Opening the mail: Carolina edition
Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
I'm going through the mailbag and there's more than enough to have a take for each of the NFC South's four teams. Not sure if I'll get all four done tonight, but whatever remains will be posted Wednesday. I'm going to start with the Carolina Panthers.
I apologize for not being able to answer every single question, but I tried to choose ones that represented a lot of others. We'll touch on whether the Panthers should hit the panic button after two ugly wins, the mysterious play of Jake Delhomme and, as usual, ponder the age-old question of if the Panthers are getting enough respect.
Wildcat in Charlotte writes: Hey Pat, I have a question about the wildcat formation. 2 years ago on Christmas eve the Panthers were playing the falcons. the season was over at this point and jake delhomme was injured. Chris Wienke was playing QB and he attempted 7 passes I believe the entire game. We had Deangelo Williams taking direct snaps the entire game. We just kept running and they could not stop it. Henning was the offensive "mastermind" of the wildcat formation was he not? Doesn't he coach the Dolphins offense now? So isn't he the person behind this whole craze?
Pat Yasinskas: I remember that game (and the mad dash home with a bearded and jolly friend I'll call "Stan'' riding shotgun to Charlotte for Christmas) very well. Yes, Williams took a lot of direct snaps that game and Weinke only threw a handful of times. The Wildcat formation worked to perfection. And, yes, Dan Henning is now the offensive coordinator for the Miami Dolphins, so it would seem save to say he's the mastermind of this whole thing. But hang on just a second. I don't want to sell Henning short because he's a good football coach and person, but in the days after that game, there were some rumblings around Bank of America Stadium that it was actually coach John Fox who came up with the idea for the formation. Nobody would ever say for certain. Maybe it was Henning, maybe it was Fox or maybe it was a combination of the two.
Jordan in Cullowhee writes: Do you think that after the panthers preformence running the ball today, that this solidfies them as a superbowl contender?
Pat Yasinskas: I was definitely impressed with the way the Panthers ran against Detroit and I think DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart are a great combination. But I'd like to see Jake Delhomme and the passing game bounce back before I stamp Carolina's ticket to the Super Bowl.
Adam inCharleston, SC writes: Hi Pat, Love your column. I've followed the Panthers since '95, and follow Jake since he started to throw for the Panthers. My observation has been that Delhome is a QB with some sort of multiple personality performance (not disorder). Great performances are followed by dismal ones, and I struggle to recall a mediocre performance from the Cajun. His poorer performances can usually be blamed on injured offensive lines, tight coverage, ext. But these last two weeks leave me without an excuse for the Jeckle-and-Hyde persona we've seen. What's up with Jake, and which Jake will finish out the year?
Pat Yasinskas: I'm getting this question from a lot of people and I'm asking myself the same thing. I've seen most of Delhomme's games live since he came to the Panthers and I caught the last two on tape and it's very tough to figure out why he's struggling so badly. I've seen him make bad plays before or even have a bad game and bounce back in the next. But I've never seen him have two horrible games like these back to back. After the Oakland game, I thought maybe it was just a fluke. But, after the Detroit game, I'm wondering about Delhomme's health and if his elbow or thumb is causing problems. The Panthers say he's healthy, but you still have to wonder if he keeps playing like that.
Chris in Raleigh, NC writes: Pat, I've been seeing a lot of comments about the Panthers performance against the Raiders and the Lions. Granted, they weren't pretty, but in the end they held Oakland to 6 points and they ran for nearly 300 yards against the Lions. Plus, they WON the games. Granted, Jake didn't look like a worldbeater, but isn't there the possibility that the guys were looking past these two scrub teams and toward the remaining six games? So what if they came out a little flat?
Pat Yasinskas: Good point, Chris. I know a lot of folks are disappointed the Panthers didn't just roll through the Lions and Raiders and there were some things in those games that raised concerns. But, you're right, the Panthers did get two wins and that's all that really matters. Now, they've got six games remaining where they're going to have to be sharper than they were against Oakland and Detroit.
Doug in Durham, NC writes: I have a simple question that I think everyone in North Carolina is thinking right now. Why is no one talking about the Panthers? I understand that the NFC East dominates the headlines due to the fact that at the beginning of the season it was the best division in the NFL, but right now you have to think that the NFC South is the best division in the NFL and the Panthers are leading it.
Pat Yasinskas: I understand your passion for the Panthers, but I don't think they're being sold short right now. As a matter of fact, I get similar questions from Tampa Bay and Atlanta fans. I don't the NFC South, as a whole, is being sold short either. I've talked about how it's close or might even be the best division in football for a while now. The Panthers are ranked No. 3 in our Power Rankings for the second straight week and I spotted Steve Smith on the cover of a national publication last week. Their game against the Falcons has been moved to a later time slot to give them more national exposure. Not sure how much more attention they could be getting right now.