After watching the Panthers play for two Sundays from the television in his living room, Steve Smith is back in action as of this morning. The three-time Pro Bowler who has a total of 29 touchdowns over three seasons did rejoin his peers for team meetings, and the Panthers (and fans) couldn't be happier to have Steve's presence back on the field!
When you have a guy like Smith on your team he attracts a lot of attention from the opposing team's defense, which is to be expected and in recent years it took a less than adequate corps of Panthers receivers and Tight-Ends to take the slack with having maybe one mediocre at best wide-out or end to attempt a catch. I'm not trying to put down the receivers and Tight-Ends of recent past; they did come out to do their jobs, but when you get a playemaker back like Muhsin Muhammad, and acquire another highly-touted receiver in DJ Hackett it evens the playing field of defender vs. offensive player, and it requires the opponents Defensive Coordinator and the opposing team's defense to re-plan which should also even the pressure out on all the receivers this year.
I am really looking forward to the Panthers next test this Sunday, when they square off against the Minnesota Vikings in the Metrodome. This could be a potential trap game for the Panthers, because the Vikings do have the talent, but for some reason they're having a hard time being on the same page collectively.
I will be very interested to see how the Panthers defense handles the Vikings running attack with 2007 first round draft pick Adrian Peterson leading the charge.
I will also be watching to see how well Corners Chris Gamble, Ken Lucas, and Safeties Chris Harris and Rookie Charles Godfrey play against the passing game. Minnesota's been having a difficult time in that area of the offense, but it certainly doesn't mean that it's nonexistent. If the Panthers don't shut down one aspect of the Vikings offensive scheme it could allow the Vikes to get a rhythm going and it will make for another excruciatingly long game for us Panthers fans.
In my opinion the defense needs to contain Adrian Peterson and force Tarvaris Jackson into a passing game. Do that, and bull rush their offensive line all day--make Jackson feel very uncomfortable in the pocket, and hopefully get Peppers, Diggs, or Lewis to exploit the Vikings offensive line for a few sacks or some forced fumbles.
This week's matchup will prove to be another test to some aspect of the Panthers roster be it defense, offense, or a more intricate area.
Hopefully we'll see a Panthers team with a little more swagger going into this game after getting Steve Smith back, and hopefully at least a 14 point lead by halftime.
I will be back to report anymore updates, and don't forget to check out my weekly post game analysis, and weekly picks! I'm not doing so great at picks right now, and if you have any picks of your own please feel free to post them in the comments section!