John Crist: Jake Delhomme certainly looked like the Jake Delhomme of old in Week 1, especially on that last-second game-winning touchdown pass to shock the Chargers in San Diego. Is he really all the way back after a lost season a year ago? And why is it easier for a quarterback in football to come back from Tommy John surgery than it is for a pitcher in baseball?
Brad Thomas: Jake certainly has looked to be the same guy he was before the injury. He has plenty of zip and velocity on his throws, although he still has shaky accuracy at times.
It's easier for a quarterback coming back from this injury because he's not throwing at 100 percent strength on every throw, whereas a pitcher throws his hardest nearly every pitch.
JC: What has it been like for the Panthers to get Muhsin Muhammad back into the mix at wide receiver? The Bears simply had to throw all that money at him in 2005 out of pure necessity, but he never produced big numbers and his diva-like personality really started to wear thin with his teammates. Does he still talk like he's a first-ballot Hall of Famer?
BT: Muhammad always has been a big talker. In Carolina, Muhammad really isn't seen as a pass-catching wide receiver, but rather one of the league's best run-blocking receivers. Muhammad consistently sets up blocks downfield, which results in bigger chunks of yardage per play.
Muhammad was recently voted one of the offensive team captains for the season, so that indicates that the Panther players have bought into what he's selling.
JC: Both DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart ran the ball pretty effectively against the Chargers, combining for 139 yards on 28 carries. Williams has had some success in the NFL, but the organization never seems ready to commit to him as the every-down back. Why is that, and can we expect to see Stewart taking over this season as the starter?
BT: The Panthers are very high on a two-running back system. They believe that they need a smaller, shiftier runner in certain situations and a stronger, pounding running back in others. The Panthers will tell you that they don't really have a starting running back, that both of them are "the starters."
Stewart will have more carries in games where his style of running is more effective.
JC: Another ex-Bear, safety Chris Harris, was Carolina's defensive MVP this past season after being traded from Chicago during training camp. He was always a solid player, but Lovie Smith was convinced he could turn Adam Archuleta into a star once again. Oops. How has Harris been able to have so much success with the Panthers seemingly overnight?
BT: Harris has sound technique. He set a franchise record with eight forced fumbles last season, and had another one in Week 1 against the Chargers. Harris is a hard-hitting safety and has become the leader of the Panthers' secondary.
Carolina didn't really have any defensive leaders last year after Mike Minter retired and Dan Morgan was injured, so Harris and rookie Jon Beason stepped up. I think the confidence that instilled in Harris also translated to his play on the field.
JC: We keep waiting for Julius Peppers to simply tear the league to shreds with 20-plus sacks because of his freakish athletic ability off the edge, but he was inexplicably held to just 2.5 in 2007. And he was awfully quiet in Week 1, getting credit for just one assisted tackle in San Diego. Peppers can't possibly be washed up already at the ripe age of 28, can he?
BT: That's the $80 million question. Peppers looked to be back to his same, freakish self in the preseason. But in Week 1, the Panthers had him dropping back into coverage quite a bit. He had a relatively quiet game against an average left tackle in L.J. Shelton.
Winning is the best deodorant, and much hasn't been made of it locally. But if this happens again and the Panthers lose, it'll be back on the front burner locally.
To read Part II of this three-part series, where John answers five questions from Brad, Click Here.
Behind Enemy Lines: Part I
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