Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
If it seems like only last week that we were talking about the NFC South's most maligned players, that's only because it was last week that we were talking about the NFC South's most maligned players.
But last week was a long time ago. We now have a clear-cut leader.
It's Carolina defensive end Julius Peppers. He's taking a beating from fans after not doing much in the first two preseason games and, then, in a rare interview, saying that preseason games don't matter.
That's not going to sit too well when you're eating up $18 million in salary-cap space, injuries are popping up all over the defense and the team has no cap room to get replacements. Those injuries could be a bad omen as Carolina tries to put together back-to-back winning seasons for the first time in franchise history.
Quarterback Jake Delhomme has been an easy target when things haven't gone right in recent years. But Peppers, who said he wanted out of Carolina in the offseason, suddenly is giving Delhomme a lot of insulation.