Jimmy Clausen and the Panthers come to Tampa Sunday.

5 Questions: Panthers Edition

Today we had the opportunity to talk with Eric Quackenbush of Cat Crave, the FanSided Carolina Panthers blog. We each exchanged five questions about Sunday’s Bucs-Panthers game at Raymond James Stadium. Here are Eric’s answers to our questions about Sunday’s upcoming game:

1.) Obviously this season has not gone the Panthers way, what do you think is the biggest issue facing this team right now?

Right now I feel that the biggest issue facing this team is the overall morale. It seems with every passing week that John Fox has a complete disinterest in what’s going on in-game, and the offense continues to flounder like a fish out of water. Injuries on both sides of the ball are also a challenge facing the team on offense and defense. I also believe trying to keep the team from falling apart mentally is also a huge challenge.

2.) Obviously John Fox is out after this year, has the team quit on him though?

If the team hasn’t quit on him already, I’d say it’s near it’s breaking point. The defense has given its’ all for eight weeks now, and the offense remains on life support. There have been grumblings from certain defensive players about throwing in the towel, and the offense is understandably frustrated. As a team though, it seems that the players haven’t really resorted to pointing fingers. There is the understanding that there are a number of young guys being thrown into the fire now, but at the same time they have to “grow up” and make plays sometime. For now I believe the team remains level-headed. If they can keep their composure for the rest of the season, it will be tremendous for their development as a unit.

3.) It seems like there is still plenty of talent on the Panthers roster (Steve Smith, DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart, Jordan Gross, etc…), do you think a lot of those guys stay around for the new regime or do you see a major overhaul on the roster next season?

I would like to see some of these guys stay around, if the situation is conducive to keeping everyone. Jordan Gross just signed a four-year $16 million contract two years ago, so I would imagine he won’t be going anywhere for the next couple of years. Smith is under contract for at least two more years; he will likely stay, although I wouldn’t be surprised if his role is either diminished or if perhaps the team might trade him. Carolina mustmake re-signing DeAngelo Williams a priority, and as for Stewart, well…his production really needs a boost. Right now I’m not happy with him. His lacking in production could be a product of Fox’s playcalling this season, but  he also needs to start participating with the team in practices. How much longer can this heel / toe injury carry on? No player should be above the team. To answer your question though, I imagine the team will stay together for the most part, with very little change.

4.) How has Jimmy Clausen looked? I can’t believe I’m about to ask but does anyone miss Jake Delhomme?

Clausen has looked the same as Matt Moore, and the same as Tony Pike…it’s really unfair to evaluate any of these quarterbacks given the situations they are forced to play in. Moore’s gone next year, so I won’t spend any time on him, other than it was unfortunate, and I wish him the best wherever he goes next. As for Clausen, I have to thank the media for blowing expectations out of proportion as usual. I felt it was ridiculous to continuously tout Clausen as the “most NFL ready quarterback.” He had a decent career at Notre Dame, but Notre Dame isn’t the NFL. Nor were Notre Dame’s opponents NFL teams. So can the crap. Ultimately, I’d like to see Carolina pass on drafting a quarterback with its’ first pick in the 2011 NFL Draft; instead do something to sure up the offensive line. With Jeff Otah likely to miss the entire season, his understudies just aren’t getting it done — not to mention, some aren’t even meant to play at the tackle position. Carolina needs to either look to draft a right tackle or acquire one via free agency…and a good one, if they choose to go that route. Some folks do miss Jake Delhomme. I felt bad for Delhomme the way he was kind of blind-sided with his release, and I also felt it was excessive the way they put him on stage and made a whole production out of it. They even managed to strip the man of his dignity. I personally wouldn’t want him back. There’s nothing more he could do with the team in the situation it’s in, and if the team wasn’t in the situation it’s in, you wouldn’t even need to ask me the question. Jake moved on; fans should, too.

5.) What do the Panthers need to do to win on Sunday and what is your prediction for the game?

In a nutshell, everything. They need to get the ground game going, they need to be proficient in the passing game, and they need to score touchdowns, not field goals in the redzone. Under ideal circumstances, this could be feasible. But considering their current situation, I just don’t see a whole lot coming from the offense on Sunday. I predict a win for the Buccaneers, and I’ll go 27 – 6 on two Panthers field goals.

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