Carolina Panthers

WEB ONLY: Panthers Q and A

Panthers Q and A

It will be 15 days since the last game when the Panthers kick it off Monday night, and you can tell fans without a result to chew on are getting a little antsy. The week hasn’t brought any startling changes, but we’ll find out soon enough if they can change their fortunes. That said, let’s masticate over this week’s mailbag:

“Can you give us a feel for how focused the team has looked this week in practice after having a few days off and hopefully a good butt-chewing following the Cowboys game?” Rich; Calypso, N.C.

I can tell you the practice seems crisp. Guys are upbeat, still running between drills, no loafing or heads hanging or anything like that. There’s a good pace, but then again it’s not that it’s notably different than any other week. That’s just the pace at which they practice. The surprising part, I think, for many people would be that there was no chair-throwing tantrum, no fire, no brimstone from John Fox. That’s not his style. According to a number of players, he’s been very matter-of-fact since coming back from the bye, not screaming and raving and stamping his feet and demanding change. One of Fox’s strengths when he came here in 2002 was keeping an even keel, knowing this wasn’t an overnight fix. That’s why he didn’t go ballistic when they lost eight straight that year, and a lot of players pointed to that last month as the springboard to the following year’s Super Bowl run. To have pitched a fit this week would have been out of character.

“What is your guess for the win/loss record for the Panthers in 2006?” Terry; Turlock, Calif.

I hate picking numbers, largely because I’m not all that great at it. I thought the Panthers might go 7-9 or 8-8 in 2001, and we all see how that turned out. Going into this year, I thought 11-5 sounded about right, but in this part of the world, I was considered a dark cloud of cynicism rolling in over the feel-good parade. I think we’ll have a pretty good idea about the second half in two weeks. If they don’t beat the Bucs, the second half’s pretty much shot, but if they do, we still may not know whether the Panthers are any good or not. If they can then beat St. Louis (a team with issues similar to their own) to get to 6-4, I’ll be willing to delay making weekend plans with the wife and kids in January. If I’ve learned anything covering these guys for going on 10 years now, it’s that budgeting wins is a fruitless proposition. That Minnesota game in Week 2 was one everybody thought was a W. Good call, huh? But since Terry e-mailed all the way from the other side of the country, I guess I’ll have to answer. How’s 9-7 sound?

“I know that DeAngelo Williams is hurt, but shouldn’t he have a little more impact than he has? Fox only runs him a handful of times. The kid can run, let him. It is

obvious that DeShaun Foster is not really running the way he should. He does break 10 yards off here and there, but the majority of his plays are for minimal or negative

losses. Do you think that letting Nick Goings play more or using Williams more, when he gets back, would be a benefit?” Joshua; Rock Hill

First things first, Nick Goings is a wonderful human being and an outstanding teammate. Giving him the ball is not going to fix the Panthers problems. As for Joshua’s assertion that Foster’s not the answer either, I have to disagree. DeShaun was among the league’s top 10 rushers, even after they quit running the second half against Cincinnati. To my eyes, Foster is a player, and if they’d run him consistently I think the results would be there. He’s big, he’s fast, and he’s much more physical than he’s ever gotten credit for being. But I do think that adding Williams back to the mix might add a spark, and Foster (and the team, by extension) benefits. He’s a different kind of runner, a change-of-pace guy. DeAngelo is not unlike Reggie Bush, and the Saints are trying to training-wheel him in as well behind Deuce McAllister. Not sure at the stage of his career if Williams is ready for a 50-50 split of the carries, or more. But I do think that if Foster got 20 carries a game and Williams had eight touches consistently each week, the Panthers would probably be in the playoffs.

“Any chance we’ll see Efrem Hill elevated to the 53-man roster? We desperately need a lift in the punt return game. Also, give me a prediction. How much do our defending National Champions defeat the little old Cats by this weekend?” Bruce; High Point, N.C.

Well, there’s going to be a roster spot soon, since DT Jordan Carstens isn’t expected back this year. The Panthers don’t want to make a move right now so as not to appear callous while he’s in the hospital, but I figure they’ll get through this week, see if any injuries crop up, and use his spot to fill a need. As for Hill, I’m not sold on that idea just yet. I think they could be better in the return game, but all that doesn’t always fall on the returner. Chris Gamble and Richard Marshall could give them all they needed there. Hill’s always shown good preseason burst on punts, but he also looked shaky at times last preseason, so I don’t know. As to Saturday’s Appalachian-Western Carolina game (what used to be a fine rivalry), well, modesty prevents me from picking a score. Momma always said if you can’t say anything nice, .... All Mountaineer fans will also be happy to know I’ve broken the spirit of former WCU standout Brad Hoover, one of the few to beat ASU the last two decades. I asked him Friday how bad he thought it would be, and his words were: “We’re gonna lose.” His head was hanging as he said it, because the way I taunt him, he can’t stand the fact that both of us are going to be right.

Contact Darin Gantt at daringantt@carolina.rr.com

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