Posted by ESPN.com’s Pat Yasinskas
The Carolina Panthers are the final stop in our series of team-by-team mailbags.
Jason in North Carolina writes: Hey Pat, love your writing. I'm a big panther fan and just wondering since we got our running game back and all (against possibly the worst team in NFLl) Do you think the Panthers could continue running the ball effectively throughout the season?.. Which could open up options for grumpy Steve Smith.
Pat Yasinskas: Well, as you pointed out, last week’s game was against the lowly Buccaneers. Still, it was a good sign to see DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart finally looking like they did last year. Not sure they’ll put up those kind of numbers every week, but they both are talented runners and the Panthers have talent on the offensive line. If they can move the ball on the ground anything like what they did last week, that will solve a lot of their problems.
Ronnie in Charlotte writes: Hey Pat. Do you think Jake and the offense will respond to Steve Smith like the defense and Julius Papers responded to Jon Beason. Personally, I think Smitty saw what the defense did and he figured hey If I talk about our offense (which has been offensive at times) maybe we can see results. Does Jake get back on track? This team does respond well to pressure (especially the last two weeks.)
Pat Yasinskas: Yes, I expect Steve Smith to have a good game this week. When he’s frustrated or angry, he usually plays better. Plus, the Panthers usually try to soothe him over after he has one of his outbursts. I expect them to make a big effort to get him the ball against Buffalo.
Nathan in Cary, NC writes: Pat, How poorly does Jake Delhomme have to play before he gets benched? I have been a Jake supporter for a long time, but he has lost ... something. What is holding them back from playing Matt Moore? I am pretty sure even Moore (who I actually like) could do better than 65 yards and 2 INTs against Tampa's terrible pass defense.
Pat Yasinskas: Careful what you wish for. Yes, Delhomme has struggled. But I’ve seen Matt Moore in practice and I’m not sure he’s what you want to see in a game. Besides, I think the Panthers would turn to A.J. Feeley before they would turn to Moore.
Kelly in Matthews, NC writes: Just read a blip regarding rumors Smitty was possibly trade material before the deadline...can't believe we would do something that ridiculous given that he, nor Pep, are the issue with this team.
Pat Yasinskas: Yes, I know the rumor was making the rounds. I didn’t acknowledge it because that’s all it was – a rumor. There was no way the Panthers would trade their best player. Marty Hurney, John Fox and Jerry Richardson have way too much invested on Smith – on many levels – to get rid of him. I know a lot of people thought his little outburst meant that he was disgruntled in Carolina. That’s not the case. He was frustrated because he’s extremely competitive and proud, but he wasn’t looking for a trade and the Panthers weren’t willing to deal him.
Alex in Johnson City, TN writes: Hello Pat, I enjoy your work. I was happy to read your article on Smith today. The majority of the media looks down on players who speak out. I'm not saying they should speak out, but I too think he is right in this case. They are in this situation because of Coach Fox.
Pat Yasinskas: Thank you. Yes, I don’t think there was anything wrong with Smith coming out and saying he didn’t feel like an asset to the team after a game in which he caught only one pass. I don’t agree with a lot of things Smith has done, but I’ll back him up on this one. He merely was letting some frustration out. In a locker room where Fox has created a lot of robots, Smith isn’t afraid to speak his mind and he was right in this case. I think this little incident will spark Smith and the Panthers – at least in the short term.