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October 16, 2006

Observations from Week 6

Observations from Sunday’s victory against the Ravens:

Give the Panthers credit for a good signing in Keyshawn Johnson and a decent one in Maake Kemeoatu, but the rest of their class of free agents hasn’t been very impressive. Linebacker Na’il Diggs has been adequate. But center Justin Hartwig and safety Shaun Williams haven’t been able to stay on the field, safety Kevin McCadam is nothing more than a special teams player and linebacker Keith Adams didn’t even make the roster. Hartwig, who signed a five-year, $17 million contract, has been the biggest disappointment. He hasn’t played since the opener because of a groin injury. But Hartwig has been taking part in practices the past two weeks. He might not be completely healthy, but the Panthers don’t seem opposed to using Geoff Hangartner, who has played well and continues to get better in Hartwig’s spot.

Sports Illustrated did a players’ poll last week in which Terrell Owens was voted the league’s best wide receiver. Steve Smith showed Sunday that it is just not true. Smith is clearly back to last year’s form and he’s, by far, the best receiver in the league. For the record, I’d take Smith, Chad Johnson, Marvin Harrison, Keyshawn Johnson and about a half-dozen receivers over Owens.

As is his custom, Coach John Fox wouldn’t talk about how serious the rib injury to linebacker Thomas Davis might be. Fox won’t say anything until he issues his injury report Wednesday. But this is an area of concern. Davis has been making some progress in learning the defense. If he has to miss some time, that could take a toll on a linebacker corps that already is thin. Rookie James Anderson could end up being pushed into a starting spot if Davis’ injury shelves him.

Speaking of injuries that could be significant, the arm injury to defensive end Al Wallace has the potential to mess up a defensive line rotation that’s been working well. Again, we don’t know how serious the injury is and won’t for a few days. But Wallace is as good as some starters in the league, and that’s why the Panthers mix him in extensively with starters Mike Rucker and Julius Peppers. If Wallace has to miss some time, the Panthers might have to rotate less. Rookie Stanley McClover might not be ready for a significant role. One alternative would be to slide defensive tackle Damione Lewis to the outside because he has some pass-rush skills.

Peppers has been dominant on defense and the Panthers shouldn’t do anything that could disrupt that. But it still would be nice to see him get a few offensive snaps as a receiver in the red zone, which is something the Panthers dabbled with last year.

Running back Eric Shelton received his first NFL carry and got a couple snaps in the backfield. He could get more playing time next week in Cincinnati. It’s a pretty safe bet rookie DeAngelo Williams will miss at least another game with his ankle injury and DeShaun Foster has been carrying a pretty heavy load.

Posted by Observer Sports on October 16, 2006 at 01:11 AM | Permalink

Comments

I was a little dubious about our chances going in vs. the Ravens, but I was very impressed with the Panthers overall, especially when you consider the first two Ravens' t.d.s were flukes, and the third score was a gift from the refs. Two thoughts...first, we play up or down to the level of the competition. The second, Steve Smith is freakin' awesome. He makes ALL the difference in our ability to move the ball.

Posted by: Ron | Oct 16, 2006 1:38:25 PM

In balance, the Panthers outplayed the Ravens even more than the stats indicated. The only thing the Ravens were better at was in having receivers available to glom onto deflected passes and convert them into scores.

Posted by: Harold B. Hanig | Oct 16, 2006 1:53:45 PM

Don't forget about the signing of Damione Lewis as well. I would say that signing should be classified as a "good" one, along with Keyshawn. He really has played well in his spot as the pass-rushing defensive tackle. Agreed that the linebacker signings have not panned out. I think that will be a serious area of need in the offseason. The idea of James Anderson being forced into starter duty is scary.

Posted by: Brad | Oct 16, 2006 3:56:49 PM

Dude, to be honest I think Anderson is a good linebacker.. not yet to be a starter but, I have a feeling he will be... I watched him when he was at VT and lemme tell you I liked what I saw.. I saw a very speedy guy.. that reminded me of Will Witherspoon.. and a man that can hit... kinda like a Dan Morgan (when not hurt) but yeah.. I grant you that Diggs isn't doing much.. but give him time too.. hes new to our system and he will pick it up eventually.. I like him and im sure BOTH of them will pan out and do great on our team..

Posted by: Al | Oct 16, 2006 7:00:14 PM

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