Inside slant: Carolina Week 9 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 preparations for Sunday's game, including key matchups, game analysis and injuries.

Carolina Panthers quarterback David Carr said he's feeling better, but the same can't be said for Vinny Testaverde.

Carr practiced Wednesday as the Panthers returned to the practice field, but Testaverde watched from the sidelines in street clothes, his right foot still in a walking boot.

Panthers coach John Fox said he won't know anymore until Friday when he releases the team's injury report and added that it may come down to a game-time decision on who starts Sunday at Tennessee.

Carr is feeling a little more confident this week.

He said for the first time since injuring his back against New Orleans in Week 4 that he was able to throw a deep ball during practice.

"Being able to let go of a ball, let one rip," Carr said. "I actually was able to do that a couple times today with minimal pain. So if we can keep it going in that direction, it'll be all right."

Carr said the Titans are the best defense he's seen on film all year.

"They just do so much, but at the same time, they're very disciplined with what they do," Carr said of the Titans. "They've got linebackers in there and their front four gets a lot of pressure on the quarterback. Their linebackers play really smart. They read your routes. You watch a team against them that you've seen and they're all over their plays. They know exactly what they're doing. It's going to really come down to us making plays, one on one.

"When we get chances one on one with the safeties, the corners, you've got to make the plays. Put the ball up to them and let Steve and those guys just go get it. If we win those battles, then we'll be all right."

Fullback Brad Hoover said that the Panthers need to stick with the run even though the Titans are first in the league defending it.

Tennessee comes in giving up just 64.3 yards per game on the ground.

"Well, we're going to have to stay consistent with it," Hoover said. "On defense, they are very good. They're probably the best defense we've faced so far, they're very physical. We've got to stay our course. We've got to run the ball to set up the pass, and vice versa. For us, it's important that we get off and get moving."

Even if the Panthers struggle early, Hoover said the Panthers need to stay the course.

"Naturally you want to see some progress," he said. "You don't want to be beating your head against a wall and not going anywhere. But it's going to take some discipline to go against a very good defense that plays as sound and physical as they do."

SERIES HISTORY

3rd meeting. Series tied 1-1. This is the third meeting overall between the two teams and the series is tied at 1-1. Carolina's only win in the series came in 1996 when the Titans were known as the Houston Oilers. Carolina won 31-6 in a game played at a nearly empty Houston Astrodome. In the most recent meeting on Oct. 19, 2003, the Titans rolled into town and pounded the then-5-0 Panthers 37-13. Carolina would regroup from that loss and go on to the Super Bowl.

NOTES, QUOTES

--Panthers defensive tackle Kris Jenkins said there are some positives to be taken from Sunday's loss to the Colts -- like holding them to three points for the first 25 minutes of the game.

"We came out and we played and I thought that it was a championship-caliber team that was on that field," Jenkins said. "But we just didn't stay consistent for four quarters. No game is a 30-minute game, it's a 60-minute game and if we could have held that up for 60 minutes, I think that would have been a real good thing for us."

--Jenkins, who is a pretty big guy at 350-plus pounds, wasn't a big fan of Manning's no-huddle offense.

"I think we just got worn down at a certain point and also the no-huddle thing is kind of mean," Jenkins said. "We will be all right; we will get it together."

--Carolina's special teams simply isn't getting the job done. The Panthers need to seriously consider signing a kick returner. Their average drive start on kickoffs is their own 21.9-yard line, which is last in the NFC. The next closest to the bottom is Dallas, with an average drive start of the 24.3.

Also, aside from his kickoff out of bounds on Sunday to start the second half, John Kasay is not helping the Panthers on kickoffs. He's last in the NFL with one kickoff resulting in a touchback. To put that number in perspective, Oakland's Sebastian Janikowski leads the league with 17.

--Center Justin Hartwig left the Titans after the 2005 season to sign with the Panthers.

And it seems he's still a little upset over how things worked out.

"Basically the Titans' game plan was, they wanted to keep me, that's what they kept telling me, but their plan was to let me go through free agency and see if they could get me for cheaper than the Panthers ended up paying for," Hartwig said. "And you know, in the end, they ended up matching the Panthers' contract offer. But you know, at that point I said, 'You know, if you guys wanted me here you would have offered me a deal a long time ago.' I mean, even a week or a day before that.

"But they chose not to and that's fine, and the Panthers really wanted me here and they're the ones that gave me this money in the first place. You know, I said that's the place I want to be."

Hartwig played at a league minimum for three years prior to getting the high tender his final year in Tennessee. He said he feels like he will have added motivation on Sunday.

"Absolutely. You know, every day in the NFL you've got to show up and do your job, but personally it's going to be a big game for me," he said. "I'm definitely going to have a lot of emotions and energy, and it'll be a real exciting day for me."

QUOTE TO NOTE

"He's frustrated because he didn't have catch after the first (quarter). That's tough, you know, but other teams know he's out there too. We've got to find a way to make plays. But at the same time, trust me when I tell you he's the first read in every progression for me. It's just, he's the first read in the defense's progression, too. (Colts safety) Bob Sanders is over the top of him and he has a corner pushing him off the ball. You don't have too much time back there to make up your mind to get him the ball when there's a guy standing in front of you that can catch it and move on. We were down too much." -- Panthers QB David Carr, on failing to get the ball to WR Steve Smith.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

The Carolina Panthers have signed cornerback Patrick Dendy and have placed Curtis Deloatch on injured reserve, the team announced Tuesday.

He will be the team's new fourth cornerback.

In two NFL seasons, Dendy (6-0, 190 pounds) has played in 16 games with three starts for Green Bay and produced 29 tackles, three interceptions and seven passes defensed. He was waived by the Packers in the final roster cutdown before the start of the 2007 campaign.

Dendy, 25, was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent from Rice by Green Bay in 2005. He spent the first nine weeks of the season on the Packers practice squad prior to being promoted to the active roster and appearing in four games.

In 2006, Dendy played in 12 games with three starts after beginning the year on Green Bay's practice squad. Utilized as the Packers' nickel back, he recorded 29 tackles, three interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown, and seven passes defensed and tied for third on the team with 13 special-teams stops.

Deloatch tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the third quarter of Sunday9s game versus Indianapolis. He played in six games and recorded one tackle and one pass defensed in addition to notching three special-teams tackles.

PLAYER PERSONNEL NOTES

--QB David Carr worked all of Wednesday's practice.

--QB Vinny Testaverde did not practice on Wednesday because of a strained Achilles' tendon.

--WLB Na'il Diggs has a hand injury and his status for this week remains up in the air.

--LB Adam Seward returned to the practice field after missing the last month with a calf injury.

--DE Julius Peppers isn't playing like a guy who deserves a new contract. In six of the team's seven games this season, Peppers has failed to record a sack.

--TE Jeff King figures to be a regular weapon for the Panthers down the stretch, especially given Carr's tendency to take the short pass over trying to throw it deep.

--LT Travelle Wharton did a good job last week on Dwight Freeney. In fact, you barely heard Freeney's name mentioned at all.

--SS Chris Harris has three forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries and an interception this season.

GAME PLAN

Get the ball to Steve Smith. The Panthers probably aren't going to be able to run on the Titans anyway, so they have to get Smith involved. Unfortunately, when Carr has been at quarterback, that is something the team has struggled to do this season. Smith had two catches for 18 yards against the Colts last week.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH

Panthers QB David Carr vs. his past. Carr seems skittish in the pocket, perhaps still shell-shocked from his days as a Houston Texan. Regardless, Carr needs to snap out of it and act like the leader of this team. There's a growing sense around the organization that players are quickly losing faith in his ability to lead this team.

INJURY IMPACT

Quarterback Vinny Testaverde (foot) and linebacker Dan Morgan (foot) were held out of practice on Wednesday.


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