To take a look at Thursday night's preseason opponent, the Carolina Panthers, Baltimore Beatdown asked SB Nation site Cat Scratch Reader five questions about the team it covers.
Helping us out is Jack Finney, otherwise known as Jaxon on the site.
Here's what he had to say about the Panthers:
Question: I've read that there hasn't been as much read-option this preseason so far. Do you expect that to continue considering that Carolina finished strong when it went to a more traditional passing attack by the end of 2012? To follow, does that mean to expect less running from Cam Newton, or will that still be something defenses need to worry about?
Jaxon: Actually there has been zero read-option this preseason but that doesn’t mean we won’t run it Thursday night. Though the RO will not be featured like it was early last season I still expect the Panthers to use it occasionally which may warrant practicing it against the Ravens.
I’m predicting Newton will still run the ball 5 to 10 times a game but fewer carries will be designed runs with the rest improvised after rolling into space or feeling pocket pressure.
Q: Carolina brought in some receivers and have some young ones on the roster to accompany Steve Smith. Which ones do you expect to step up and contribute this year?
Jaxon: Brandon LaFell remains a solid #2 WR but the unknown is who will nail down the #3 WR slot. The Panthers brought in FA Dominick Hixon but he has missed a lot of practice with injury. He did finally practice this week so I expect him to play Thursday. 4th year WR Armanti Edwards was the first WR to distinguish himself but he has now missed time with injury. Ted Ginn has made a few plays but not enough.
My money is instead on 4th WR from Baylor Davis Gettis, who is finally 100% healthy for the first time in two years. Gettis logged 37 rec for 508 yds, 3 TDs as a rookie in 2010. He has been the Panthers leading receiver in this preseason and is showing an ability to make the tough catch. It doesn’t hurt that he’s 6’3" 220lbs, strong and fast. The Panthers have stated they would like to run Smitty from the slot so rather than the #3WR being a slot guy they would prefer I guy that can play the outside. Gettis has the perfect size and speed to fill that role. I’m really hoping he gets in the game early so we can see how he works with Newton rather than erratic back-up Derek Anderson.
Q: With Jon Beason and Luke Kuechly at linebacker, do you see this unit as being one of the NFL's best in 2013?
Jaxon: You forgot WLB Thomas Davis! Davis is still the only guy to come back from 3 ACL surgeries on the same knee though I doubt there will people who willing want try and match it ;) Yes we think those are pretty good compared to the other 4-3 LB sets in the league. Even more some Panther fans are expecting our front 7 to be one of the best, with Johnson, Edwards/Short, Star, Hardy across the front. But the Raven defense will be a good test of that prediction.
Q: How much should we expect Carolina's starters to play Thursday, and are there any fringe starters we should keep an eye on in the second and third quarters?
At least the first half but maybe into the 3rd quarter depending on how the 1st half goes. On offense keep an eye on WRs Hixon and Gettis. At RB Tauren Poole is battling Armond Smith for a potentially open 4th RB spot (if Stewart doesn’t get off the PUP). TE Brendan Williams is a physical freak catching the ball but has issues with blocking. Rookie RB Kenjon Barner is electric but has lost the handle on the ball a couple times so he’s onj the verge of getting Rivera’s doghouse if he drops another one. Oh, and the offensive line is dumpster fire. We’ve had experienced guys missing assignments and doing dumb stuff. Gross and Kalil have been good but the rest…if the football Gods are merciful they turn it around quick!
On defense the 4th DT spot is wide open with Sione Fua, Colin Cole and Frank Kearse battling. None of the three have impressed so it might be a ‘hold your nose’ and swallow type of decision. In the secondary if Josh Norman has another good night then he may bump Captain Munnerlyn from his starting corner spot. We would also be keeping an eye on SS Mike Mitchell who struggled last week but still appears to have the starting SS job locked down.
Oh course you have to watch Cam who like in past preseasons has not looked too great. He’s been erratic in his passing but it’s obvious he is limited by the play-calling. We would like to see them up it up a little more against the Ravens, try some passes further down the field and mix things up a little. The word is the Panthers are game planning this one so we will see.
Q: Who are Carolina's sleepers to make the 53-man roster this season?
Jaxon: It’s a tough question this year as most of our key new people are free agents you expect to make the roster. I would say TE Brandon Williams could fill a #3 TE role while they work on his blocking. OT Nate Chandler, a newly converted DT, might make the roster simply because of a lack of depth at the position.
On defense DT Colin Cole could win the #4 DT spot as I mentioned. DEs Wes Horton and Louis Nzegwu have been very active pass rushers and have worked their way into the discussion. FE CB DJ Moore is not a lock for a spot as Josh Thomas and James Dockery are both playing well.
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