Welcome to our weekly edition of Blogger Q&A Panther fans. This week we've got Alfie with Big Cat Country here to answer five questions concerning our match-up with our sister franchise the Jacksonville Jaguars...Btw, the city could up it's cool level tremendously by renaming it Jaxonville!
We've got some serious question to ask, so here we go!
Question 1: Obviously the big news in this game is Blaine Gabbert being named the Jags starter and the resulting match-up of rookie QBs. Based on what you have seen so far from Gabbert on the field, what kind of performance are you expecting from the Jags passing game on Sunday?
BCC: What kind of performance we get from Blaine Gabbert will depend on how much Dirk Koetter and the offensive staff let him go. In the preseason, he was allowed to run a lot of shot gun and spread formations, which he's comfortable with having played in that style at Missouri. In the first two weeks of the regular season, the team ran the ball primarily and limited the passing game. In practice on Wednesday, wide receiver Mike Thomas said that the playbook had been opened up more so than in weeks past, so I would expect the team to actually let Gabbert go. Expect him to take shots down the field.
I would like to see Gabbert throw it down field as it will certainly give our secondary a shot at logging their first INT of the young season. We can also expect the Panthers dial the blitz up a little more than last week and try to rattle the rookie.
We've got 4 more questions and a score prediction...after the jump...
Question 2: The Jags offense obviously starts with RB Maurice Jones-Drew. Is there a particular hole or running play that you would consider his 'bread & butter' that the Panthers must stop or is it simply to key off of MJD no matter where he is lined up or positioned? How would you advise the Panthers stop him?
BCC: Jones-Drew's bread and butter running play is the draw. It hasn't been that effective lately because the passing game is limited, but with Gabbert in I'd expect some more shotgun. In the past, Jones-Drew has absolutely killed teams on the draw play so I would expect it to get back into the offensive rotation. Outside of that, Jones-Drew does a lot of damage on screen plays.
Both of those plays attack the Panthers where they are most vulnerable. I'm trying not to think about too much.
Question 3: The Panthers will obviously try to pressure Gabbert on 3rd down plays. How has the Jags pass protection been to date and is there a weak link the defense should try to exploit?
BCC: In the preseason the Jaguars offensive line looked like a massive sieve, but during the first two games of the regular season the pass protection has actually been just fine. They haven't gone against a pass rusher the caliber of Charles Johnson yet, but they've held their own against the teams they played. If there was a weak spot for the Panthers to attack, it would be rookie left guard Will Rackley. Rackley has a lot of potential, but he's struggled early especially with power players. On the safety against the Jets, Rackley was simply pushed into the backfield by rookie defensive end Muh Wilkerson and it blew up the pocket.
So we have Panthers rookie McClain lined up on rookie Rackley up front. You can expect Sean McDermott to run some stunts up front to try and get pressure up the middle by confusing the protection. Let's just hope we can stop MJD enough to force a few 3rd and longs.
Question 4: Panthers QB Cam Newton will attempt to log his 3rd straight 400 yard passing game Sunday, a feat that has never been accomplished (at least from the research I've seen). What do you think the Jags defense (#5 overall, #5 against the run, #14 pass) will try to do to slow down the Panthers #2 ranked passing attack (I really can't believe I'm asking that)?
BCC: It does sound wierd asking how the Jaguars will stop the pass, because in the past teams have absolutely killed them in the air. I'm not sure the Jaguars will stop Cam Newton per say, but I think they can break his 400 yard streak. Safety Courtney Greene has been replaced in the lineup by Dwight Lowery, who's more of a cover safety. Cornerback Derek Cox should be back from injury, so the Jaguars secondary should be sporting their most optimum lineup. Outside of a fluke play to Kenny Britt in Week 1, their pass defense has been worlds better than last season... but it's hard to be worse than last season. The Jaguars will likely force the Panthers into third and long, and when you know a team is passing it's a little easier to rush and cover.
My disbelief had more to do with asking how someone would stop the Panther passing attack. I'm more used to it stopping itself. I'm liking the Panther passing attack match-up with the Jags defense. The only concern is the offensive line giving him time to set up and throw.
Question 5: Speaking of the defense, who is the leader of your defense now? Do you see any future Pro Bowlers on defense ready to make the jump to elite status?
BCC: I still think the leader of the Jaguars defense is linebacker Daryl Smith. He's been a stable in the lineup since his rookie year in 2003 and he's still the best linebacker they have. As far as future Pro Bowlers, I think you can look at the two defensive tackles for the Jaguars. Terrance Knighton is a load of a nose tackle who's constantly mentioned nationally as a highly underrated player. He commands double teams and has surprising quickness for his size. Next to him is the surprise of the 2010 draft in Tyson Alualu. In my opinion, Alualu's been the best defensive tackle out of the 2010 class outside of Ndamkong Suh. Alualu has rare quickness in for a tackle and is excellent at using his hands to shed blocks. The Jaguars like to line him up at defensive end at times, too.
Well that explains why the run defense is top 5. Oh, and I forget... where did LB Daryl Smith go to school? You know it baby...Georgia Tech! ;) [we'll be crushing some Tarheels this weekend]
BCC: As for a score, I think the Jaguars win this football game with a heavy case of Jones-Drew, 27-17.
Be sure to check back at BCC for my answers to his questions!