We're opening up today's series of team-by-team mailbags with the Carolina Panthers.
Bob in Matthews, N.C., writes: What do think is the real reason the Panthers cannot run the ball this year? Jeff Otah and Keydrick Vincent not playing this year? The fact that Tony Fiammetta can't block nearly as well as the "Hoov"? Jeff Davidson's incompetence as OC? It really seems that both DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart are just going through the motions this year.
Pat Yasinskas: Most of the above, although I don’t see reason to question the effort of Williams and Stewart. But I think the rest of your points are on target and self-explanatory. The one other big factor I’d include is the quarterback play. Matt Moore finally put up some numbers on Sunday and that was nice. But, up until then, the Panthers had been so ineffective in the passing game that it wasn’t even a threat for defenses. Much of the season, the Panthers have been looking at eight or nine defenders in the box.
Haile in Durham, N.C., writes: Why haven’t the Panthers opened up with more three-receiver/one back sets and run the ball?
Pat Yasinskas: Great question and only John Fox and Jeff Davidson can give you the true answer. They’re not using a lot of three-receiver sets, even when they’re passing the ball. I think the youth at receiver is a factor and guys like David Gettis and Armanti Edwards aren’t of the Muhsin Muhammad prototype, where they are cut out to be good run blockers. Brandon LaFell has that size. But, I guess the bottom line is, you’re asking for creativity from the Carolina offense. When’s the last time we’ve seen that?
Scott in New York writes: I'm thrilled the Panthers finally got a W on Sunday. However, week in and week out I'm troubled that a tandem cast as the best RB duo in the game has failed to get the running game in gear. Do you know if anyone has actually looked at the tape to see if one possible cause is Fiammetta doing a worse job than his predecessor? I know of the o-line's troubles, especially with Otah being out, but I can't help but think that Hoover's departure has made a difference.
Pat Yasinskas: Yes, people around the league that study such things will tell you that Fiammetta is not Brad Hoover. But they don’t put all the blame for the problems in Carolina’s running game on him. They point more toward the offensive line and the inability to develop a passing game.
Lee in Cherryville, N.C., writes: I noticed you had Jon Beason in the Pro Bowl suggestions. I think James Anderson has made a very strong case of playing our best football at the LB position. Beason has absolutely no stats except tackles, whereas Anderson is 8th in the league in tackles, 1.5 sacks. 1 INT, 1 FF, and 2 recoveries. Trying to avoid the popularity contest that is the Pro Bowl I think Anderson is starting the year similarly to how Thomas Davis started last year. He's making plays at a position that isn't necessarily conducive to big plays.
Pat Yasinskas: I agree that James Anderson is having a very nice year and has been one of Carolina’s true bright spots. But, given the way Carolina’s season is playing out, the Panthers probably aren’t going to have a lot of representatives in the Pro Bowl. Beason is a name player, so I think he at least has a chance.
Jeremy in Minneapolis writes: Serious question. What happens if the panthers go 11-5. ... that just screws everything up doesn't it?
Pat Yasinskas: Let’s just suppose the Panthers somehow run the table. I still think John Fox would be gone as coach. Even if he were to get offered a contract extension, I think he’d walk because he’d be a pretty hot commodity if he won 11 straight. He’s a guy who can get a head coaching job elsewhere no matter what, and I think everyone that matters in Carolina knows that Fox’s tenure there has run its course.