In this week's Q&A exchange, we swapped questions and answers with Corey Sznajder; a Carolina Panthers fan who also happens to run Bloguin's Shutdown Line; a site devoted to the NHL's Carolina Hurricanes.
His blog may be centered upon hockey, but as evidenced by his thoughts regarding Sunday's Titans/Panthers matchup, Corey certainly knows a thing or two about the game of football.
Our questions and his answers...after the jump.
Cam Newton's having a quite a rookie season...did you think he'd be this good this soon?
I was actually against drafting Newton in April, so he has blown away all of my expectations. I started to warm up to him after watching him play in training camp and in pre-season and he's done nothing but impress me since then.
He's completely rejuvenated the offense and has been spectacular at putting drives together, something Jimmy Clausen failed miserably at last season. That said, he's had some issues with turnovers (9 INT's, 2 fumbles) and has a tendency to go for the big play when it's not there but aside from that, I have loved just about everything Newton has done with the Panthers so far.
I don't think anyone saw him being this good so early in his career.
Speaking of players having a stellar year, veteran WR Steve Smith is playing some great football. What's behind his rebirth as one of the league's most dynamic playmakers?
I'm of the belief that good receivers are nice to have but their play often depends on the QB who is getting them the ball and Newton is the best Smith's had in years.
Delhomme (post-surgery), Moore and Clausen all had issues with accuracy, avoiding pressure and were rattled way too easily. Newton's shown the ability to dodge blitzes, buy time in the pocket which has allowed him to get the ball to Smith more often than Carolina's recent QB's have. Smith's also been double covered less with the team having two reliable tight ends now and defenses having to worry about Newton too.
The Panthers are ranked #27 in the league stopping the run. Will Chris Johnson have his breakout performance against Carolina's "generous" run-defense?
I don't know about a "break-out" performance but I would expect him to rack up a lot of yards no matter what. We have two rookies starting at both DT positions and our linebackers are all backups except for James Anderson so that's put a huge dent in our run defense, which wasn't very good last year anyway.
Most running backs have had their way against Carolina's defense this year so I don't think it will be any different for Johnson. Just ask Matt Forte and Michael Turner.
Five of the Panthers' six losses are by seven points or less. Why hasn't Carolina been able to seal the deal when it comes to close games?
It's a combination of things. The defense hasn't been good, for starters. They have been giving up big plays and committing brutal penalties at the worst times, so that's put us in a bit of a hole.
The special teams have also struggled a lot this year as we've given up some big kickoff and punt returns that lead to points for the opposing team, had field goals blocked and there was that whole Olindo Mare missing a 31-yard field goal thing a couple weeks ago.
The offense also hasn't shown the ability to get it done on the last drive and I think part of that reason is we're relying on Newton too much to win games. He is throwing the ball 35-40 times a game and while he has been great, he's still a rookie and can't win all of our games for us. The running game hasn't been used as much as I would have liked and neither back has been terribly effective either.
What's your prediction for this week's Titans/Panthers matchup?
I always try to predict a game as how it would turn out if the Panthers win, so I think they will take this one 27-21 with both DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart having solid games and that being what gets it done for us. They haven't been great this year but Tennessee's run defense has struggled and I think this could be a good chance for both of them to have a bit of a breakout game.