MID-WEEK RUMINATIONS

<p>Tension in Charlotte is beginning to take a grip on the hometown pro football team - while shadows of the disastrous 2001 one-win season are slowly creeping into the collective psyche of the fan base. </p> <p>Would a fourth straight loss in Seattle, resulting in a 1-6 record and (for practical purposes) a failure to reach the playoffs, sink the season?</p>

The quick answer is, “How absurd!” though it’s an indicator of how the season’s going so far that the question had to be asked in the first place. Call it the product of mid-week rumination.

Mid-week is a time of reflection for me. By Monday, I’ve digested Sunday’s game and am able to look upon aspects of it with a more objective eye. Fridays and Saturdays are high school and college football days for me. Sundays are solely for the joy of watching the Panthers play. But mid-week is a time when the thoughtfulness of Mondays has ebbed and the rush of the up-coming weekend has yet to begin.

I’ve asked myself the absurd question and have arrived at a few thoughts leading into Sunday’s match against the Seahawks:

- I think Carolina needs to stick with a run-heavy game plan even if they fall behind. And I don't care for Hoover being the tailback. I want him opening holes not trying to run through them.

- I'd like to see Jake Delhomme get up into somebody's face.

- I think the Panthers should throw deep at least four times during Sunday's game.

- I think Ricky Manning, Jr. and Chris Gamble should play three yards off their man, not ten.

- I think someone (linebackers) should disrupt the tight end and not let him have a free release.

- Broussard needs to return a freakin' punt.

- I like Carolina's current five offensive linemen. It's a group I can live with. Matt Willig and Doug Brzezinski scared me and I'm sure they scared Delhomme, too.

- I think it's time for John Fox to open up the playbook.

- Someone needs to get to the quarterback. Mike Rucker, especially, needs to step up.

- I think Muhsin Muhammed is better suited for slot routes. Even if that pushes Ricky Proehl to the outside.

- Keary Colbert needs to beat someone deep.

- I like the circle route for running backs.

- Carolina needs to be up by ten at the half to win. That's not a slight; it's a goal - considering home-field advantage and Fox's plodding second half game planning.

- They still need to run even if they're down at the half; I'd like to see a 60/40 mix by game's end.

- I'll be watching Delhomme closely, to see if what we suspect about his shoulder is true.

- Dan Henning is ignoring Mike Seidman. I think that's a mistake.

- If Carolina is down by 14 at the half, we just might see Rodney Peete.

- Special Teams must do a better job in kick-off coverage. Opponents are averaging starts at their 30 yard line.

- I'm not that impressed with Todd Sauerbrun's punting this year, though he is putting more inside the 20.

- Carolina could use some scoring from the defense and/or the special teams.

- Getting to the quarterback is key to stopping the Seahawks on third down.

- I want Panther receivers to get more separation.

Now, back to the absurd question, which will not be repeated:

I get a sense from the national media that the Panthers are not considered to be a good team.

Without all the injuries, Carolina would still be considered an elite squad even with the poor record. But with matchups now favorable for opponents and the general tenseness the team is exuding these days, most media folks give Carolina little chance to reverse the losing trend.

In other words, Panther watchers appear to believe that Carolina must play a perfect game to win, as evidenced by the failure to overcome small errors that seems to come at the most damaging moments. It isn't any one thing, like youth for example, that has led to such an assessment; rather, it's a collection of negative factors. The margin of error is too small, they say.

Personally, I think this perception is a bucket of unsubstantiated hogwash. Start winning and it all goes away.

Can the Panthers survive the season? If they win in Seattle, I think they will. Here's why:

- The offensive line is finally finding some stability, and that'll carry over to the rest of the offense.

- Most of the major impacting injuries that can happen have already happened. Even if Dan Morgan goes down again, the Panthers have a plan for that.

- Pride is something the Panthers have never lacked under John Fox.

- Carolina's been in every game, excepting Green Bay. I think that'll remain true for the rest of the season.

- The coaching staff is learning whom they can trust and whom they can't.

- Some of the younger players are getting critical development time on the field. That'll pay off in the second half of the season and beyond.

You can reach Chaz at chazestes@yahoo.com. You can also talk about this article on the message boards - click here


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