Know Thy Enemy: Panthers Editor Ken Dye Sits Down with the Jet Press
By Alan Schechter
Aug 17, 2012; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) shares candy with people on the sidelines during the second half against the Miami Dolphins at Bank of America Stadium.The Panthers defeated the Dolphins 23-17. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-US PRESSWIRE
Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer, that is how that saying goes. So, we do that here as well. All kidding aside, we sat down with Ken Dye, editor of our Panthers site, catcrave.com, to discuss the upcoming preseason game. Take a look:
THE JET PRESS: How is Cam looking so far? Will he perform to a similar level to last season, or is there the potential for the sophomore slump?
CAT CRAVE:Cam and the entire offense had a rough go of things against the Texans. The whole team’s effort improved against the Dolphins and they looked very sharp, with Cam leading 3 consecutive scoring drives and putting 17 up on the board before the starters were pulled. I think a lot of that was due to Miami’s players learning a new system on both sides of the football. Their Dolphins have an underrated roster. What makes me optimistic is Cam led the Panthers to a 4-2 record in their final six games of 2011 with one of those being a 28-13 win at Houston. My biggest fear is that he’ll never learn how to slide properly. It’s obvious he never played an inning of baseball in his life!
While there’s always a potential for a sophomore slump, I just don’t see it for Cam this year. They finished 3rd in the division with a 6-10 record and draw the appropriate schedule this year – much like the schedule Andy Dalton’s Bengals played last year. Dalton’s Bengals never beat a team with a winning record; Cam did (the Houston example above).
That said, the NFC South is going to be brutal with the improved personnel the Bucs hauled in during free agency and the draft, so anything is possible.
TJP:With this being the final dress rehearsal for our first teams, are you looking forward to seeing Steve Smith go up against Darrelle Revis as much as we are here in NY?
CC:Are you kidding me? I saw the intensity Smith had when matched up with Vontae Davis last week and Revis is simply the best cover corner in the game, bar none. He’s not nearly as physical as Davis, but he’s much more consistent and there are no lapses in his game. Steve Smith will have to reach down deep in his bag of veteran tricks to get open much, but I don’t think Revis will have much success getting the stronger Smith off his route in press coverage. It’ll be an interesting battle to watch to be sure.
TJP:Is there a particular part of the Panthers game you are looking forward to watching, to see exactly where your team’s progress is?
CC:Two, actually – first and foremost is the rush defense up the middle. Injuries really decimated the front seven last season for us, but they have the long-term “benefit” – if you will – of building depth. DT Ron Edwards returns along with Pro-Bowl linebacker Jon Beason from injuries last year. I think we got 1 quarter of play the entire year between the two of them. When you add in a kid like Luke Kuechly who has played like an All-Pro so far, I’m excited about the prospects.
On the other hand, we need to find some pass rushers! Charles Johnson can’t do it alone from his RDE position and we traded up into the 4th round to pick up Oklahoma’s Frank Alexander to eventually play the strongside DE. Don’t forget about Thomas Keiser, though. He made the team as an undrafted rookie free agent last year and had 4 sacks in 8 games, so there’s the possibility that more than one pass-rushing threat could emerge.
TJP:What are the most important areas you are looking for improvement from Sunday night?
CC:With the near-perfect game the starters had against the Dolphins, they really don’t have much room to improve. They held Miami to under 2 yards per carry and only Miami’s 3rd-string QB, Pat Devlin, completed over half his passes and that was in the 4th quarter against the scrubs. The Jets are having similar problems getting their offense going this preseason, but I’m looking for the Panther defense to not allow the Jets to “evolve” any this week, whatever the stats may be. It would seem on paper to be a game where someone in the Panther secondary could make a couple of plays and stand out. Our secondary needs playmakers because CB Chris Gamble can’t do it all himself.
Also, the kick and punt coverage units need to really improve. They’ve been problem areas since at least last year.
TJP:Finally, give us some bubble players that we don’t know about that will be fun to watch, fighting for a roster spot.
CC:Unfortunately, a couple of guys I’ve been looking for to show something this season have been hurt – for example, 2011 fourth-round pick Brandon Hogan. Nate Ness was a guy I had noticed in the preseason with the Dolphins a few years ago who made some plays, but he got injured and the Panthers recently cut him.
Of the remaining players, I’d like to see more of WR Jared Green. You may have heard of his father – Darrell Green. Obviously, Jared has the pedigree and he’s an intriguing player. On the offense, WR Rico Wallace is a kid on the bubble to watch. He’s 6-3 215 lbs, runs about a 4.5 40-yard dash, catches the ball away from his body and runs crisp routes without slowing down or rounding them off. Not many Division-III guys make it in the NFL, but he might be able to if he makes some plays when given the opportunity.
We thank Ken for his time, and look forward to the game on Sunday. Check his site out, catcrave.com, he and his writers to a terrific job.