With the Miami Dolphins hosting the Carolina Panthers tonight, I got in touch with Jaxson over at Cat Scratch Reader, SB Nation's exceptional Panthers blog. He was kind enough to take some time to answer my questions about the Panthers, and what we can expect to see tonight.
1. As a team with a QB fans want replaced, the Dolphins can relate to the Panthers right now. How good has Cam Newton looked during training camp and the first preseason game? Will he be the Panthers starter this year?
Jaxon: Right now Jimmy Clausen is the #1 on the depth chart but Ron Rivera has indicated Cam will start against the Dolphins. He said the season opener starter will not be announced until next week. I’m not 100% Newton will get that call. Rivera has made it clear he wants Cam to win the job. Clausen has performed well in camp but a little shaky last week. Newton has shown all the intangibles and the obvious athletic ability. He commends the huddle and appears to have the confidence of the offense. Stat wise preseason game 1 was not a very good showing for Newton as he had a rating in the 60’s. He had a couple ugly passes but a couple really nice ones. There is no doubt Newton will become the Panthers starter at some point this season. I’m just not sure it’s week 1.
2. On the flip side of that coin, Jimmy Clausen was a guy many of the Phinsider faithful wanted to see come to Miami. So, what's happened to him? Is he really as bad as it seems from outside Carolina?
Jaxon: As I said in my first answer, he’s played well in camp and had a decent showing last week, outside of an ugly pick 6. He’s improved his pocket awareness and his accuracy and seems more confident under center. Will he be a starting caliber QB in this league? The jury is still out. Right now he’s looking like a back-up with upside.
3. Outside of Cam, what rookie will make an impact for the Panthers this year?
Jaxon: I’m hoping one of the DTs we drafted in the 3rd round will make an impact; either Sione Fua or Terrell McClain. Fua is running with the 1st team since we lost our free agent acquisition from KC Ron Edwards to a torn triceps. The Panthers are not very deep at DT so either one of them could be a starter this season. The only other player that could surprise is WR Keoloha Pilares, the RB who was converted to WR his junior year at Hawaii. Pilares will get a shot at PR and could fill in at the slot.
4. Ron Rivera brings a lot of credibility with him to Carolina. With his 1985 Super Bowl ring as a player with the Bears, to developing the Bears defense through the middle of the last decade, he could have a lot to offer a very young team. What do you think of the changes he has brought, and does the team seem to be dealing with the shortened offseason and coaching change?
Jaxon: Per Rivera the team is very behind hence the need to play the starters longer in these preseason games. We are very impressed with Rivera’s demeanor, his ability to command the attention and respect of his players while also being approachable and open-minded. We’ve already nicknamed him ‘BAMF’ because though he comes across as the quiet, reserved type he is actually one BAMF you don’t want to mess with!
5. With this being the second preseason game, Dolphins coach Tony Sparano has said he will play the starters until he gets tired - a move that is probably very necessary after our first team, looked so bad last week. What are you expecting out of the Panthers, both in starters on the field and in overall performance?
Jaxon: Newton will get the start and play with the starters through the 1st quarter and into the 2nd. He will then mix in some subs and probably bring in Clausen through the 3rd quarter. Expect Derek Anderson to work the 4th quarter. We will have several starters out for this game, most notably RG Geoff Schwartz, RT Jeff Otah and LB Jon Beason. Otherwise we’ll have to wait till game time to see who’s a late scratch.
Beyond the QB play, I’m watching the WRs as we still have to determine who the #2 WR is going to be. I say ‘#2’ only in reference to a position. No doubt our #2 receiving option (might end up #1) is TE Greg Olsen. We’re thinking we stole this guy from the Bears for a 3rd rounder.
On defense I’m watching the big boys up front. We are young across the board outside of DE Charles Johnson, who by the way says he will play against the Dolphins. We have a young secondary too with a competition for the spot opposite Chris Gamble.
I would like to thank Jaxon for his time. Head over to Cat Scratch Reader for more information on the Panthers.