As we will do throughout the season, we will likely have a Q&A each game with the SB Nation blog of the team the Arizona Cardinals oppose. This time, as the Cards face Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers, Jaxon from Cat Scratch Reader has answered a few questions for us as we look at what the Cardinals might face against the Panthers.
Hit the jump to see what he said...
ROTB: What exactly are Panthers fans expecting this year with a new, raw quarterback and new coaching staff?
CSR: Overall I think most Panther fans are keeping their expectations fairly low, essentially in the six wins neighborhood. Some a few less wins, some a few more. We definitely want to see some improvement from the offense which shouldn't be too hard given how epically bad it was last season. Unfortunately the run defense has looked terrible so far this preseason so if that trends into the regular season it could be another long season (and high draft pick) for Panther fans.
ROTB: What was encouraging about Cam Newton during the preseason?
CSR: Newton has given us plenty to be encouraged about. He's had zero turnovers in the preseason (knock on wood), seems to have adjusted to the speed of the game and is improving his pocket awareness and accuracy on a weekly basis. Of course he brings some excitement as well given he can take a broken play and turn it into a 20 yard scamper.
ROTB: What do you think the Panthers' game plan will be against the Cardinals?
CSR: On offense, run the ball, throw to the TEs and hopefully sling a few well placed balls down the field to Steve Smith. Don't be surprised if the Panthers run a couple gadget plays such as WR end arounds or even a WR pass via Armanti Edwards or DeAngelo Williams; anything to keep the defense guessing. We haven't run many straight QB read and run plays but I'm expecting Newton to look to run throughout the game.
On defense it's simple: stop the run and mix in some designed blitzes should we actually create 3rd and longs. Beanie Wells is a solid play in fantasy this week as the Panthers have only 3 DT's on the roster as of Tuesday, 2 rookies and a 2nd year UDFA. DC Sean MsDermott is known for blitzing regularly and though the Panthers played it fairly vanilla in the preseason the word from the players is expect to see pressure applied on about 50% of the play calls. On a positive note we thought MLB Jon Beason was going to miss the opener but he actually practiced today and says he wants to play Sunday. He'll be a game time decision but I have a suspicion he will play.
ROTB: What other players have stepped up/made an impression in training camp/preseason?
CSR: On offense we've been very impressed with TE Greg Olsen who is a mismatch against most LBs. Newton seems to have an affinity for him and starter Jeremy Shockey so your LBs better be ready to lock on to those guys. We've also been impressed with the return of RT Jeff Otah who is finally healthy and looking dominant. Expect the Panthers to run to the right side early and often.
On defense we think we have an exceptional set of LBs in Beason, WLB Thomas Davis (who is also finally healthy) and SLB James Anderson. We are hopeful our secondary is a strength though we need depth at CB. We like our DE's too in Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy but we're not sure what kind of impact they can have if they can't stop the run.
ROTB: What is your predicted outcome of the game on Sunday? Why?
CSR: I admit that prior to training camp I was hopeful we could notch a 'W' against the Cardinals as we seem always play you guys tough (the playoff game blow out withstanding). Once you got Kolb and our run defense disappeared my spirits have dampened a bit; and it's a road game. But I will give you a prediction none the less but please know I never predict a loss when doing these Q&As though I try to keep my answers real.
If the Panthers win it will be because the run defense suddenly showed up and/or we got some help from the Cardinals in the form of turnovers. I think the Panther offense will score a few points but struggle to sustain drives.
His final prediction? Panthers 24 Cardinals 21