Panthers vs. Cardinals preview: Five questions with the enemy

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

I had the opportunity to ask Jess Root of Revenge of the Birds five questions about the upcoming game.

It's hard for Panthers fans to get a really good grasp on who the Cardinals are. They're not on TV often in these parts, making it the perfect occasion to leverage the power of the SB Nation network and sit down with the fans that know the team best.

1. Carson Palmer is clearly on the back-end of his career, but he's still better than the quarterbacks the Cardinals trotted out in 2012. What's the biggest difference to the offense with Palmer at the helm?

Well, if you hear a lot of Cardinals fans, then the response is that the offense doesn't look much different. The team is still very bad on third down, including a combined 2-21 in their two wins. That isn't a stat that can keep up. Now, that aside, the issue is that the offense hasn't been good for a full 60 minutes.

The biggest difference? That would be the fact that there is a leader in the huddle that can lead a drive when it needs to happen.

2. What would you say to Panthers' fans writing off Arizona's lofty run defense ranking as "they've played bad running teams"?

That is a fair response up until last week, when they held Doug Martin to 45 yards on 27 carries. That's a Pro Bowl runner that runs behind a good offensive line. If you watch the film, you see a very different team than a season ago. While there is concern in the pass rush, the front seven gets in running gaps.

3. Who is the best player on the Cardinals most national fans have no clue about?

The best one you haven't heard about? That would have to be rookie running back Andre Ellington. He is quickly becoming the team's big play threat, both in the running game and passing game. After a criticized throw to Ellington on a wheel route late in the game against the Rams that was not completed, he has scored a touchdown and has gained first downs on half of his touches on the season. He is elusive, fast and he is great in space. Plus, he is big enough to use as a blocker, too. He isn't a star, but he will make some plays on Sunday.

4. If you could pick one player from the Panthers and put him on the Cardinals roster, who would it be and why?

I don't know how well received this would be from Cardinals fans, but I think the easy answer is Cam Newton. He is a legit quarterback in the league, young and still has room to grow. The Cards need a quarterback of the now and the future, Cam is that. If I had to pick a second guy, it would be Greg Hardy or Charles Johnson. The Cards have long needed pass rushers. Either one of them would be a huge addition to the Cards defense.

5. Tyrann Mathieu has looked great so far. What has his addition meant to the defense?

He is incredibly valuable because of his flexibility and ball smarts. He is the team's backup free safety, and he probably will start there on Sunday, as Rashad Johnson is still recuperating from his severed fingertip. Mathieu is the nickel corner as well. He is a very good tackler. He is a good blitzer. He has made a couple of the biggest plays on defense this year for the team. He just makes plays.

Thanks Jess. You can read my answers to his questions over at Revenge of the Birds.

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