Korth: How is Mike Wahle adjusting to the Panthers offensive line?
Thomas: Wahle instantly upgraded the Panthers offensive line and has been their best lineman so far. The Panthers haven't run the ball as well as they'd have liked, and LT Travelle Wharton has been up and down as he adjusts to playing tackle at the NFL level. Wahle has stepped up as a leader on the unit, and has spoken out about things he thinks needs to be fixed.
Thomas: There is a growing perception that Brett Favre is pressing too hard and has lost a step. Is this true from a Packers point of view?
Korth: No. Favre has never had any kind of quickness, but relies more on his instinct and strength to avoid sacks. He is in great shape, thanks to his off-season workout program. He has simply made some poor decisions throwing the ball in the first three games and that has resulted in seven interceptions. He also fumbled the ball away once while setting up to pass. If Favre makes better decisions throwing the ball, the Packers are probably not 0-3.
Korth: Do the Panthers and their fans feel that they can bounce back from their 1-2 start like they did last year when they started 1-6?
Thomas: The general feeling around the team is that there are some problems that need to be addressed, and fingers are being pointed at both the offensive and defensive coordinators. The defense has a great deal of talent, but has lacked intensity in their two losses to New Orleans and Miami. The defensive scheme has been a bend-but-don't-break approach, which doesn't utilize the skills of its most talented players. When put in a tough situation, the defense usually folds and rarely makes big plays. Offensively, the Panthers haven't run the ball effectively, and other than Steve Smith, they have no receiver that has reliably caught the ball.
Frustration is setting in with the fans, because it seems that the Panthers aren't doing anything to correct these problems; like giving WR Rod Gardner more reps at WR and blitzing more on defense. If the Panthers go 1-6 as they did last year, there will be a totally different outlook toward the rest of the season, as most of the games in Nov. and Dec. are against divisional opponents who are playing well.
Thomas: How is the rebuilt Packers offensive line coming together?
Korth: The line is a far cry from what it was last year when Mike Wahle and Marco Rivera were the starting guards. With both of those veterans gone, the Packers have gone with free agent Adrian Klemm at left guard and seventh-round draft pick Will Whitticker at right guard. They are playing between veteran tackles Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher, and veteran center Mike Flanagan. Flanagan is coming off a knee surgery from a year ago that caused him to miss the final 13 games. He clearly has not been the same. With Klemm and Whitticker feeling their way, the line has yet to jell and the running game has suffered.
Thomas: Why aren't the Packers utilizing Ahman Green like they have in years past?
Korth: That's a question many Packers fans have been asking the past couple of weeks. Green hasn't carried the ball more than 19 times in any game this season. His single-game rushing high thus far is 58 yards. He been named to the Pro Bowl four straight seasons, but Mike Sherman, the coach and play caller, has seemed to forget that fact.
In Sherman's defense, the line hasn't been giving Green much running room when he has had the chance to carry the ball. The Packers have trailed in all three of their games, though not by much, and they have been forced to pass.
Korth: Carolina's biggest strength and biggest weakness at this point of the season?
Thomas: Their biggest strength is their depth. Last year, with so many players injured or on IR, many young and inexperienced players got valuable playing time. Now that the starters are back, the backups have good game experience and are ready if and when they are called upon.
Their biggest weakness is their belief that they can come back and win games if they start slow. In 2003, the Panthers would surrender a lead, but then come back to win the game on the last drive. In 2004, the Panthers lost on that gamble more times than not, and so far in 2005 they've lost two out of three games on last-second field goals instead of being more aggressive earlier on in the game.