Panthers vs. Saints: Blogger Q&A

Welcome Panther fans to this weeks' edition of Bogger Q&A. We have Saintsational from Canal Street Chronicles answering our questions today. As always be sure to check my answers to his questions over at his site. Feel free to provide your own questions or comments in the comment thread and we will see if Saintsational or one of his readers can provide the answer.

Question 1: For all the focus on the Saints offense I've been more impressed with the defense. What is more responsible for the improved play, DC Greg Williams defensive scheme or the free agent additions? 

Saintsational: Most of it really does have to do with Gregg Williams. He has completely changed the culture of this defense as a whole and has already gotten so much more out of mostly the same players from previous years. Williams' defense emphasizes blitzing, turnovers and populating the ball; all in an aggressive manner. Former defensive coordinator Gary Gibbs ran a very plain scheme but Williams has proven these guys are capable of so much more.

That's not to say the off-season acquisition of players like Darren Sharper and Jabari Greer haven't proved to be genius. Those two alone have made a huge difference. But I still think the coaching and culture change is the more overriding factor. 

So a key for the Panther offense will be how QB Jake Delhomme handles the pressure that is sure to come in those 3rd and long situations.

Question 2: It would appear the Saints are running the ball better this season using the trio of Bush, Thomas and Bell. Is there any one of these guys that is more important for the Panthers to stop than the others? If so, how should they do that? What's the Saints bread and butter running play?

Saintsational: Well, I think Pierre Thomas and Mike Bell deserve most of the credit for the success of the running game. Reggie Bush is a valuable player but he contributes is so many other ways and not so much with the typical running attack. 

Between Bell and Thomas however, they have both proven to be equally important and at this point I'm not so sure I could pick between the two. Bell is a straight-ahead runner whose legs are always churning while Pierre is more versatile, catching more screen and dump passes. I think what makes the running game so dangerous is that Payton uses them well and they can each spell each other when tired. 

I'm not sure exactly how to stop it but I would definitely try and do it early. If Payton get's frustrated that the Saints can't run the ball, there's a chance he'll just try to get it done through the air with his best friend Drew Brees

I'm more worried about the dump off passes then the straight runs. The Saints are going to have to prove they can run through the middle of our line before I will believe it.

Question 3: Panthers DE Julius Peppers has been lining up on both sides of the line this season in an attempt to disrupt blocking schemes. If you were advising Panthers DC Ron Meeks which side would Peppers line up on for most of the game and why?

Saintsational: A versatile Julius Peppers? That's sounds scary. I think the Panthers would want Peppers to line up more often on the right side of the defensive line, matching up against the Saints left tackle. Starting left tackle, Jammal Brown, is out for the season so Jermon Bushrod is playing in his stead. Zach Strief also checks into the game on for help on certain downs. While Bushrod has filled in admirably, reliable veteran Jon Stinchcomb - and the better tackle of the two - is on the right side. Also, Bushrod is a little dinged up...but who isn't? 

So it would seem our rejuvenated De Julius Peppers should have another nice match-up on the right side. I'm expecting big things.

Question 4: I saw Saints DT Sedrick Ellis is out with an injury this week. Who will fill his shoes and do you think it will change the way the Saints defend the Panthers running attack? 

Saintsational: Ellis also missed Monday night's game against the Falcons. In that game the Saints allowed Michael Turner to run wild for over 140 yards so one could make a case that the run defense has suffered at least slightly. Ellis has been replaced by free-agent acquisition and fan favorite, Anthony Hargrove, who impressed his way onto this team during training camp. Unfortunately, Hargrove's skills are best suited for taking down quarterbacks and not so much at stopping the run. To defend against the Panthers two-headed rushing attack I definitely think Gregg Williams will find a way to compensate and fill the box.   

Hargrove is a former GT man who played DE if I remember correctly but he left school early which I think hurt him when he made the jump. He is definitely more of a pass rusher than a run stopper.

Question 5: Tell me about a future Saints Pro Bowler-in-the-making. What young Saints players do think will be future Pro Bowlers and why?

Saintsational: I'm gonna go with starting cornerback Tracy Porter on this one. He is in his sophomore year and has showed signs of continuous improvement with every game. If he continues to work under defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, I see potential for him to be an elite shut-down corner.

My guess is Greer will draw the one-on-one with Steve Smith who probably won't bite on the Smoke-n-Go like DRC did last week. Still I'm curious to see this Saints secondary in action.

Bonus question: How about a prediction?  

Saintsational: This is the second division game in a row for the Saints and we know they're rarely easy. I think the Panthers keep it close but the Saints still come out on top. 30-17 Saints. 

Well at least he thinks we will hold them to 30 points.

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