As the Panthers training camp kicks off I thought we would recap some of the story lines we can expect to develop in the first week. Some of these we have been discussing extensively the past few weeks so I'll keep them short.
1. Will the team embrace disgruntled PB DE Julius Peppers? All of the off-season comments from the team and coaching staff has been positive so I would expect the answer is "warmly" but I'm sure questions still linger. Let's see if Pep goes out of his way to smooth things over.
2. Will the defense embrace DC Ron Meeks and the other new coaches? All of the feedback from OTA's was positive about his high energy and focus on players "flying" to the ball. I've heard of that style getting old with other teams but given its new no danger of that yet. One thing to watch for is whether all this 'high energy' results in more scuffles as offensive players take offense to the defenses' 'enthusiasm'.I have to admit the fights always spice things up in TC.
3. Does the team still trust QB Jake Delhomme? Again based on the offseason comments its a resounding 'yes' but TC has a way of amplifying minor things. What if back-ups McCown and/or Moore shine in preseason? What if Jake doesn't? I don't expect a full on QB controversy this early but it could be the start of a storyline that builds into the season.
4. Will the Panthers avoid another distraction in TC like the Steve Smith - Ken Lucas brawl last year? Imagine if you are a rookie CB facing up Smith as you are trying to win a roster spot. Think he'll be talking any smack (the rookie that is)? Maybe by talking smack he is trying to show he has the balls to play in the NFL? What if Smitty talks smack to the CB, which he is known to do for sure. Will the rookie bite? If so, better keep you head on a swivel, even on the side line!...lol...I kid I kid. Honestly I expect Smitty to be on his best behavior. But I will be diappointed if I don't see at least a couple UDFA's slug it out a little at some point!
5. What rookie will make an impact in 2009? Both OT Jeff Otah and RB Jonathan Stewart played key roles in the Panthers 2008 success. If it happens again with this rookie class I'm betting it will be on the defensive side of the ball. Both DE Everette Brown and CB Sherrod Martin will have a chance to earn playing time. Or even DT Corvey Irvin could get early snaps. Who will make the most of it? Sure RB Mike Goodson made waves at OTA's but I doubt he will get the touches to make an impact. Something tells me at least one of the defenders is going to look like a brillant pick come January.
So what other story lines could we add to this list?