Enemy Exchange: Carolina Panther Edition

1 of 2

I got the chance to ask Taylor Barbour of FanSided’s Cat Crave a few questions about tonights game between the Giants and Panthers.  Here is where the conversation went:

1.     Clausen is getting the start, but who is going to have a better showing for the Panthers – Cam Newton or Jimmy Clausen?

— Head coach Ron Rivera named Clausen the starter for this game but made sure to mention that his decision as to who will be the opening day starter is still not even close to being made. So the battle is just beginning between the two quarterbacks and I think it will not be settled to near the end of camp.

As far as who will have the better game tonight, I would have to go with Clausen. The former Notre Dame quarterback has a year of experience under his belt and has come into camp a lot more in shape and prepared then last season. I would expect Clausen to be very accurate and am hoping to see a better pocket presence from him. I say that Clausen will have a better game because I think Newton will have some jitters. Even though this is just the preseason, the No. 1 overall pick has some high expectations from Panther fans and I think will be a little to hyped up playing in Bank of American Stadium. I expect him to get better as the game goes along but I would put my money on Clausen playing a bit better.

2. How big was the Greg Olson trade? What is he going to bring to the table for Carolina this year?

The Olsen trade may have been the second biggest move the Panthers made this season behind resigning Charles Johnson. By brining in the tight end, the Panthers for the first time since Wesley Walls have a pass catching tight end. Couple that with the new offensive scheme that favors throwing the ball to the tight end a lot and I expect big things from Olsen.

He will especially be important to the young quarterbacks, as he will provide that safety valve for them when the pocket breaks down. From what I have heard he catches everything he can get a finger on and I think will finally provide that second option to Steve Smith. He will split some duties with Jeremy Shockey as well but in my opinion, Olsen will finish this season second on the team in receptions and should get his fair share of targets in the redzone.

3. DeAngelo Williams, obviously big play ability in a very injury prone RB.  What are you expecting from the Panthers backfiled this preseason?

I wouldn’t say Williams is injury prone. He had a high ankle sprain last season and ended up being shutdown because the season was lost and he had really no reason to come back. But nevertheless I expect big things from the Pantehrs backfield. The trio of Mike Goodson, Williams and Jonathon Stewart is the best  and deepest in the league.

I would expect Williams and Stewart to share most of the carries with Goodson seeing action on passing downs. As far as expectations from the backfield, I would say you would see a lot of running. Rivera would be stupid not to. The Panthers have a huge veteran offensive line and I would expect to see them run the ball a good deal this season to help keep the pressure off of the young quarterbacks.

4. Going with a couple of DT’s in the draft – do you think this is a position battle to be had this preseason?  What can we expect to see from the Carolina defense this year?

The defensive tackle position was one of the biggest needs the Panthers faced going into the offseason. Last year the Panthers had one of the worst defenses against the run and that starts with the big boys in the middle. And the team addressed that in draft and free agency by taking defensive tackles Terrell McClain and Sione Fua back to back in the third round and then signing veteran tackle Ron Edwards away from the Chiefs.

Edwards however is out for the season with a tricep injury and the two rookies will now have a chance to start right away. As for the rest of the defense, I would expect improvement under Rivera and defensive coordinator Sean McDermott. The defense was young and without Thomas Davis the entire season so expect improvement.

5. 2 starting WRs are out for you, Steve Smith is out for 2 weeks and David Gettis is out for the season now.  How much depth is there at WR and is this a major concern a month away from the start of the season?

I would say there is depth at the position just not spectacular depth. Smith is only out for a few weeks with a finger injury that is not serious and the Panthers recently signed Legedu Naanee. I would bet on him starting at the other receiver position next to Smith. Behind those two, the Panthers have last years third round pick Brandon LaFell who showed glimpses of talent last season, along with Armanti Edwards and David Clowney who should provide depth at the position.

I know many of those names won’t ring any bells or scare opposing defenses, but I think the team will be okay if it can get a bit of production out of all of them. I think this position more than most is very intriguing in terms of how it will shape up in the coming weeks.

6. What overall strategy can we expect to see from the Panthers on offense, who and what are the coaches looking to get the most reps out of?

I would say in this game it is really just a test run. Remember the Panthers are installing an entirely new offense with a new head coach and offensive coordinator, in just a matter of weeks. The loss of OTA’s and mini camps hurt the Panthers a lot more than other teams so I am not expecting greatness tonight.

The scheme itself will liken it to the San Diego Chargers. Offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski loves the vertical passing game while utilizing the tight end a lot over the middle.

7.  What is the X-Factor for the Panthers this game?

The x-factor for the Panthers in this game and for the entire season will without a doubt be Cam Netwon. If the former Auburn quarterback can pick of the offense he will give the Panthers a lot better chance to win than anyone else under center.

Newton is a freak athlete that needs to be on the field at least part of the time. If he can work on his accuracy a bit and adjust to the game speed of the NFL then the Panthers may be a lot better than most people expected.

10. Final prediction?

With Steve Smith, linebackers Jon Beason, Thomas Davis and defensive end Greg Hardy out, I wouldn’t expect to much from the Panthers tonight against a Giant team that has been together for a long time.

I think the Panthers will focus more on working through its own plays and problems instead of focusing on winning the game. But even so I expect the Panthers to be at least competitive.

Final Prediction:  24-17 Giants