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December 11, 2006

Observations after Week 14

Random thoughts after the loss to the Giants:

You have to start wondering if the Panthers finish, say, 6-10 or 7-9, will there be a scapegoat? It’s not going to be head coach John Fox. But a team that began the season with Super Bowl expectations might make a move to shake things up. Maybe offensive coordinator Dan Henning retires. Or maybe the Panthers put the blame for the season on Henning or defensive coordinator Mike Trgovac and make a major move to their coaching staff.

Is there any player on the roster who is more on his way out of town than receiver Keary Colbert? Safety Colin Branch is running a solid second.

If the Panthers do anything this off-season, they should start with getting a return specialist. Get someone to handle punt and kickoff returns. Let Steve Smith and DeAngelo Williams concentrate solely on offense. And don’t ever put Chris Gamble back on punt returns again.

Jordan Gross has left no doubt that he’s better suited to play right tackle than left tackle. If there’s any doubt Travelle Wharton won’t be healthy enough to open next season at left tackle, the Panthers should make darn sure they get another left tackle capable of stepping into a starting role. They should have done that this season. I remember an assistant coach making a comment in training camp that he wished the Panthers had one more solid tackle. I didn’t think much of the comment at the time. But that lack of depth became a major issue once Wharton went down.

If you want to think about something positive in a year gone awry, start focusing on the draft. The Panthers could have a pretty early pick. They could use it in any one of several manners. In no particular order, I’m thinking middle linebacker, safety, cornerback, defensive end or offensive tackle. There might be some shouting for a quarterback and there’s no doubt the Panthers have to think long and hard about if Jake Delhomme’s still their guy. But if there’s a major move at quarterback, it won’t come in the draft. Fox firmly believes it takes too long to draft a quarterback and develop him. If the Panthers are going to make a move, they’ll bring in a free agent.

Posted by Observer Sports on December 11, 2006 at 01:19 AM | Permalink

Comments

Keyshawn didn't really fit in with this team and it showed on the battlefield & I think that is too bad.
I do not think that he nor Colbert are back next camp.

Big, good, solid preformer at the OL would help make the QB better, proably in free agentcy, although Travelle should be back.

Linebacker will remain suspect, although I see T. Davis comming along. I do see DAN returning, but one more head hit and he will retire.

I think that you are right about Coach Henning, He will just fade away as old solders do.

I liked this article Pat & best wishes, talk to you next year..

Posted by: MikePhelan | Dec 11, 2006 2:20:15 AM

Now that the epitaphs have been written on the 2006 Panthers, I, too, was thinking this morning about the 2007 team. I do believe that Dan Henning will either retire/resign or be fired. John Fox is safe but Henning will be the scapegoat, and I think rightly so. His scheme, in my opinion, didn't play to the strengths of the roster. Fox shares some blame as well. With backs who are more quick than they are big I would have done more outside running and used a more spread out attack more often.

I agree with your draft needs as far as positions go. This morning I was thinking about the need to replace Mike Minter actually. He's been a very good strong safety for us for years, but to me he lost a step this year, and there were several times where I thought he went for the hit instead of the tackle. I'd like to see the Panthers draft a playmaker at that spot, out of the mold of Ed Reed or Troy Polamalu.

Anyway, there will be plenty of time for postulating on the needs for 2007. The overriding memory of the 2006 Panthers, to me, will be the absolute inability to run the ball effectively and the lack of effectiveness of the receiving corps, save maybe Keyshawn Johnson.

Steve Smith has shown a lot of tentativeness all season long, in my opinion. When he came back from the hammies he was understandable reluctant to go all out. Yet he did turn in a couple of big games. However, time after time I saw him go over the middle like he was afraid of getting hit. He dropped too many passes to count. And I hesitate to say this, because I'm just an idiot fan watching through the tube, but he seemed to me to play with less fire and desire. As the catalyst for the offense, I think that had far-reaching effects.

P.S. It seems clear that Chris Weinke have a better trust of each other than do Carter and Jake Delhomme. It was nice to see Carter have his best game yet, but where has that been all year? Carter seems to have the ability to horse by anyone on a go-route. He drops a lot of balls it seems, but why didn't the Panthers try that more this year?

Anything now is too little, too late. It would take a massive collapse by multiple teams (Carolina loses tiebreakers to every other playoff contender), not to mention some consistency the Panthers have never shown this year, to make the playoffs. The 2006 season is done. Bring on 2007.

Posted by: Matt | Dec 11, 2006 7:27:21 AM

I am shocked that you dont mention Marty Hurney or Kris Jenkins. The Panthers decision not to resign Will Witherspoon has proved to be the biggest mistake this year. The LB corps are in shambles and the overpaid D-Tackles do such a pitiful job in clogging running lanes our LB's get hung out to dry. 'Spoon was the most versatile LB the Panthers had and a player loved by all the fans. They let him go for what, Maake Kemoeautu? He's essentially Kris Jenkins, the new Kris Jenkins, the one who's lost a step and has to try so hard to guess the snap count in order to make a play he gets you an offsides once every game or two. I'd be fine to cut him and his salary and replenish your LB's and find a Safety who hits like a truck. Minter's missed too many tackles lately. Oh wait, we had that guy too...Marlon McCree, who's on his way to starting in the Super Bowl with San Diego.

Posted by: Reeling Panthers Fan | Dec 11, 2006 9:43:28 AM

It's sad to see how high our hopes were for this year and how it's turned out. Crucial injuries hurt, but the inability of the coaching staff to make even minor adjustments is mind-boggling. I blame them more than anything else. I blame them also for NEVER inspiring any passion. Peppers is naturally great, but I'll never forget him smiling after the Skins scored their first touchdown last week. If he had the killer instinct like Urlacher, Lewis or LT in his prime, he would be absolutely unstoppable. But he is stoppable. We need players who refuse to lose. Fox needs to be accountable for not replacing Henning. 3rd and 8, run the ball when it's not working...What a bozo! Sadly, it looks like we have more needs at positions than we have salary cap space and draft choices. Good thing there's not a salary cap on replacing coaches. And to the one person I've seen who thinks Keyshaun didn't earn his money, have you seen the incredible catches he makes most of the time? Steve Smith dropped way more passes than Key. I was really doubtful of Keyshaun at the first of the year, but he's OK in my book.

Posted by: Ron | Dec 11, 2006 9:45:23 AM

I'm surprised at you, Pat. A return specialist isn't the answer. Our problem is our return coverage and blocking. We all know that Smith is one of the best punt returners in the league. His poor performance in returns lately is a direct result of poor coaching. We need a better special teams coach.

Posted by: Felix | Dec 11, 2006 10:33:21 AM

Change is definitely needed. Panthers fans need to put the heat on John Fox because he is the one responsible for not making any changes. We settle for mediocrity instead of demanding excellence. Here are the many changes I would make if I were the coach and the heat was on me: #1 - fire or politely ask Dan Henning to retire because he hasn't allowed our offense to get in sync and has shown no faith in his playmakers' abilities to make plays. #2 - dump Deshaun Foster, he's done absolutely nothing for us and DeAngelo Williams is more than capable of taking his place. Shelton also needs to be given a chance to be the pounding runner he is capable of being. #3 - dump Keyshawn, he isn't making the catches to move the chains like we brought him in to do while Drew Carter hasn't had enough playing time to develop into the dominant second receiver he is capable of being. #4 - dump both Jake Delhomme and Chris Weinke and trade for a decent backup QB to the guy who should be starting for us: Brett Basanez. That's right, if he would have had a chance to come in while Weinke was struggling against the Giants, Panthers fans would have seen a true passing QB with both poise and accuracy. He is after all the all-time passing leader at Northwestern, a Big Ten passing team who plays the best defenses in college week after week. Give him a chance, the worst that could happen is he throws an interception with the game on the line like our other QB's. #5 - draft 2 of the biggest offensive linemen coming out of college and develop them. #6 - Get a tight end who is a receiver first and a blocker second. #7 - Aside from the defensive line and the high-potential Richard Marshall at cornerback, it is time to rebuild our defense. The linebackers stink, the safeties stink, and both Ken Lucas and Chris Gamble are flops at corner. #8 - Trgovac needs to blitz more, but other than that he's still a good defensive coordinator considering the overrated players he's dealt with.
That's only some of the changes that I would make, and if Fox doesn't make at least two of those changes then he really doesn't care to win or keep his job.

Posted by: Derek | Dec 11, 2006 11:41:02 AM

I think the Panthers have lost motivation. Most of the Panthers on the game I watched were tired and lost. They front ling really did not put much pressure on Eli like during the last playoff game. Instead of going after Eli and making him cause mistakes the Panthers tried to play it safe in Zone coverage's and the receivers just sat in between the zones. Also, I have noticed that other teams are running on us by going up the middle a lot. They know if they keep our defense on the field that they will get tired and make mistakes. The offense is guaranteed to run 3/4 of the time in the first quarter and beginning of the 3rd. Then everyone knows on 3rd and long most cases, we are going to run the ball, because the Panthers are conservative. They have just been a little more conservative this year. Turnover have also hurt us. I am not talking about the interceptions, we had those last year and won. What I am talking about is luck and not swarming to the ball. The redskins fumble the ball 4-5 times and each time they got the ball back. The Giants fumble 2-3 times and each time got the ball back. Our punt returns and Kick Off returns needs a lot of work. Jake, Fox, or Henning is not the problem. Motivation, ball control, turnovers, and missed catches having been the Panthers problems this year. The Panthers do not have a big back so why are the panthers trying to force Foster up the middle? Instead they need to open with the passing game and then add the run when we start down the field. The year is not over and we can still make the Playoffs if the Panther players get some Confidence from us the Fans instead of blaming the Offensive Line, Jake Delhomme, John Fox and Dan Henning. Instead of trying to point fingers, we should be behind them until the end of the year. Jake does not need to hear that he played lousy, he knows that when he has a bad game. The Panthers need to get motivated to make the Playoffs and maybe the Superbowl, They can do it by winning the reset of the games this year.

Posted by: Clay | Dec 11, 2006 12:46:12 PM

I think the Panthers have lost motivation. Most of the Panthers on the game I watched were tired and lost. They front ling really did not put much pressure on Eli like during the last playoff game. Instead of going after Eli and making him cause mistakes the Panthers tried to play it safe in Zone coverage's and the receivers just sat in between the zones. Also, I have noticed that other teams are running on us by going up the middle a lot. They know if they keep our defense on the field that they will get tired and make mistakes. The offense is guaranteed to run 3/4 of the time in the first quarter and beginning of the 3rd. Then everyone knows on 3rd and long most cases, we are going to run the ball, because the Panthers are conservative. They have just been a little more conservative this year. Turnover have also hurt us. I am not talking about the interceptions, we had those last year and won. What I am talking about is luck and not swarming to the ball. The redskins fumble the ball 4-5 times and each time they got the ball back. The Giants fumble 2-3 times and each time got the ball back. Our punt returns and Kick Off returns needs a lot of work. Jake, Fox, or Henning is not the problem. Motivation, ball control, turnovers, and missed catches having been the Panthers problems this year. The Panthers do not have a big back so why are the panthers trying to force Foster up the middle? Instead they need to open with the passing game and then add the run when we start down the field. The year is not over and we can still make the Playoffs if the Panther players get some Confidence from us the Fans instead of blaming the Offensive Line, Jake Delhomme, John Fox and Dan Henning. Instead of trying to point fingers, we should be behind them until the end of the year. Jake does not need to hear that he played lousy, he knows that when he has a bad game. The Panthers need to get motivated to make the Playoffs and maybe the Superbowl, They can do it by winning the reset of the games this year.

Posted by: Clay | Dec 11, 2006 12:46:35 PM

The front office made a few mistakes this year. #1 letting go of witherspoon....we've known for years that morgan is fragile, we also knew that fields wasn't coming back and davis needed time to develope....
Jake needs a qb coach that knows how to calm him down, he's erratic and hyper in crucial moments , perhaps if the running game was there he would'nt feel that it's all on his shoulder.....but all this comes down to is coaching people.....they have to be inspired and have trust in one another....thats why John and Marty are paid......

Posted by: eric | Dec 11, 2006 12:50:21 PM

Poor decisions were made in the front office this off season. Witherspoon and McCree should've been retained. Having those two would've helped out the defense a lot. Letting WR Ricky Proehl go has proven to be a mistake as well. He certainly would've been more productive than Colbert and Hankston.

The DT tackle play has been a huge letdown. FA pickups Lewis and Kemoeauto have had little impact on the field. Kris Jenkins is no longer one of the premier defensive tackles in the league. The LB core is average at best. The team would be silly to build the LB core around Dan Morgan when you consider his injury history. A true playmaker at SS and/or FS would help.

This team needs a playmaker at DT, S, LB, and a TE who can catch the ball. The Panthers have ignored the TE spot since Wesley Walls left the team. An upgrade at the OL talent would be a wise move too.

Posted by: C.Pruitt | Dec 11, 2006 1:34:35 PM

Dan Morgan, get his ass outta here, and replace him with will witherspoon, (wishes was possible), but seriously we need a new linebacker to back up Dan Morgan and replace him when he's gone. We need a new CB squad. Keyshawn is great, don't let anyone say any different.

Posted by: Clayton | Dec 12, 2006 9:42:21 AM

Hurney needs to step in and stop the bleeding as follows:
1. Get rid of Dan Henning and hire a new coordinator - the team obviously does not believe in his philosophy any longer, you can see it when they play. Henning has consistently called the wrong plays at the wrong time, not just this year but in years past. This year he has not been bailed out as much. Yes I have heard the defenders of Henning before, I know he is not making the players drop the ball, yes he is not making Jake overthrow the ball, no he is not out there telling the O line not to block for Foster. But what he is doing is he is NOT calling realistic plays for a team which lacks a legit large back and a QB who can scramble. This in turn puts us in a position where we are gambling on risky plays in the 4th quarter. It is almost like he wants to emphasize our weaknesses rather than our strengths. This is really true when we are in the red zone, as shown by the propensity to throw on 3rd and short and yet run on third and long. Also when we do have a gameplan that works, he shelves it early on and allows teams to jump right back in (TB, MN, WASH, CIN, DAL). Time for him to join Knute Rockne and the rest of the leather helmet crowd and let younger talent take over.
2. Draft (yes, draft, not pick up in FA) a QB in the FIRST ROUND this year. For example Troy Smith who may be around when we pick, and if so we need to grab him. Yes he might not make an immediate impact but will by the time Jake is done (2 yrs tops) and Weinke is on the scrap heap (2 yrs tops). This is a position we have screwed around with for far too long and we have not really had a legit franchise QB in our team history. This is where we should be building, not ignoring, on our team.
3. Get a big, bruising back to run the ball. Resigning Foster was a huge mistake, he has been a bust since we drafted him with injuries and half hearted play. Now we are stuck with him again for at least 2 more years. If TJ Duckett is available from WASH, we need to grab him or someone of his ilk and sign them. Foster clearly cannot move the pile, nor can Williams. They are scatbacks and need to be used accordingly.
4. Sign some DECENT vet LB's and get rid of Morgan. Morgan likely will not play again, and is now a waste of space since we signed him again to a long term contract (knowing his propensity for concussions, no less). This spot has been really bad this year although Lewis and Diggs have shown some propensity to shine, as has Davis. Only Davis is a long term player at this position, time to get serious about getting him some help.
5. Clear out the special teams and start over. Except for Baker and Kasay, this squad has flat out stunk for reasons ranging from unnecessary penalties to poor tackling and returns. We always start in bad field position and give up too much on the other side of the ball. It is as bad as it has ever been here.
6. Draft or acquire a legit catching TE. Gaines and Mangum are not catching TE's and we need the short option, not more blocking. Again, this was a golden opportunity we let slip in the draft with the wealth of TE's available in 06. We are now looking foolish for it.
Good article Pat but please be aggressive in getting reform on Henning, he is the main problem. Too bad we cannot draft coordinators!

Posted by: Ben | Dec 12, 2006 6:44:27 PM

I'm so sick of hearing everyone complain about Jake Delhomme. He's not the problem. He makes as many good plays as he does mistakes, i.e. a poor man's Brett Favre. Chris Weinke is trash. We should've kept LeFors and Basanez at the beginning. Letting Witherspoon and McCree go was STUPID. We should have never resigned Foster or brought in that bum Justin Hartwig. One free agent pickup we made that didn't really get a lot of hype was Damione Lewis. To the guy that said he didn't make an impact, you're wrong because I remember the game against the Rams where he was crushing Bulger! DeAngelo Williams needs to start the rest of the season and let Nick Goings, Brad Hoover, and Eric Shelton handle goal line carries ... In the draft, offensive tackle (one that can play LT) is CLEARLY the right choice with our first round pick! Wharton sucks ...

Posted by: Shane Dunaway | Dec 13, 2006 8:42:28 PM

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