Not all the defensive starters are on the team
The situation at defensive tackle has proven more disastrous than the worst that most could have feared. Granted, the Panthers have gone up against teams which promise to sport two of the better rushing attacks in the league, but their performances have been dreadful.
Ronnie Brown averaged over four yards a carry against the first team defense. The week before, Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs ran like a hot knife through butter, pausing only to break tackles.
It's very similar to before the 2007 season, when it was obvious after the retirement of Mike Minter that the starting safety wasn't on the roster. The Panthers could try to swing a trade with a team that is either rich with talent or stuck with someone who no longer fits.
The big prize out there would be Glenn Dorsey, who might not fit in with the new defensive system in Kansas City. The former fifth overall draft pick would be an immediate starter for the Panthers; however, he comes with a large cap number, and acquiring him would require not only some cap magic by General Manager Marty Hurney, but probably a major Shanghai'ing of Kansas City.
Dorsey wouldn't be cheap, and without a first round pick in 2010, the Panthers would be understandably hesitant to give away draft picks.
The more likely option is that the Panthers will wait for cuts and see who falls through the cracks. Keep your eye on Alan Branch, the massive defensive tackle for the Cardinals. He was drafted 33rd overall in 2007, and hasn't panned out at all. The Panthers love reclamation projects (Damion Lewis and Tyler Brayton were former first rounders) and Branch would fit in with their MO.
Carolina has more linebackers than can see the field, and the Cardinals have a need at linebacker. The Panthers might be able to swing a trade.
Jake and DeAngelo are Fine
The sky started falling after Jake Delhomme's first preseason game against the Giants, but those Chicken Littles were quickly silenced after his performance against Miami. When given time, Jake was able to find Gary Barnidge at will. It's exciting to think that the Panthers may finally have a pass-catching tight end, as it appears Barnidge has passed Jeff King on the depth chart.
As far as DeAngelo Williams goes, he looks like he's just as explosive as he was at the end of last year. Against the Giants, he showed amazing quickness, dodging tacklers and beating everyone to the sidelines. Against the Dolphins, he showed his unique combination of speed, agility, balance, and power on a stunning 25 yard touchdown run.
Peppers is saving himself for the Regular Season
I say this only because I don't want to think Peppers is going to mail it in. So far, he's been nonexistent on the field. He hasn't generated any pressure, and when he's been in, it looks as though he's auditioning for Dancing With the Stars more than getting ready for the season.
Prior to his 14.5 sack 2008, Peppers was dominant in the preseason. He's looking more and more like he's returned to his 2007, 2.5 sack form after being given 17 million dollars.
The Panthers draft, so far, looks like a mixed bag
There have been good and bad to come from the Panthers' 2009 draft. Captain Munnerlyn, the diminutive seventh-rounder from South Carolina, looks as though he's locked up the return job, and coaches and players alike are raving about his skills on the field. He might have a bit of Steve Smith's Short Man Rambo syndrome.
Mike Goodson, a running back out of Texas A&M, has looked like a legitimate threat to score every single time he touches the ball. The Panthers might have found their Jerious Norwood. If Jonathan Stewart's achilles that has kept him out the entire preseason doesn't get better, there won't be any drop-off in production when DeAngelo is off the field. If he can just keep from slashing his throat after scoring touchdowns, he'll be golden.
Everette Brown, the costly second round (2010 first rounder as well) defensive end out of Florida State and last year's ACC sack leader, has looked good when in the game. He has an amazing variety of moves and a motor that doesn't seem to stop. The only thing holding him back is his size. Luckily, the things he has are the ones that are difficult to learn. It will simply be a matter of time before he bulks up to the point where he can consistently contribute. He might have been drafted with an eye towards a Peppers-Free 2010.
Unfortunately, there have been some busts. Sherrod Martin, the third round cornerback out of Troy, is having trouble transitioning and is currently running with the threes. Defensive tackle Corey Irvin was drafted as a project and has shown as much. Offensive guard Duke Robinson is showing why he dropped to the fifth round.