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Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Mailbag: Carolina Panthers edition

By Pat Yasinskas
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

Time for the Carolina Panthers in our series of team-by-team mailbags.

Mike in Winston Salem, NC writes: I know you're doing the mailbag for Carolina today. Thanks for all the great articles as always. Has Carolina signed any of their draft picks yet? When should we expect deals to be locked up?

Pat Yasinskas: I wouldn't worry too much about this. General manager Marty Hurney is very methodical in getting his draft picks signed. You might not see much for a few more weeks because this is the time just about everyone in the NFL takes a little down time. But look for Hurney to start working his way through the draft picks sometime around mid-July. The only real challenge among Carolina's picks will be defensive end Everette Brown. He was taken in the second round, but the Panthers have declared him a first-round talent and his agent surely will use that in the negotiations. Even then, I wouldn't look for a holdout. Brown needs all of camp to have a chance at starting.


Dan in Omaha writes: Pat! You gotta stop all the Jake haters! Please make them see reason and tell them how bad the Panthers have been without him! He choked one big game, but he had major arm surgery on his throwing arm during that preseason! Jake doesn't get enough credit for what he brings to the table.

Pat Yasinskas: I don't think the arm surgery had anything to do with Jake Delhomme's performance in the Arizona playoff loss. Most of his five interceptions were just flat-out bad decisions. I also put a lot of the blame for that loss on the coaching staff. When you've got "Double Trouble'' in the backfield, why do you put the game in Delhomme's hands on a rainy night? I know there are a lot of people out there that thought the Panthers should have done something dramatic at quarterback in the offseason. But the bottom line is Delhomme has done a lot for this franchise and is exactly what coach John Fox wants: A quarterback who doesn't lose games. Aside from Arizona, Delhomme doesn't lose many games and as I said, I think he was put in a horrible position that night.


Trey in Charlotte writes: If Peppers leaves, who do you think will step up and be a defensive leader?

Pat Yasinskas: I don't know that Julius Peppers will leave. We'll have to wait to see how that plays out. But, with or without Peppers, I think the leaders of this defense are linebacker Jon Beason and safety Chris Harris. They were last year and each is perfectly cut out for that role. For all his talents, Peppers never has been a traditional leader. That's just not in his nature.


Mace in Indiana writes: Great job on your blog Pat. Keep it up. My question is do you think any of the RB's drafted by the panthers will be good enough to give Carolina a three headed monster like the Giants had last year (I've read on their site that Goodson has incredible speed.) Or do you think they feel fine with Williams and Stewart? Also, what's your opinion on their running duo this year? Should I expect the same greatness from Williams and an even better Stewart or was it a one hit wonder deal?

Pat Yasinskas: I've heard good things about Mike Goodson out of Carolina. But I'm not sure he's ready to come in and take playing time away from DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. They're two of the better backs in the league and I doubt the Panthers want to cut into their carries. I think you may see Goodson more on special teams. Expect another big year from Williams and Stewart. They've got a good offensive line in front of them and Fox isn't going to go away from the running game.


Mike in Falls Church, Va. writes: Hey Pat,with the recent aquisition of very high quality tight-ends in the NFC South, what are the Panthers going to do at this position? I know they prefer blocking tight-ends, but will they follow the recent trend and possibly get an end that could catch a few passes and be a legitimate threat?

Pat Yasinskas: Yeah, with Kellen Winslow, Tony Gonzalez and Jeremy Shockey, the Bucs, Falcons and Saints should get a lot of receiving production from their tight ends. But don't look for the Panthers to follow suit. Fox doesn't change his ways and he values blocking more than receiving from his tight ends. Still, I think Jeff King can play an important role as a receiver. His blocking duties won't allow him to put up numbers like the other tight ends in the division, but he still has the potential to give the Panthers 40 or 50 catches.


Larry in Asheville, NC writes: Hey Pat, I got two things for your consideration. First -- what's the severity of Jonathan Stewart's achilles tendon injury. I know they said he would be good by training camp, but im expecting big things from him this year and I really don't want some lingering injury to be holding him back from the get go... please elaborate for me. Second, what's the deal with the media fueling the fire for a Peppers departure. I know its business in which you don't make money unless you draw interest. But last week the story about Beason talking to Peppers broke in which this Beason said -- "He said he's doing good, he's training and he'll be ready to go when training camp gets here." To me that clearly states that Peppers has accepted he will be in Carolina at least one more year so he's going to make the best of it. Then almost immediately after, every sports analyst who had anything to say about it, tried to spin it as if Peppers will never concede to the panthers - and that a holdout is imminent.

Pat Yasinskas: The Panthers have been very secretive about Stewart's injury, as the Panthers are with every injury. But all indications are he should be ready for training camp. As for Peppers, I'd be careful reading too much into what a teammate says. I remember Todd Sauerbrun once telling the media John Kasay was having hernia surgery as we spoke. Then, we walked out on the field and Kasay was there. The only ones who really matter in this are Peppers and his agent and they've been silent for months. Peppers doesn't have a lot of choices left. But, if he still truly wants out of Carolina, a holdout is about his only option.