Wednesday, September 23, 2009

When will it stop?

Spraying to all fields....

The Panthers injury woes continued with the loss of DT Louis Leonard to a fractured ankle. He was hurt Sunday, and the team placed him on IR on Tuesday. That ends his season, and that's a shame. He was a nice acquisition, looked like he was fitting in well with the scheme in such a short amount of time. Panthers signed DT Antwon Butler on Tuesday. He's a little heavier than Leonard, but he's green in this defense.

Tough assignment for Butler this week (if he plays, which I think he will). Dallas holds the NFL total rushing lead in the NFL, but if Marion barber plays, or is even limited, that should help a bit. Not totally overlooking Tashard Choice or Felix Jones, but those 2 are not Barber. Barber runs with bad intentions, making him a beast to stop.

I was pleased with the Panthers offense against Atlanta. Only 1 INT from Jake Delhomme, and that was a nice bit of coverage from the Falcons on that play. RB's need to do a better job of securing the ball, which is a rarity when you look at DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. Both have been reliable in that aspect in the past.

My friend and colleague Darin Gantt of the Rock Hill Herald wrote a piece about what is missing from the 2008 team, and I'll go him one better. Go back to the Super Bowl team of 2003. That team, defensively, was filthy. To borrow a line from "Back to School," a movie starring Rodney Dangerfield..."those guys aren't that tough. The football team from my high school, they were tough. After they sacked the quarterback, they went after his family." There in lies the rub. This defense has good players at many spots. DE Julius Peppers, DT Damione Lewis, LB's Jon Beason and Thomas Davis, CB Richard Marshall, Chris Gamble, S Chris Harris, among others. What they lack is a snarl. Half of the battle in football is intimidation. The Panthers of 2003 were somewhat intimidating to opposing offenses. Nothing like the 1985 Chicago Bears, who I think actually did go after the families of opposing QB's. There is an attitude missing, and it's likely due to the new system being implemented by Defensive Coordinator Ron Meeks. It's not a blame, it's a reality. The players are still reading, then reacting as opposed to just reacting. That will come in time, but after an 0-2 start, time is becoming more of a liability than an asset.

Heading into Dallas this week, the Panthers are up against the wall. They need a win for a number of reasons. First of all, their record, but second, they have a bye in week 4. This is a room that can not afford to sit out week 4, steaming over what would be their 8th straight defeat in calendar 2009.

Elsewhere, Bobcats guard Raymond Felton has inked a 1 year, $5.5 million dollar qualifying offer from the Bobcats. That's the good news. The bad news is that Felton becomes an unrestricted free agent after next season. To Felton's credit, he signed the deal to remove the distraction of "what's next for Felton," before camp starts next week. The Bobcats apparently don't feel that Felton will blossom into an elite point guard. My question is this: how far off were they in the offer?

What has Felton done to not deserve a long term deal? He shows up every day, practices hard, plays hard, and I think he improved under Larry Brown last season. Now, Felton is a year into Brown's system, and style. Do people really think Felton has plateaued? I hope they don't think that, because I don't believe he has. Hopefully, the two sides will continue to talk about a long term deal for beyond 2009-2010 (if NBA rules even permit those discussions-I honestly don't know).

NASCAR has not lifted the testing ban for 2010--no teams can test at sanctioned tracks that host national touring series next season, just like 2009, but they have allowed teams to run tests at sanctioned tracks that host regional series. That means that teams, if they can afford it, will be allowed to gather data at smaller tracks. It's good and bad. No testing somewhat leveled the playing field, so the smaller operations were at less of a disadvantage. Now the big boys with the big sponsor dollars gain that edge back. In the grand scheme of things, it's a win for the teams, and fans, as the data gathered will hopefully help teams improve the racing on the track.

Tim Baier has the anchor chair this evening, as I try and recuperate from a long day Sunday in Atlanta. We'll visit with Jim Courier as the Breezeplay Championships at the Palisades get underway this week, and also, for you darts aficionados, the 2009 World Cup of Darts is taking place at the Blake Hotel in Charlotte. I wonder if the British announcer that calls the action from the TV broadcasts will be there, barking out the scoring totals. That dude sounds like he's on a 2 pack a day habit, and chasing the smoke down with pints of Guinness. It's actually really cool.

Mike Solarte

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