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Scouting Report: Carolina Panthers

Discussion in 'Chargers Fan Forum' started by Johnny Lightning, Sep 3, 2008.

  1. Johnny Lightning

    Johnny Lightning Go Bolts

    Feb 7, 2006
    Carolina Panthers (7-9 in 2007, 2nd in NFC South)

    September 3, 2008

    With all the talk about how the Chargers need to avoid the kind of slow start (1-3) they got off to last year, it's interesting that the opening-game opponent is Carolina, a team not unlike the Chicago Bears who served as San Diego's first opponent of 2007. An opponent the Chargers beat. The Panthers are similarly defense-minded, as evidenced by the fact that Carolina's first-team defense gave up a total of three points in three exhibition games. (Regulars didn't play in the finale.) That represents a return to form for the Panthers, whose reputation for tough, aggressive, ball-hawking defense was downgraded to no better than mediocre last year. They gave up an average of 324 yards and three touchdowns per game.

    For their own defense's part, the Chargers are catching the Panthers at perhaps the best possible time. Carolina's without its leading playmaker, Pro Bowl wide receiver Steve Smith, serving out his suspension for punching out teammate Ken Lucas and recovering from a concussion sustained in the preseason opener.
    Three Players to Watch

    Jake Delhomme, QB: You knew the Panthers were in deep trouble last year when you saw 44-year-old Vinny Testaverde at quarterback, which tells you the sense of desperation that set in when Delhomme was lost with an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery, common among baseball pitchers but extremely rare with NFL passers. Consequently, the wonder is whether Delhomme ever will again be the offensive force he was in Carolina's playoff seasons of 2003 and '05.
    Julius Peppers, DE: Down was up last year, but now left is right for Peppers, an easy target for those trying to pinpoint the problems Carolina suddenly had on defense last year. Of their franchise-low 23 sacks, Peppers had just 2-½, hardly what was expected of a three-time Pro Bowl selection. To get him back on track, the Panthers have moved Peppers from the left side to the right. He'll have to do more since Carolina traded away one of his defensive-line cronies, Kris Jenkins, and the retirement of Mike Rucker has put even more focus on him.
    Jonathan Stewart, RB: Because of the absence of Smith, injuries to fellow receivers D.J. Hackett and Ryne Robinson, the surgical scar on Delhomme's elbow and the fact that Carolina has shifted to more of a power-blocking scheme with its revamped offensive line, this could mean a great opportunity for a first impression by the power-running rookie out of Oregon who was the Panthers' first-round draft choice.

    It's another sort of homecoming for several Panthers personnel, starting from the top. General Manager Marty Hurney essentially began his front office career as the Chargers' coordinator of football operations during the Bobby Beathard regime and head coach John Fox, who played at Castle Park High and San Diego State, was an assistant with the Chargers as well as SDSU and U.S. International. Carolina's department of college scouting is headed by former Chargers scout Don Gregory and includes Jeff Beathard, son of the former GM. The tight ends coach is Geep Chryst, formerly the Chargers' offensive coordinator.

    Wide receiver Ryne Robinson is the most serious among few injured Panthers, nursing a bum knee that's got him doubtful for Sunday, and fellow pass-catcher D.J. Hackett is expected to return to practice today after giving a toe problem time to recover. Out for three weeks with a groin strain, free safety Chris Harris also should be back at practice today.

    The Chargers have lost two of their three games against the Panthers, but did win the most recent one, a 17-6 verdict on Oct. 24, 2004, at Carolina in which San Diego trailed 6-0 at halftime. LaDainian Tomlinson used an 8-yard run to score the first touchdown for San Diego, which controlled the ball for 19:58 of the second half. Carolina beat the Chargers 26-7 in 1997 and 30-22 in 2000.

    A week ago, Mark Jones was returning kicks for the Chargers, even though everyone knew the job in San Diego belonged to Darren Sproles. Jones, who indeed didn't make the cut with the Chargers, is now with the Panthers.

    “Having Moose back is a big plus, but there is no doubt that not having Steve is something we have to overcome.” – Panthers coach John Fox on the return of receiver Muhsin Muhammad after three years with the Bears and this week's absence of suspended star Steve Smith.

    4 Different starting quarterbacks used by Carolina last year.
    4 Carolina's league ranking in both rushing (143.8) and total yards (345.0) this preseason.
    36.2 Percent, the Panthers' third-down conversion rate in 2007. 160 Tackles, a franchise record, by rookie linebacker Jon Beason last year.


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