Let's stay with the 'Five Questions' theme for today. Earlier we did our 'Friday Five' with Pat Traina of Inside Football. Now, in anticipation of Saturday's preseason opener against the Carolina Panthers, let's get to a 'Five Questions' segment with 'Jaxon' lead blogger at our Panthers website, Cat Scratch Reader.
My answers to his questions have been up at CSR since Thursday. Be sure to check 'em out. And play nice at CSR.
BBV: What are your impressions of Cam Newton thus far? How long is it going to take before Newton is starting regular-season games for the Panthers?
CSR: The first thing you notice is the size and athleticism he brings to the QB position. Then you notice the kid has serious arm strength, tossing balls 50+ yards off his back foot seemingly effortlessly. As you would expect he's made ‘wow' plays and he's made some fugly plays. He also seems to have some natural leadership ability without really saying too much. He leads by example. He's seems to always be having fun and you can tell he really is having fun. The team seems to have fully embraced him, even... believe it or not WR Steve Smith.
As far as starting, the first depth chart released has Jimmy Clausen is at the top followed by Newton so expect Clausen to start against the Giants. Rivera is essentially saying Newton will have to earn the starting job, it won't be handed to him. I also don't think Rivera has ruled out starting Derek Anderson week one either. That said, unless Clausen lights it up I think Newton will be the starting QB at some point in the 1st quarter of the schedule at the latest after a Clausen/Newton platoon scenario.
BBV: The Panthers are one of those NFL teams with a new head coach and a new staff, meaning a whole new system. Can you get a sense of how far behind the Panthers are because of the lockout, or how much all that missed time has hurt their chance of taking a step forward this year?
CSR: Based on the number of picks, fumbles and other mis-queues from the offense it's hard to see they are behind. Two weeks of practice and then a game, that its for a brand new staff and scheme on both sides of the ball. Yeah, it could be ugly early but at least other teams have had the same amount of time to prepare.
BBV: Impressions of your new coach thus far? Seems like Ron Rivera is a guy who was close to getting a head coaching gig for years before he landed the Carolina job.
CSR: It's been a refreshing change to say the least. First off Rivera's upbringing in a military family sticks out with his quiet, demanding confidence. Fans love that he's more candid and personable than his predecessor and the team seems to have embraced his style. We love his seeming scowls behind the shades and have subsequently nicknamed him ‘BAMF'. Overall Rivera seems like the right guy at the right time.
BBV: Panthers are ranked 30th in the ESPN Power Rankings. Justified? If not, why should Carolina be higher than that?
CSR: I can't justify being higher than that at the moment. Coming of the worst record in the league respect has to be earned. Yet I'm hopeful a solid returning nucleus of players combined with a new coaching staff and a new attitude will led to end of season improvement that can carry into 2012. Subsequently I'm having a hard time predicting more than 6 wins in 2011. Regardless, I'm expecting the Panthers to be fun to watch.
BBV: What are you watching for from the Panthers Saturday night? The Giants are only playing regulars 15-18 snaps. What about Carolina?
CSR: Rivera said we should expect to see the starters to play longer than normal for a first preseason game (talks to your 2nd question as well). On offense I'm obviously keyed on the QB position. After a slow start the first week of camp Clausen has looked better this past week. I'm curious to see if that translates to live action. Will he takes his shots down field or throw the ball away?
Now to the main event (the icon), the Panthers have supposedly inserted the read option for Cam so expect to see him run the ball 6 or 8 times. In the passing game, Newton has shown good touch on the deep passes but has struggled on the short routes. I'm also expecting a couple gimmick plays such as the wildcat with either WR DeAngelo Williams or WR Armanti Edwards taking the snap and possibly delivering it downfield to newly acquired TE Greg Olsen. Olsen could actually be the x-factor in this offense this season. The days of vanilla-schemed preseason's on offense is over in Carolina.
On defense I simply want to see how often and what type of blitzes the defense brings. That's what McDermott's defenses are known for and we are happy ecstatic to have it. Will they be able to get pressure and what players will be blitzing are my main questions.
Bonus Answer: These cats don't stray far from the den.
The Panthers decided one way they could ease QB Cam Newton's transition to the NFL was by giving him familiar surroundings...as in former teammates. First the Panthers drafted Newton's left tackle Lee Ziemba in the 7th rd. Once the lock out lifted they then signed his UDFA teammates WR Darvin Adams and his C Ryan Pugh. So when he lines up with the 2's and 3's he could very well see rookie Tigers to his left, his right and under center.