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November 22, 2006

What's up with Colbert and Carter? Not much

Remember back when the Panthers signed Keyshawn Johnson and all the talk was about how much deeper the team would be at wide receiver?

   Well, they are a bit deeper than last year. Johnson at least gives them one legitimate option after Steve Smith. But the Panthers clearly have become a two-receiver team.

   Keary Colbert and Drew Carter have combined for zero catches since the Oct. 15 game against Baltimore. Colbert, who was supposedly hampered by an ankle injury when he was a starter last year, has taken a step back. He has five catches for the season.

   Yet, Colbert’s still been working as the third receiver the last two weeks as Carter, who has 15 catches, has completely disappeared.

   That means it’s imperative Johnson and Smith stay healthy for the rest of the season. It’s also imperative the Panthers get a quality receiver for next season in the draft or free agency.

   SLANTED PERSPECTIVE. Just a thought here, but whatever happened to the slant pass? It seems to have disappeared from the Panthers playbook, which doesn't make a whole lot of sense. With a speedy receiver like Smith, the slant can be as dangerous as a 50-yard bomb. Johnson also is big enough to break a few tackles after a catch on a slant, but he's not getting the opportunity.

Posted by Observer Sports on November 22, 2006 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (18)

November 20, 2006

Week 11 observations:

Observations from Sunday’s game:

Get ready to wait for updates on DeShaun Foster’s injured elbow. All coach John Fox would say after the game was that Foster, who left in the second quarter, had an injured elbow. If Fox’s history with injury information is any indicator, that’s all that will be revealed until Wednesday.

If Foster is out, the Panthers will have to re-think their kickoff return situation. Rookie DeAngelo Williams handles that role, but he’d take Foster’s place in the starting lineup if the injury is serious. The Panthers probably don’t want to put too much on Williams’ plate.

Rookie cornerback Richard Marshall would be the most likely alternative. Also, the Panthers might want to give some more thought to punt returners, because Chris Gamble has not been effective in that role.

Yeah, I know he’s a safety. But what does it say about Colin Branch when the Panthers went to a dime package and he still wasn’t on the field? The Panthers used Christian Morton, who wasn’t even on the roster at the start of the season, as their nickel back. They used Dion Byrum, who was signed off Tampa Bay’s practice squad last week, as their dime back.

The door is opening for a nice run by the Carolina defense. After allowing a total of 10 points in their past two games, they’ll get to go against two teams that have just switched quarterbacks. Washington is likely to stick with second-year pro Jason Campbell for the rest of the season and Philadelphia will have to turn to Jeff Garcia after Donovan McNabb tore his ACL on Sunday.

For the Will Witherspoon fan club: Yeah, he had eight tackles, but can you remember one that mattered?

Posted by Observer Sports on November 20, 2006 at 01:30 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

November 10, 2006

Here's the numbers on Delhomme's incomplete passes

If you're wondering what's happened on Jake Delhomme's incomplete passes this season, here's a pretty good breakdown, courtesy of STATS:

Incomplete Pass Information

Passes Attempted        Complete        Total Incomplete 
270                     160             110 

                                          Pct of
Type               Number  Pct of Incomp  Overall Attempts 
Pass Dropped       15      13.6            5.6 
Poor Throw         40      36.4            14.8 
Pass Defensed      25      22.7            9.3 
Pass Hit at Line   12      10.9            4.4 
Other              13      11.8            4.8 
Intercepted        5       4.5             1.9 

Sacks Information

Here's a breakdown of the number of sacks allowed by each member of the Panthers current starting offensive line, according to STATS:

LT Jordan Gross 4 
LG Mike Wahle 2 
C Geoff Hangartner 1 
RG Evan Mathis 1 
RT Jeremy Bridges 2.5 

Posted by Observer Sports on November 10, 2006 at 09:10 AM | Permalink | Comments (12)

November 09, 2006

Look who's talking - Chris Gamble

Every week during the season, the local media in each NFL city gets the opposing head coach and a player on a conference call. The purpose is so the writers and, to a lesser extent, radio broadcasters can do stories on the opponents.

Generally, the media relations departments try to honor requests for key players or suggest players that are good talkers. The system usually works pretty well.

But members of the Tampa Bay media are a little upset with what transpired on their conference call with the Panthers on Thursday. Their first two requests were for Keyshawn Johnson and Steve Smith. They were told Johnson declined and Smith’s availability was in question because he was returning from the funeral of a family member.

So, the Tampa Bay media then said they’d be fine with Jake Delhomme or Julius Peppers.

Delhomme’s a pro at conference calls and, although Peppers isn’t a great quote, he’s one of the league’s best players.

So who was on the phone when it rang in the Tampa Bay media room?

Chris Gamble.

Gamble is a nice enough guy, but not somebody who can fill up the microphone like, let’s say, Mike Minter, Mike Rucker, Chris Draft, Mike Wahle, Jordan Gross or Ken Lucas.

That’s what the Tampa Bay media quickly found out, and they’re scrambling for stories on the Panthers because coach John Fox isn’t exactly a quote machine either.

Posted by Observer Sports on November 9, 2006 at 11:23 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Trainer's actions might have saved Carstens

There's a new unsung hero in Bank of America Stadium today.

Perhaps you've never heard of Ryan Vermillion, but you should. He's the trainer for the Panthers and he just might have saved a life.

Defensive tackle Jordan Carstens showed up at the team facility Wednesday morning, complaining of chest pain. It wasn't all that much different from what players feel after they've strained a muscle lifting weights.

But Vermillion was quick enough to know that blood clots are a side effect of the kidney condition Carstens has dealt with for more than a year. Vermillion quickly got Carstens to Carolinas Medical Center, where a blood clot was found in his lung.

There is a huge feeling of relief today that Vermillion acted so authoritatively and quickly. Carstens remains in the hospital and is receiving medication to help remove the clot. But there's a sense that, without Vermilion, Carstens' situation could have been devastating.

Posted by Observer Sports on November 9, 2006 at 04:58 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

November 01, 2006

Observations from Week 8

Hate to beat a dead horse, but there’s a slightly new twist to the Will Witherspoon saga.
Hindsight is 20-20 when it comes to the Panthers decision to let Witherspoon leave through free agency. At the time, the Panthers’ thinking was that Witherspoon was worth the deal he signed with St. Louis for about $6 million a year. Behind the scenes, the Panthers let it be known they felt they had enough money tied up at linebacker, mainly in Dan Morgan. There also were insinuations that Witherspoon was a good, but not great player.

It made some sense at the time, and you can choose to view the Panthers as a victim of bad luck when Morgan was lost for the season (perhaps forever) with concussion problems. But the Panthers were aware Morgan had serious durability issues, and Witherspoon had provided stability at linebacker the past few seasons.

Here’s where the new information comes in. There was a way the Panthers could have kept Witherspoon for one more year to see if Morgan could stay healthy or Witherspoon could become a playmaker worth a huge contract.

According to a source close to the situation, there was talk of placing the franchise tag on Witherspoon, which would have locked him up for one year. It would have been costly, but it wouldn’t have been a long-term commitment. But that idea was shot down.

That’s looking more and more like a mistake. Again, it’s hindsight: But, if the Panthers had franchised Witherspoon, he would be filling Morgan’s role right now and the Panthers now would jump at the chance to sign him to a long-term deal.

Hartwig on verge of being considered a bust

Back in the spring, Justin Hartwig seemed like the safest signing of the Panthers free agent class.
Signed from the Tennessee Titans to a $17 million contract, he was viewed as a solid center entering his prime. The Sporting New Scouting Guide, about as good a source for player evaluations as you’ll find outside of a scout’s computer, ranked Hartwig as the league’s sixth-best center. Known for his intelligence and work ethic, the assumption was Hartwig would make a very smooth transition and be the leader of the offensive line. There seemed to be absolutely no downside to Hartwig’s signing.

So why is Hartwig suddenly in position to join Sean Gilbert and Chuck Smith on the franchise’s list of high-priced busts? It’s the midpoint of the season and Hartwig has started one game. A groin injury suffered in the season opener put him on the shelf for a few weeks, but he’s been healthy the past few weeks and he’s still not starting.

Second-year pro Geoff Hangartner, rated the league’s 49th-best center by that same guide, remains the starter. Maybe it’s just that John Fox and his staff are like a lot of other coaches: They’re superstitious and don’t believe in lineup changes while the team is playing well. But the Panthers no longer are playing well after a four-game winning streak that seems like months ago.

If Hartwig isn’t in the starting lineup when the Panthers host Tampa Bay after the bye week, then we know there really is a problem. In fairness to Hartwig, he did have offseason hernia surgery and missed a bit of time at the start of training camp. It takes time to learn a new offense, but he should have it down by now.

Hangartner has played well (allowing one sack and not being called for any penalties), but he’s far from a superstar. On paper, Hartwig is a far better talent. Maybe he’ll get back in the lineup and live happily ever after. Or maybe he’ll move to guard or tackle to get a starting job. If he doesn’t do that soon, he can take his place alongside Gilbert and Smith.

Get Delhomme on the move

Just a thought here after watching quarterback Jake Delhomme in Sunday night’s loss to Dallas. Why not let him move around a bit more? No, he’s not Michael Vick and never will be. But the pocket was collapsing all around Delhomme against Dallas, which caused numerous problems. He doesn’t need to be a scrambler, but the Panthers should at least let him start moving outside the pocket just a bit.

Posted by Observer Sports on November 1, 2006 at 11:14 PM | Permalink | Comments (5)