Following up with the 2010 opponent breakdown, let’s continue on with the next opponent on the schedule.
The 49ers will take on the Carolina Panthers.
2009 Record: 8-8 (3rd NFC South)
Last meeting: 12/2/07 @ San Francisco (Carolina wins 31-14)
2010 schedule: Week 7 @ Carolina
Top 3 best players: WR Steve Smith, LB Jon Beason, RB DeAngelo Williams
Franchise player: None
Notable draft picks: QB Jimmy Clausen, WR Brandon LaFell, QB Armanti Edwards, QB Tony Pike
Notable new acquisitions: CB Marcus Hudson, CB Brian Witherspoon, WR Wallace Wright
Notable losses: QB Jake Delhomme, DE Julius Peppers, QB AJ Feeley, FB Brad Hoover, WR Muhsin Muhammad, CB Dante Wesley
The Panthers are going through a minor overhaul on the offensive side of the ball. Quarterback Jake Delhomme has now gone on to Cleveland and Matt Moore will be the new quarterback under center. He played well last season, but it’s hard to say if he can shoulder the load of a full season. There are some expecations from Moore but I wouldn’t be surprised if rookie Jimmy Clausen gets a look if the team struggles.
One of Moore’s biggest weapons is wide receiver Steve Smith. Smith broke his arm a few weeks ago during a flag football game. Even though it looks like Smith would be OK to make it to the regular season, it will be tough for the offense to try to operate not knowing how well their top star’s body would heal.
Fortunately for the Panthers, they provide a solid running game with DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. In 2008, the two formed one of the best running back duos in the league. Even last season despite all their struggles, Williams was able to produce another great Pro Bowl season. The offense will rely heavily on the running attack.
On defense, Julius Peppers has moved on to Chicago. That means the offense will look for linebacker Jon Beason to be the team leader. A lot will also be on the play of defensive end Everette Brown. The Panthers traded away their 2010 first round pick to draft brown in 2009 from the 49ers. Brown has to emerge as a strong player to show that the right decision was made.
In the passing game, we will look for veteran Chris Gamble continue the tremendous pass defense of the team. Last year, the Panthers gave up the third fewest amount of touchdown passes in the league. And looking at how much potential the 49ers will rely on their passing game, it can be a challenge for the Panthers.
The 49ers should have the upper hand in this game. With a very raw passing game, it might come down to a lot of runs for the Panthers. The 49ers run defense played pretty well last year and that might set the tone early in the game.
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