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Ask the Expert: Cardinals vs Panthers

Today we sit down with Cat Scratch Reader lead blogger, Jaxon, who gives his insight on the team we face this Sunday, the Carolina Panthers. He was nice enough to take the time out of his day to answer five questions, and you can check out the five questions he asked me over at there site. So to continue on, let's look at how he answered my questions.

1. Obviously you had to see question 1 coming - Do you think that Jake Delhomme's struggles stem from the playoff loss last year and if so, how?

To a degree I think the answer is yes. That loss provided the first crack in his confidence that he admits carried over into this season. I think his continued struggles stem deeper than that though. I think for an NFL QB the mental aspect is just as important as any physical gifts. If Delhomme can’t get his head back on straight this might be the end for him.

2. Steve Smith was a receiver that we had all grown accustomed to seeing make big plays and put up fantastic numbers. So far this year he's projected to finish with 72 catches for 954 yards and 1-3 TDs, which would be his worst year since '03 minus the injury year. Do you feel Delhomme is to blame or is it the offense entirely?

Smith’s lack of production is mostly due to Delhomme. He is unable to hit to hit the long ball which is what makes Smith dangerous. The bracket coverage he commands limits his effectiveness in the short game. Some blame goes to the play calling too. Very little would I place on Smith himself.

3. Getting back to Delhomme, what do you see the Panthers doing with their quarterback position in the future? You guys traded your first round pick next year to San Francisco and it seems that Delhomme's career is done. Could you see them make a trade? a la Jay Cutler type trade?
Fox and GM Marty Hurney prefer to look for and sign young free agents like Delhomme and groom them. I don’t expect them to draft a QB early though given how deep the upcoming draft is at QB this year might be the exception. A trade is a possibility but nothing of the ‘blockbuster’ variety. They are too cautious for that.

4. What's going on with Julius Peppers? He does have 6 sacks (5 against bad teams) but we haven't heard his name as much and in the off season he wanted to play for a different team. Will he remain a Panther or end up with a different team next year?

He started slow but has played better the past few games. I expect him to play well this weekend and he loves to match up with Cardinals LT Levi Brown. If there is no salary cap this off-season the Panthers may franchise him again and try to trade him. I can’t see them paying him $20M for one season. They just might let him walk if Peppers again indicates he won’t sign the tender until after the draft.

5. What's your impression of Everette Brown? 7 tackles and 1 sack doesn't scream rookie of the year. Is he being groomed to take over for Peppers or just struggling in his first year?

He hasn’t played a lot so the stats are misleading. He’s played well when in there but the Panthers have two other young DE’s playing well in front of him, Charles Johnson and Hilee Taylor. Regardless, rookie of the year he is not but I’m still okay with the trade, unless the Panthers continue to tank and that pick ends up being a top 5 pick. Then it would look like a really stupid move by the Panthers. If Peppers does leave then he is the obvious heir-apparent to play the right side.