A Chinese general and author, named Sun Tzu, wrote back in 500 B.C. (I think that’s right around when Brett Favre was born), “Know thy self, know thy enemy. A thousand battles, a thousand victories.” I’m not sure how well he prevailed on the field, but it’s a good philosophy for preparing for a football game. Every week prior to game time, I’ll try and catch up with fellow FanSided bloggers who are writing for the teams the Steelers play that current week. Today, I caught up with Taylor Barbour from catcrave.com. I asked him five questions about the Panthers. I got some interesting insights from Taylor that I think will be interesting to see how they pan out over the course of the game, as well as the season for the Panters.
1. How do you think Cam Newton has faired so far this preseason? Do you really feel he is ready to take the helm of an offense as a rookie QB?
I think Newton has performed decent. He has done about what I expected out of a rookie who is learning a new offense and still adjusting to the NFL game. He has shown a lot of natural ability. His two huge runs against the Bengals were unreal and show just how athletic he is. He belongs on the field, especially when your other two options are Jimmy Clausen and Derek Anderson.
Do I think he is ready to take the helm of the offense? No, but I think he will. If we had a better option I would love nothing more than to let Newton sit for most of this season and learn the offense and then take over next year. But Carolina doesn’t have that luxury and Newton will have to learn on the run, literally.
2. What’s the one thing the Steelers really need to work on against Carolina on Thursday?
I think the biggest matchup between the two teams will be how Carolina’s defense line holds up against the Steelers offensive line. The Panthers d-line has been killed so far this preseason and has looked really horrible against the run and pass. They need to figure things out quickly. More than likely the Panthers will start two rookie defensive tackles so it will be interesting to see how they respond against a veteran Steeler O-line.
3. Ron Rivera is the new head coach this year. Due to the lockout, he was not able to contact any players over the offseason. Do you think this has had a negative impact with Rivera and/or the players?
I don’t think it had a negative effect in terms of Rivera’s relationship with the players. I think it definitely set it back though. The Panthers were hurt more than any team in the league by the lockout. A new coach, a new offensive and defensive scheme and a rookie quarterback. If any team needed time it was this one and it has showed. Even some of the veterans have looked lost on either side of the football.
It has been a process with this team. They will continue to get better but it is going to take time for this team to learn and adjust.
4. Do you see any similarities with the way Rivera coaches and the way John Fox coached the team? They both have strong defensive backgrounds – any concerns with the offense taking a ‘back seat’?
On paper they look eerily similar. Both were former defensive coordinators and that got their first job as a head coach with the Panthers. But they are different. Rivera is a lot more open minded, which is the complete opposite of Fox, who is stubborn and set in his ways. I think Rivera will have a say in the offense but will really let offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski run that.
5. The Panthers, during Fox’s early years, contended very well in their division and had a few playoff runs. The NFC south is a tough one with Atlanta and the Saints. What will it take to get back to being in playoff contention and those former glory years?
I think this team has the talent to compete and win in the NCF South, but I don’t think it is going to be this year. The Panthers are young and really have to many things going against them for them to be competitive this year. But they have a solid core of young players locked up for the future. If and that is a big if Cam Newton can turn into a solid NFL quarterback and if they can add the right pieces in the next few years will have a chance to once again be a force to reckon with in the South.
So there you have it. Sounds like the interesting matchup for tonight’s game will be the Steelers’ O-Line vs. the Panters’ D-Line. The D-Line may be young and set back due to the lockout, but the Steelers’ O-Line has yet to prove itself this preseason that it is gelling well and up to the task of protecting Big Ben. We’ll see how Newton fairs against the Steelers’ secondary – but be sure that the LB’s will have a good shot or two at the young QB. Will he be fast enough to elude Woodley or Harrison?
Looking forward to this game – for as much as you can for preseason. I think we’ll get a sense of whom Tomlin is really putting under the microscope during the first half with what lineups he goes with over those two quarters. Should be a pretty interesting game for both teams. Be sure to check back here tomorrow for thoughts on the game. ’Til then. Go Steelers!
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