This week the Buccaneers head to Carolina to face the Panthers in what could end up being a matchup that’s a lot closer than people are expecting. Ken Dye from the excellent Panthers blog Cat Crave sat down with us to talk about whether or not this season is Cam Newton’s fault, if we;ll see a massive turnover in the Panthers coaching staff this offseason and if the future is as bright in Carolina as it is in Tampa.
1. So it’s no secret that these two teams are on polar opposite ends of the scale when it comes to their records. But I have to say, I see some positive tools for the future, the question is what is holding this team back?
I hate to say it but it’s a coaching issue…specifically on the offensive side of the ball. It’s the seemingly “little” things like not hustling to the ball on an errant pass, avoidable penalties, and just plain not working as a team. Receivers aren’t getting open because they’re rounding off routes at times – that sort of thing. We’ve got the talent but that doesn’t win games alone. We need direction. When Cam Newton talked about “a suggestion box” that telegraphed to me that the coaches aren’t doing THEIR jobs. That one remark told me that Cam and the offense in general feels like a rudderless ship, and that goes straight to coaching. The team isn’t buying into the system.
2. Are you in favor of something like what the Bucs did last year and clean house at the end of the year? How would a Chip Kelly-Cam Newton offense tickle you?
I know Chip Kelly’s name is being tossed around as Head Coach for the Philadelphia Eagles, and frankly I think he’d choose the Eagles over Carolina if he had the choice. Schiano seems to have the Bucs pointed in the right direction after a slow start, but I’m not sure a college coach is the answer – not after this read/option stuff that we’ve been running up until the past couple of games. NFL defenses are just too fast for that sort of thing these days, and we’re built to be a power running team with the $90 million backfield we have. I made the point after our first two games….against you guys, we passed twice for every rushing attempt we made and lost 16-10. Against the Saints in game two, we ran twice for every pass attempt and won. That’s the story in a nutshell.
3. How much of this is Cam’s fault? Despite being rivals, I’m pulling for Newton and I find myself defending him. Am I wrong to do so?
Not at all, because the problem is with the entire offense. Against the Broncos last week, Cam was sacked seven times while he hadn’t been sacked more than 5 in any game in his short NFL career. When the line isn’t blocking, receivers are running the wrong routes, falling down, not hustling, and dropping passes, there’s only so much a QB can do – even one as physically gifted as Newton. I’ve also been wondering why Ron Rivera lets Cam sulk on the bench when they’re losing. He SHOULD be with one or more of his teammates and coaches making sure they’re on the same page for the next series – ESPECIALLY a young QB like Cam. Yet, he sits there sulking with the gatorade towel over his head like he’s trying to hide or something. How productive is that?
4. If you could steal one player off this Bucs roster, besides Doug Martin, who would it be and why?
That’s a great question. I really love the speed your OLBs have, but linebackers are one area we’re as stacked as any team in the NFL and besides, our defense is improving from last year. I’d have to say V-Jax because Steve Smith is winding down a great career and the presence of Vincent Jackson would give us a 6’5″ guy who is as explosive a WR as there is especially this year after the first couple of games with the Bucs. Steve Smith is as strong as any WR in the NFL but comes in a 5’9″ package.
5. Alright, money’s on the line: do the Bucs complete the season sweep of the Panthers or do Cam and company pull one out?
At this point, given what I saw last week against the Broncos, I think you guys sweep us. We’re 1-4 at home and lost the last four games. The team has hit rock-bottom so far, but I can’t say with any certainty that things cannot get worse. At least we’ve been in the game in most of our losses, but not last week against the Broncos, who actually may be the most dangerous team in the NFL at this point in the season. Bucs win, 20-13.