The 2007 NFL Preseason got underway Sunday night as the Pittsburgh Steelers and New Orleans Saints played the annual Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio. Locally, the Carolina Panthers continue their training camp at Wofford College in Spartanburg this week. As they prepare for the upcoming season, as always, there will be a number of questions surrounding the team. After last season’s disappointing campaign, expectations for this coming season have been somewhat tempered. How successful the Cats will be in ’07 will largely depend on the quality of play the team gets from its quarterback position.
In 2006, Jake Delhomme struggled to be consistent and because of those struggles, the Panthers signed former Houston signal caller David Carr in the offseason to serve as an insurance policy should Delhomme’s problems continue. The question now is how much time does Delhomme get before the fans and those in the media start calling for Carr to be under center. If Carr comes out and has a monster preseason, does the chatter start before the regular season gets underway?
In a perfect world, Delhomme would feel the heat of being challenged by the career starter Carr in training camp and would respond like a champ, leaving no room for debate. After last season, you have to wonder if Jake can handle the heat. At times, Delhomme looked down right rattled and when the heat was at it’s hottest, Delhomme responded with a late game turnover or miscue.
Here is another possible positive outcome for Carolina….Carr takes over early in the season and finds new life with his new team, leading the Cats to the playoffs.
Of course, Carr could take over and be a flop, leading to a completely new set of questions, namely who will be the new Carolina head coach in 2008.
In my opinion, the Panthers don’t need a superhuman performance out of their quarterback, no matter who that ends up being. All they need is steady and consistent play, something that before last season, was not lacking with Delhomme at the helm.
It seems that when the national media starts talking about Carolina being a “Super Bowl team”, as they did coming into last season, the Panthers underachieve. Carolina has been much more successful in the role of an underdog which is exactly what they are coming into this season. To me, the NFC South is up for grabs and 10-6 should be enough to claim the division.
Can the Cats win 10 games in 2007? Lets take a quick look at the schedule. The first six weeks of the regular season should be telling as Carolina plays 4 of it’s first six games on the road. If the Panthers can get off to a good start winning 3 out of 4 at St. Louis, Atlanta, Arizona, and New Orleans, then 10 wins is a possibility. After this initial stretch of games, the Cats play at home 6 out of their last ten, with big games against Indianapolis, San Fransisco, Dallas, and Seattle. They also go to Tennessee, Green Bay and Tampa Bay during this period. Again, those first six games should answer a lot of questions. 5-1 means the quarterback position is settled and the team is on a roll. 4-2 is OK and 3-3 means that things need to get rolling fast. Here is where you might see a quarterback change to spark the team. Anything under .500 in those first six contests and I think the season will be finished. The teams in the second half of the season are just too tough to think the Cats can make up so much ground if they are say, 2-4.
We’ll get our first look at the Panthers of 2007, this coming Saturday night as Carolina travels to NJ to take on the Giants. This should be another interesting season for the Cats and could be a lot of fun.