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December 14, 2005

Would Jones have helped passing game?

WHAT IF? While looking back at a preseason magazine, I spotted something interesting.

It’s easy to forget, but, at one point the Panthers had a player who could have helped the passing game: tight end Freddie Jones.

With wide receiver Steve Smith as the team’s only offensive weapon, that brings up some "what-ifs?"

What if Jones hadn’t retired in training camp? No, it’s too much to believe offensive coordinator Dan Henning would have turned Jones into Shannon Sharpe because tight ends are supposed to be primarily blockers in this offense.

But Jones had been one of the better receiving tight ends for much of his career, and it would have been interesting to see what role he would have played for the Panthers. He had the potential to give the Panthers a receiving threat beyond Smith.

CARTER’S FUTURE. Speaking of receiving threats who haven’t done anything this season, remember Drew Carter? He was one of the stars of the preseason, but the Panthers haven’t used him. At this point, they should start getting him some experience because it’s pretty likely Ricky Proehl will retire after the season, and Rod Gardner obviously doesn’t fit into the future plans. Heck, Gardner doesn’t even fit into the current plans.

Why not at least give Carter the few snaps Gardner has been getting? It makes too much sense. Besides, coach John Fox and Dan Henning aren’t going to do anything radical with the team in a playoff race. But the fact is, beyond starters Steve Smith and Keary Colbert, Carter is the receiver on the current roster with the best chance of being around next season.

A WEINKE AND A SMILE. One of the more interesting behind-the-scenes sights this year has been the demeanor of backup quarterback Chris Weinke.

Ever since he came in for an injured Jake Delhomme in October against Detroit and helped the Panthers win, there’s been a noticeable difference in Weinke. In past years, Weinke usually stayed out of the locker room. When he was around, he wasn’t the friendliest guy.

All that’s changed since Detroit. Weinke suddenly has become very relaxed and friendly. He’s been almost playful with reporters, joking with them and calling them by name.

The change could be due to any number of things, but it’s a pretty safe bet this is a case of a man who has his confidence back and believes that, after the season, he’s going to get a shot to play somewhere.

Posted by Observer Sports on December 14, 2005 at 09:07 PM | Permalink

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