the team with the best record, was the 4th most penalized team. Carolina was 15th. Indy was 18th. New York Giants were 8th. Baltimore was 7th. Atlanta was 30th.

What gives? These teams represent a mix of offensive/defensive philosophies, too. How can a team win 11+ games and get flagged a 100+ times in one season?

By the way, Dallas was the most penalized team in 2008.