With the preseason for your Houston Texans beginning in earnest tomorrow night, Jaxon over at SB Nation's site for all things Panthers and Carolina, Cat Scratch Reader, was kind enough to answer a few questions I had. I answered a handful of questions he posed as well, and I'll link to that as soon as they're published at CSR so you can mosey on over to
vehemently disagree with my analysis chime in. Hit the jump and read what Jaxon had to say.
1. Can you point Texans fans in the direction of a position battle or two, or certain Panthers we may not be as familiar with but who could have significant roles on the 2012 squad, that we should keep an eye on Saturday night?
CSR: Strangely enough, the biggest camp battle seems to be at kicker as Justin Medlock tries to unseat Olindo Mare. Mare was "inconsistent" at best last season, missing several key kicks, including one that directly resulted in a loss to the Vikings. Medlock was drafted by the Chiefs five years ago but for what he described as "immaturity reasons" flushed out quickly. He made his way back through the CFL and is not kicking the crap out of the ball. He’s been money even from beyond 50 yards.
Otherwise, the #2 CB spot is a big battle between incumbent Captain Munnerlyn, back-up Darius Butler, 2nd year player Brandon Hogan, and 5th round pick Josh Norman. Norman has looked good in camp until tweaking his hammy; he just got back to practice yesterday. We would like Norman to win it, but right now it’s a crap shoot. Hogan is out with an injury and will not play Saturday, I’m betting.
2. Which Panther(s) have been the biggest surprises thus far in training camp?
CSR: The biggest surprise so far has to be LB Luke Kuechly. Though we set the bar high for 1st round picks, he has exceeded it. He has demonstrated the speed, smarts and tackling ability we expected, but the surprise has been his uncanny ability in pass coverage. The kid is getting picks left and right in practice and has earned the praise of veterans in camp who are now believers. This kid is going to be a big help with the defense.
3. What would you say has been the biggest change as the team transitioned from John Fox to Ron Rivera?
CSR: The offense has changed big time, but I might say that is more of product of OC Rob Chudzinski. Speaking to Rivera specifically, I would point to two things. First, as a fan, you never have to guess what the guy means or what he is thinking. He is a no-nonsense guy that tells it straight instead of being vague and cryptic like Fox always was. Second, he knows what type of mental attitude and character he wants from his players and those that don’t get on board are gone quickly. He wants a "team first" attitude from the entire roster and will settle for nothing less.
4. Do you expect Jonathan Stewart to be a Panther in 2013? If so, does that mean DeAngelo Williams won't be with Carolina next year?
CSR: So far both sides have said they want to get a deal done. It just hasn’t happened. I’m hopeful it will get done in the next month or so. If not, it’s hard to say. I really don’t think paying two good RBs is the issue, as many have suggested. I think this issue is the impact to the cap and the Panthers wanting to see how the 53-man stacks up before committing the big money. They may have to dip into free agency for a LB or a DT if things don’t pan out as they would like.
5. PUT YOUR NAME ON IT: At the end of the 2012 regular season, the Panthers' record will be 10-6, which will be good for 2nd place in the NFC South and a wild card playoff spot.
Thanks to Jaxon for taking the time to answer my inquiries. Make sure to head over to CSR to read what Panthers fans are saying about Saturday night's opener.