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Who Are These Carolina Panthers: Cat Scratch Reader Gives Us Knowledge

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This week the Cincinnati Bengals head to Carolina to play the 0-2 Panthers. After losing our first two meetings against Carolina, getting the bloody snot knocked out of noses by deficits of 21 points or more, the Bengals hosted Carolina for the first time on October 22, 2006. After Carolina took a 7-0 lead in the first quarter on a seven-yard touchdown pass from Jake Delhomme to Kris Magnum, both teams would exchange a pair of punts. With eight minutes left in the second, Carson Palmer led the offense on a 13-play, 80-yard touchdown drive that ended with the God of Golden Arms completing a 16-yard pass in the endzone to Reggie Kelly. Carolina quickly responded with Delhomme completing four passes of 10 yards or more, capped by a 20-yard touchdown pass to Nick Goings. That would complete Carolina's scoring for the day, while Shayne Graham converted a 23-yard field goal in the third and Carson Palmer completing a one-yard touchdown pass to T.J. Houshmandzadeh in the fourth, giving Cincinnati a 17-14 win.

Four years have passed since then. Instead of Rudi Johnson and Chris Perry, the Bengals have Cedric Benson and Bernard Scott. Instead of Houshmandzadeh and Antonio Chatman, the Bengals have Terrell Owens and Jordan Shipley. Instead of Tony Stewart, the Bengals have Jermaine Gresham. And the Bengals will no longer see Jake Delhomme in a Panthers uniform -- instead, we'll see him the following week against Cleveland.

Along with the Bengals being a newer squad since our last meeting, the Panthers have done mostly the same thing. So Cat Scratch Reader's Managing Editor Jaxon sat with me to talk Panthers football.

1) Jimmy Clausen will get his first NFL start this weekend against the Bengals. What are Panther fans expecting out of the rookie quarterback?
We’re not going to set the bar too high, there is no need. At a minimum we are looking for less turnovers and a little more fire from the QB position. Anything over 21 points is gravy .

2) Between DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, do the Panthers rotate the running backs based on situations or does Stewart play when Williams tires out?
They pretty much give Williams the first 2 or 3 series then start alternating in Stewart. The emergence of RB Mike Goodson as a 3rd down receiving option has complicated the carries equation even further. I do expect a greater focus on the run this week so look for 16 carries for Williams, 12 for Stewart and for Goodson, 1 carry and 2 catches.

3) You wrote on Cat Scratch Reader that this year's team, compared to the preseason expectations, are crashing. Aside from the quarterback situation, what else has caused the team to play below expectations?
For me it’s been the poor play of the offensive line. In all fairness to Matt Moore in many cases he had 2-3 seconds to get rid of the ball. We are missing RT Jeff Otah, who is still recovery from a knee scope (week 5 maybe?). His loss puts Geoff Schwartz at RT instead of RG and the smaller Mac-Bern at RG. The Panthers got paid running off the right side last season but those running lanes have been few and far between in 2010. Until Otah gets back I’m afraid the Panthers will have to change their running identity, running more to the left and using more draw plays.

Schwartz has been getting steamrolled at times in pass protection, giving up the edge only to see his QB stay in harms way. LG Travelle Wharton has been solid but the four other starters have all allowed sacks. These guys have easily been the biggest disappointment.

4) The Panthers line up at the Bengals three-yard line with two seconds remaining in the game, down by four points. Who gets the ball?
Funny you should ask, since we had almost the same scenario in week one. 1st and goal at the four-yard line and we threw the ball three straight times; the third getting picked. There is no doubt in this situation you hand the ball off the RB Jonathan Stewart four straight effin times! If he can’t get four yards on four plays you might as well pack it up and go home. Designed roll-outs? Are you kidding me Jeff Davidson?

5) Same situation, except the Bengals line up at the Panthers three-yard line with two seconds left in the game, down by four points. Which defensive player do you expect to make the big play?
I’m going will old reliable here as well and that’s LB Jon Beason. Stuffing the run is his specialty and he is getting more opportunities from the weakside. If not Beason then Dan Conner, who plays MLB like a juggernaut.

6) For the local University of Cincinnati fanbase, what's your impression of Tony Pike and how has he looked so far?
Honestly we haven’t seen much of Pike. He got little playing time in the preseason until game 4 but you know what, I think he literally played himself onto the roster as 3rd QB in that game. He surprised us with his mobility and he ran the short passing game pretty well. There is a certain vocal segment of my membership though that says he has a ‘noodle’ arm and doesn’t get enough zip on the ball. So if anyone in Cincy Jungle disagrees I would like to hear your argument.