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Panther Paw Prints - Passing Game Blues Edition

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I've got another spicy batch of Paw Prints today...

So now we've come full circle on the Panthers passing game. Just a few short weeks ago we begged the Panthers to stop throwing the ball in order to reduce the INT's QB Jake delhomme was chucking on a record pace. The Panthers seemed to oblige and it worked against lesser opponents. Yet when down late against one of the top team in the NFL the Panthers needed their passing game (or did they?) and it was a shell of its '08 self:

Refusal to air it out does Panthers no favors | The Herald - Rock Hill, SC
Delhomme has been on the field the last two weeks in body only, because the game plans for those haven't reflected the spirit or the abilities he has brought to the position the last six years. And while it got the Panthers a win in Arizona, and nearly one in New Orleans, it has really gotten them nowhere fast. Save for about four throws, it's true what some say that Matt Moore, or A.J. Feeley, couldn't have done any worse. Because plans built to protect might suit some, but they run counter to what Delhomme has done his entire career.

I would say they did air it out a couple times but the Panthers WR's couldn't haul it in. Call it inexperience (in the case of Jarrett) or rustiness (in the case of Smith) but it was quite apparent there was no confidence in the passing game, except by OC Jeff Davidson. Darin Gantt offers a solution:

Darin Gantt's Panthers Blog | The Herald - Rock Hill, SC
What they have to do is trust Delhomme to throw it downfield, trust Smith to make a play. And if you're not going to do that, then you have to wonder what the plan is.

Isn't this exactly what led to 13 INT's? I think this guy has it wrong too. - Panthers' collapse leads to more questions about Fox
It's understandable that Fox would be cautious about allowing QB Jake Delhomme — who still leads the league in interceptions with 13 despite not throwing one in his past two games — to throw the ball, but he took caution to a ridiculous extent, as Delhomme only attempted 12 passes in the first three quarters. The running game was having success vs. the Saints, but eventually it slowed down as the Saints didn't have to worry about the pass and focused on stopping Williams and Jonathan Stewart.

Maybe what was really missing against the Saints was sitting back in Charlotte:

Panthers felt Hoover's absence | The Dispatch | Davidson County's News Source | Lexington, NC
Not only was Hoover out but so was Chris Fiammetta, the reserve fullback and Hoover's eventual replacement. That meant 308-pound guard Mackenzy Bernadeau lined up as the fullback in the goal-line situation. When quarterback Jake Delhomme took the handoff on first and goal, Bernadeau bumped into him. Delhomme stumbled backward, bobbled the ball and was dropped for a 6-yard loss.

I still can't believe we lined up Bernadeau at FB and Sutton at tailback. Why not on 1st down put Williams in the single back set and hand it off to him and let him do his thing? Doesn't work, try the same with Stewart. In 3 tries one of those two will get that 3 yards.

Instead of sticking with what was working the Panthers went to the pass. So what are the Panthers going to do to improve the passing game?

Panthers notebook: passing game still a work in progress | progress, charlotte, work - Sports - The Star Online : The Newspaper of Cleveland County
Coach John Fox was asked again Monday what the Panthers need to do to improve in that area. "The same things we did a month ago to get better in our running game -- just continue to work at it, and do everything we can do get better," Fox said. "We had some big plays -- obviously not enough -- but we had some big run plays. We just weren't able to capitalize when we got down there (in the red zone). I think they (the Saints) had some of the same malfunctions."

Might that be because you stopping running the ball? I think the 'less than 20 passes per game' mantra would work for this team.... By the way, did you find yourself making uncontrollable outbursts Sunday? You weren't the only one:

Thoughts on WR Smith’s sideline outburst this past Sunday - Reeder's Take : Gaston Gazette
Is this Smith’s fault? No. His decline in numbers is largely due to the folks around him not that he’s turned 30. Simply put, when you have a weapon like Smith you find a way to GET HIM THE BALL. That’s up to the offensive coordinator, the quarterback, the offensive line (to block better) and the other receivers/tight ends (who need to become bigger factors in the passing game and take pressure off him). I also blame it on the front office for not going out and getting a No. 2 receiver this off-season or trading for a quality TE like Tony Gonzalez.

That may be true Mr. Reed but isn't there a better way of addressing this than on the field? I wonder about the lines of communication on offense. If Davidson is losing the feedback from the players he very well could end up out of a job at the end of the season similar to how Mike Tyrgovac's tenure came to a close.

Someone whom I expect to stick around a long time in spite of his ACL tear is LB Thomas Davis. I admit though I'm curious about the return of RB Decori Birmingham.

Panthers place Davis in IR; call up linebacker from practice squad | The Herald - Rock Hill, SC
The Panthers filled their practice squad vacancy by bringing back running back Decori Birmingham, who spent most of last year on the practice squad and was in training camp with Carolina this year.

Could Birmingham be the next FB if Fiammetta can't go yet again? He is supposedly better in pass protection than Sutton. We shall see.