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Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
It's time to begin the NFC South portion of the Three and Out series we're running in conjunction with ESPNEWS. In this series, we take a look at three issues facing each team.
We'll start with the Carolina Panthers today and the NFC South portion of the series will continue through Friday with us touching on one team each day.
1. Perhaps the most common question that comes up about the Panthers is, how is quarterback Jake Delhomme going to recover from his disastrous performance in last year's playoff loss to Arizona. This should not even be an issue. Delhomme is a veteran and a total pro. He's shown the ability to bounce back before, and the playoff disaster wasn't entirely Delhomme's fault. With one of the league's best running games, coach John Fox never should have put Delhomme in a position where he had to go out and win a game on a rainy night in Charlotte. Besides, the Panthers showed they still are firmly behind Delhomme when they gave him a contract extension in the offseason.
2. It's natural to wonder if Julius Peppers' heart will be in it after he was unsuccessful in his attempt to get out of Carolina in the offseason. But Peppers doesn't really have any other choice than to give maximum effort. He's collecting over $1 million a game as the franchise player, and no matter how you look at it, he's playing for a new contract next year. Whether that comes in Carolina or elsewhere remains to be seen. But Peppers can drive up his value with a productive season.
3. There's a sudden surge of talk that DeAngelo Williams is one of the best running backs in the league. His production last year showed he's already there. But I think Williams will only enhance things this year. He won over the coaching staff with his play and the fact he's not a fumbler. That means a lot in Fox's eyes. Yes, Williams may be splitting carries with Jonathan Stewart, but Stewart's been banged up much of the preseason. Even if Stewart is healthy for the regular season, Williams still will get the bulk of the carries.