Inside slant: Carolina Panther Week 7 preview

Need the inside scoop on the Buccaneers' NFC South rivals? Look no further than the "Inside Slant." Every Thursday Bucsblitz.com offers a preview of the weekend's games for the rest of the division. Go inside Carolina's bye week preparation with scouting information, injury updates and key matchups.

The Carolina Panthers enter the bye not knowing who will be their signal-callers on both sides of the football when they return next week to face the Indianapolis Colts.

Panthers coach John Fox hasn't decided if he'll stick with this past Sunday's hero Vinny Testaverde at quarterback or go back to David Carr if his back is healthy.

Equally as important, on the defensive side of the ball, Fox wouldn't say if Dan Morgan will get his position back once he returns from a partially torn Achilles. Rookie first-round draft pick Jon Beason has played exceptionally well in his first two starts for the Panthers at middle linebacker.

"I think he's done an excellent job," Fox said of Beason. "We were probably a week too late (moving him to middle linebacker). But he's stepped in, and I think he's gotten better each week. He's just getting more and more confident."

As for Morgan getting his spot back when he returns, Fox replied, "Much like that earlier question (about the quarterbacks), we'll kind of evaluate that when those things arise. It's good to have some competition within your own team. We'll put the guy in there we think gives us the best chance."

It's conceivable that the Panthers could move Morgan to weakside linebacker when he returns from a partially torn Achilles.

Beason said he fully expects to move back to weakside linebacker -- where he began the season -- when Morgan returns.

"Just because you get a little dinged doesn't mean you should lose your job," Beason said.

As for the quarterback position, Fox is faced with a tough dilemma.

They obviously have more invested financially in Carr, but Testaverde gave them a huge lift on Sunday against Arizona, completing 20 of 33 passes for 206 yards and a touchdown while leading Carolina to a 25-10 win.

Carr hasn't looked all that sharp in his three appearances.

He's completed 32 of 62 passes for 330 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions while being sacked five times. His quarterback rating is a meager 64.6.

"I think right now we're going to evaluate it as we go," Fox said. "We have options. We didn't have these same options a week ago or really the last couple of weeks. I'm not going to commit to it now. A lot of it is based on what we see in practice or whoever gives us the best chance to win."

No matter who starts at quarterback, they're expected to struggle against the Colts, even though that game is at home.

NOTES, QUOTES

--Offensive linemen rarely get their name in the game book, but Geoff Hangartner managed to by returning a short kickoff 10 yards in the second quarter of Sunday's game against Arizona.

"We were all going to chip in and give him $100 each if he did a spin move," joked fellow offensive lineman Mike Wahle.

--Steve Smith returned the game's first punt against Arizona, but Ryne Robinson handled the majority of the returns for Carolina. He nearly broke one for a touchdown in the second quarter.

--Despite proving that he can still play at the NFL level this past Sunday, Carolina Panthers 43-year-old quarterback Vinny Testaverde said this, his 21st season in the league, will be his last.

During the course of Sunday's interview, a reporter jokingly asked Testaverde if he views Carolina as a long-term team or if he's just using this as a stepping stone to go somewhere else.

Testaverde, sensing the sarcasm involved, laughed and said, "You're joking, right?"

Then, turning serious for a moment, Testaverde said, "No, I think this is probably my last year. I'm pretty confident this will be my last year."

If Sunday does wind up being the final game Testaverde starts -- assuming the Panthers go back to David Carr as the starter against Indy -- then it sure was a great way to go out.

--Running back Nick Goings has changed his helmet and his mouthpiece and expects to be back on the field a week from Sunday against the Colts. Goings suffered his third concussion earlier this year.

BY THE NUMBERS: 18.5 -- The average margin of defeat for the Panthers in their last four homes games dating back to last season. The Panthers have been outscored 118-44 in their last four games at Bank of America Stadium.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "It was an awesome effort by him to step up and come through for us in the last minute. He made the right reads and it was on us up front to protect him." -- Panthers OT Travelle Wharton, on QB Vinny Testaverde.

PLAYER PERSONNEL NOTES

--MLB Jon Beason has excelled the last two weeks since being moved inside and coach John Fox said earlier in the week he wished he would have moved Beason inside a week earlier. Instead, the Panthers used James Anderson that week against Tampa Bay and lost.

--OG Mike Wahle suffered a mild concussion against Arizona, but should be back in time for the Colts.

--RB Nick Goings has missed three games with a concussion (the third of his career) but is expected back for the Colts game. He may wind up returning kickoffs again.

--CB Richard Marshall continues to be Carolina's first corner off the bench, although some feel like he should be starting over Chris Gamble or Ken Lucas.

--DE Julius Peppers finally recorded his first sack of the year against Arizona. After the game he told media that "now you have to find something else to write about."

INJURY IMPACT: The Panthers hope to get quarterback David Carr back from a back injury in time for Indianapolis, but whether or not he starts remains up in the air.

Also, the status of middle linebackers Dan Morgan (foot) and Adam Seward (calf) remains cloudy entering the bye week.

Goings has missed three straight weeks with a concussion, but the thinking is he'll be back for Indianapolis after the bye week.


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