Yesterday I had the chance to talk with the Jack Finney, manager of Cat Scratch Reader. We both gave five questions and answers for the upcoming preseason match.
1. Will the loss of Josh Norman hurt the secondary?
There is no doubt we will miss Josh Norman’s ability to shut down opposing WRs in 2016 but the Panthers are working hard to minimize the drop off in production. There also other aspects of his game we won’t miss but there is no doubt he is one of the best CBs in the league right now. It always hurts to lose a player of his caliber, especially when he is ‘home grown’ so to speak and a local product at that. I wish things had worked out differently but we are trying to move on and hope one of these rookies will be a future star.
2. How can Cam Newton follow up his 2015 campaign?
We just need him to keep doing what he is doing. Newton has improved every season in the league and he still has room for improvement, particular in his passing completion rate. I see no reason why he won’t match or even exceed his 2015 performance given we return a very similar line up. I will admit the schedule is a little tougher and things start with a bang with the SB50 rematch. Up to this point Newton seems to be doing all the right things to ensure the Panther offense continues to move the ball.
3. How much of Kelvin Benjamin (if at all) should we expect to see?
The word is that most of the key starters on offense will only see one series of action unless the series is a 3 and out. If they are able to drive the ball and pick up some first downs that is all Rivera wants to see. KB is certainly one of the players the Panthers will limit this preseason due to coming off the ACL injury. He’s looked good though, real good. He’s so damn big it’s insane.
4. Who do you believe can shine in this first preseason contest?
On offense look for RB Cameron-Artis Payne, the 2nd year RB out of Auburn to get a lot of carries. Behind him 2nd year UDFA Brandon Wegher could be the real deal. I expect one or both to shine. At WR UDFA rookie Damiere Byrd is lightning fast and on the bubble. He will be looking to make an impression. The only problem is back-up QB Derek Anderson has been struggling which won’t help the 3 dozen WRs we have vying for the 5th WR roster spot.
On defense the focus is obviously on the rookie CBs Bradberry, Worley and Sanchez. If any of them shine that will be a huge confidence boost. Rookie 1st round pick DT Vernon Butler has looked like the real deal with a quick first step and the size to pressure to the middle of the line. I expect him to make a couple plays once he gets in there.
5. What team is the biggest threat to the Carolina Panthers in the NFC South division?
Honestly, none of them. I know that sounds like pure homerism and is setting me up for the cold slap of reality but I truly believe the other three teams are still a season away from competing with the Panthers. Sure I can look at all three teams and see reasons for why they might exceed expectations. I could also come up with reasons for why the Panthers lose a bunch of games, but neither is very likely. The Falcons and Bucs both have very new coaching staffs. All three teams still have serious issues on defense which is where the biggest difference is. The Saints and Falcons should be able to score and I want to say the same about the Bucs. But all three struggle to rush the passer and stop the pass. All three struggle against our read option.