As I was perusing the interwebs and getting excited about the season kicking off I still find myself apprehensive about what will transpire. I want to be excited, I am excited. But at the same time the Panthers still have a number of serious questions and I'm afraid the answers will haunt us. As the Panthers prepare for their opener at IMG (anyone surprised we picked IMG to practice?) I hope Ron Rivera has some magical answers for these five questions, in no particular order.
Question 1: How soon will rookie CB Josh Norman get pressed into starting duty?
One of the Panthers biggest questions going into the offseason was at #2 CB and all we have done is add a 5th round draft pick. I think Norman has a lot of potential but the thought of him getting pressed into starting makes me just as nervous as starting Captain Munnerlyn there all season. We've certainly beaten the topic to death this offseason but the truth is we still don't have an answer. We can only hope they coach Norman up quick.
Question 2: Is the defensive tackle position fixed now?
Out goes Terrell McClain, in comes a guy I've never heard of Dwan Edwards. Are we good yet? I'm thinking 'Not'! Frank Kearse is now listed as the starter next to Ron Edwards and I imagine if Kearse was the answer he would have already been the starter well before September. The good news is the run defense has to be better just having Beason and Kuechly on the field. But until we see the big boys occupying blockers up front this remains a big question with no answer.
Question 3: Are we really going to stick with only two RBs with Jonathan Stewart nursing an ankle sprain?
If Stewart was healthy I would probably not ask this question because the obvious answer is we have Mike Tolbert who can run the rock like a RB. But if Stewart can't go (an injury update would be nice) then that leaves us a little thin at RB I would say. I like Richie Brockel's game bit do we really need four TE's (or 2 FBs if you prefer)? The good news is Williams is a great start in fantasy week 1!.
Question 4: Is K Justin Medlock really ready for prime time?
He looked very ready up until missing two kicks in the 4th preseason game. That second one was ugly too. I'm not ready to say 'Resign John Kasay' just yet but it won't take but a couple misses for everyone to start questioning the kid. We know how a lack of confidence can destroy a kicker and Medlock knows this first hand. If he can't hit one of two from 50 yards in a no-pressure preseason game in good conditions what can we expect in January when it's cold, possibly snowing, in front of a hostile crowd and a real game on the line? [find a happy place, find a happy place]
Question 5: Where will the pass rush come from?
We certainly didn't see much of one in the preseason though I'm willing to concede the 'vanilla defense' point for now. Still, if there is no push up front and Charles Johnson is the only guy coming off the edge then we might be in trouble. My hope is that with another year of installing his system and personnel Sean McDermott can dial up the right calls at key times. We didn't see much of that last year but I'm hopeful we can bring some real pressure when we need it.
So am I being too pessimistic here? How confident are you the Panthers have good answers to these questions?