It is important when watching a game, to know a little bit about your opponent and to go into the game with a little information for a source who is closer to the team that you may be.
This week, I has the opportunity to chat with Kenneth Dye, the editor at Cat Crave, the Fansided Carolina Panthers blog. I asked him several questions about the Panthers as a team, and this Falcons-Panthers matchup. Here is what he had to say:
Blogging Dirty– The Panthers front office has recently invested a boat load of money in running backs, and up to this point they haven’t been particularly productive. What is the reason for this lack of productivity, and what is Carolina looking to do to get that running game going?
Cat Crave– The entire team is out of sync on both sides of the ball and while some of the running game problems are due to Jonathan Stewart being slowed by injury, Mike Tolbert was picked up to provide some insurance. DeAngelo had 11 caries for 50 yards last week, and the Panthers are at their best when able to establish the run early. Rivera knows this, which is why he drafted a smash-mouth run-blocking guard at the top of the second round. With Stewart back, look for them to alternate them often, mix things up, and then of course that sets up the play-action. That’s the plan, anyhow. When we start trying to be a passing team first, it falls apart.
BD– Steve Smith is not only one of the most physical and competitive receivers in the NFL, but he is a great deep-threat, and all-round receiver. Aside from him and TE Greg Olsen, who is really pulling their weight in the receiving corps? Is Brandon Lafell ready to be a true No. 2 receiver?
CC– LaFell has made some key catches for us so far this season. I really like the way he has played and is one of the few people this year on the offensive side of the ball that has exceeded expectations. He’s not only ready, he’s been playing the no. 2 role all season whether others realize it or not. I’m sure he does.
BD– MLB Jon Beason has All-Pro potential, but hasn’t looked good yet this season, and the defensive tackle situation is also a question mark. Will the Falcons have a difficult time running effectively to set up the pass? What does this defense look like without Beason in it if he doesn’t play?
CC– I think Beason looks slower than before the Achilles tear last season. It’s not uncommon to lose explosiveness and speed after such an injury but sometimes it will come back. Time will tell there, but if anyone else is up to the job, it’s rookie Luke Kuechly. Athletically he’s more than capable of dominating at MLB – someday. The one bright spot is the Panthers’ defense seems to get tougher in the red zone this year, and we’ll need it. Ray Edwards is a good DT but we still lack depth there. It’ll be tough to slow down the running attack without every warm body we can get suited up.
BD– Cornerback Chris Gamble has flashed big play ability, and SS Charles Godfrey is a fine player as well. Other than that, there are some great unknowns, some players who teams will pick on offensively. How will the secondary hold up against the Falcons, and to what extent will the pass-rush disrupt what the Falcons want to do?
CC– Oh, I don’t expect it will hold up. Gamble can’t cover White and Jones at the same time. Atlanta will throw to whoever is lined up against Captain Munnerlyn and be successful in doing so without pressure from our defensive ends especially. Thomas Davis has been the “surprise” on the defensive side for us this year. He wasn’t expected to play at the level he’s been playing this year after 3 knee surgeries. The guy is amazing. If we get pressure, it’ll come from our DE rotation and/or Davis.
BD– What is your prediction on the outcome of the game?
CC– Everything is pointing to a decisive victory for the Falcons at home. I’d love to think it’ll be closer than people expect, but I just don’t see it. Falcons win it, 34-17. I think this game will set the tone for the rest of the first half at least, win or lose. We’ll see how resilient the Panthers – and Cam – really are.
A special thanks to Kenneth and Cat Crave for the insightful interview, and time he graciously offered.