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January 23, 2008

Pinpointing Panthers' priorities

As the Panthers’ brass study talent during Senior Bowl practices this week, it’s obvious to everyone that improvements need to be made in a number of areas. But which is most important?

I believe the No.. 1 target should be defensive end, particularly with the very possible retirement of veteran Mike Rucker. Stanley McClover and Charles Johnson have potential physically, but didn’t appear to be ready yet during the season. Julius Peppers can be expected to bounce back from a sub-par season, but he’ll need some help, because the Panthers’ defense needs a strong pass rush from the front four to work well.

But other positions are also iffy. Running back, where DeShaun Foster struggled for much of the season. Receiver, where a reliable No.. 2 must be found to take the pressure off Steve Smith.

The offensive line, which spent the year looking for consistency.

What do you guys think? What is this team’s biggest need going into next season?

By the way, former Panthers offensive coordinator Dan Henning is in the running for offensive coordinator in Miami, where his old friend, Bill Parcells, holds sway. And former Carolina offensive line coach Mike Maser already has signed on with the Dolphins.

Posted by Observer Sports on January 23, 2008 at 02:36 PM | Permalink

Comments

Straight ahead power back.

Two defensive tackles

One left tackle

Safety to accompany Harris.

Marshall starting at corner over Gamble.

Possession receiver that will go over the middle with a big body. Can Jarrett step up? Not if he never gets on the field.

Woman for Procton.

Posted by: Willy | Jan 23, 2008 2:47:06 PM

#1 Wide receiver- Carter, Colber (if back with the team), and Jarrett are not enough of a threat to worry any defense. Hopefully Jarrett can turn into that player, but it doesnt look like that will happen by next season. Fox said he needed more playmakers, he's got two in Smitty and DeAngelo, and I think adding a legitimate receiver will surely benefit the offense.

2. Defensive end...for the reasons you stated above

3. Free Safety...Deke Cooper did a good job but he is not an NFL starter, Nate Sally should be back but no one knows how good he is or isn't. Adding a true FS will allow Harris to play closer to the line instead of being forced back into coverage.

4. Running Back....I think we all know why

5. OT...either move Gross to the left and find a RT who usually come sign at a lower price than LT's. I think the inside of the line is good no matter who they chose to keep, but tackle could still be up in the air.

6. TE...I really like King, he has good hands and can block as well, but he seems to only be good for catching balls inside of 10 yards, he cannot stretch the middle of the field; Rasario could be good in that role, so thats another factor to consider.

Posted by: m | Jan 23, 2008 2:55:41 PM

O-Line!!!

Let's grab Ryan Cady or Sam Baker and say goodbye to Trevelle Wharton. I'd love to see Carolina let DeAngelo get 60% of the carries next season.

Posted by: Jake | Jan 23, 2008 3:27:36 PM

Address offensive needs during free agency (2 or 3 pickups). I say a OT, WR, RB and QB (cut carr now for team morale sake)in that order. Notable free agents for this year are: note some are unrestricted and others are restricted FA's
WR's - Crayton, B. Johnson, Berrian, DJ Hackett, A. Davis, D. Henderson
RB's - Barber, J. Jones, M. Turner, J. Lewis, J. Fargas, D. Ward, C. Brown

Address Defensive needs in the draft by getting super young and most every position. DE and S being the first two picks. In my opinion it is more important to be young at defense and that's where we are weaker anyway. Obviously you can't draft all on one side of the ball but I would draft MOSTLY defense.

Posted by: john | Jan 23, 2008 3:44:12 PM

cut deshaun-sign michael turner

cut lucas, promote marshall then sign a nickel for cheap

cut morgan
cutting morgan, lucas and des0haun would free up cap space, maybe even mike wahle, then go sign a d end, jared allen from kc would fit nice cuz ruck is done, maybe faneca from pittsburgh for o-line or another left tackle assuming carolina resigns gross, i don't think wharton will be back, bernard berrian will be a free agent and would be nice across from smith, carolina needs to extend pep so save cap space as well, and to everyone who thinks u should trade pep u are crazy, try an trade jenkins if its a good deal, then go draft kenny phillips and start him at saftey across from harris, it just comes down to who carolina is willing to part ways with to make some cap space

Posted by: james | Jan 23, 2008 3:49:48 PM

Safety- Kenny Phillips, if not there Clady or baker and take hefney in the 2nd. Next has to be D-line you can find a good one in the 2nd or 3rd. Lastly, a good back. Not ball carrier or reciever or blocker but a little bit of them all, like LSU's hester, WVU's schmitt, or arkansas Hillis

Posted by: Clay | Jan 23, 2008 4:09:09 PM

Your analysis of our defense is right on. We need a pass rush from the front 4 because our soft zone doesn't hold up without it. Take another chance with Morgan by bringing him back and moving him to the weak side. I think Jake coming back and hopefully staying healthy will take pressure off the WR's and O-line. Jake showed us briefly that he can spread the ball around and get the ball to Smitty. So, draft a DE and Safety to keep building the defense and then hopefully sign a veteran WR and Tackle.

Posted by: Walter | Jan 23, 2008 4:18:09 PM

Personally the #1 thing should be a legit 2 wide receiver. My reason sayin is a guy like roy williams who is on the trading block means at least one less man in the box. Two legit receivers would have a domino affect on the offense and defense. It usually takes two people to cover Steve and by watching the lions it also takes two to cover Roy(thats the whole secondary). That leaves 8 players, then the tight end requires attention, theres seven. In reality in most plays thats 5 o-linemen and a fullback(hback)meaning Deangelo is one on one with a linebacker. The whole thing means longer drives fresher defense, more points. If Richardson wants to be like the Steelers that one player could save you alot of oline money(except drafting or fa ltackle).

Posted by: c faulk | Jan 23, 2008 4:18:24 PM

To be honest, I think our personel on defense is much more suited to run a 3-4 defense. That is what I want to see the Panthers do this offseason.

Posted by: m | Jan 23, 2008 4:38:53 PM

I think first and foremost we have to find out what's out there trade value wise for DeShaun Foster and Dan Morgan... they may not carry much alone, but together, it could be tempting for a team out there...

We could use a trade to strengthen a key position before the draft... most likely that will be either WR or Safety. DeShaun can be a good back, but he is not a POWER back and he fumbles WAY too often; not to mention he has I believe a $4 Million+ cap figure for this year. And Dan Morgan's reasons for trade are obvious... with this trade, we should look to get an impact WR to complement Steve, bc it will be difficult for a rookie to come in and sufficiently fill that role. If not, then we should look for an impact safety to play next to Chris Harris; honestly the only safety I would be confident in taking and starting from day one would be Kenny Phillips, and he may not be there when we select (before long we will have an all Miami Hurricanes defense).

Now, moving to the draft... our first round priority HAS to be Offensive Tackle. There are many good ones out there (Clady, Otah, Long, etc.) that will go in the top half of the first round, and all are capable of being great NFL linemen.

Next, we could go a few ways with rounds 2 and 3... we need a good DE most likely (if Rucker goes) in one of the two rounds, and the other I believe, will be a power RB. This year's RB class is UNBELIEVABLE and we have to take advantage of it! We have great backs like Rice, Mendenhall, etc. that will go much later than they would normally because the class is THAT deep. Another interesting prospect is WVU FB Owen Schmitt (should be avaliable in the 4th-5th)... the kid plays with unbelievable heart and desire, and is one of the toughest offensive players I've seen in awhile (in case you didn't hear, he was told to quit practicing because he was hurting his teammates by running them over). He would be a possibility at RB in the NFL, and if not, then one heck of a replacement to an aging Brad Hoover (who may not have his contract renewed).

Hope you enjoyed the analysis, it's just my two cents... Can you agree, Stan?

Posted by: appgrad08 | Jan 23, 2008 4:40:03 PM

first things first we need a LT and a dominate FS...the offense really needs a chester taylor...bowling ball type of runner...even trade jenkins for chad johnson and whatever else necessary to work that out and get grady jackson to fill the void cheap and ugly perfect for d-line...speed on the ends...i would even toy with putting davis at SS at times...we need more confusion in our scheme

Posted by: randy | Jan 23, 2008 4:44:47 PM

Why does everyone keep saying we need a FS? We already have one if the team would have the balls to put him back there ...

KEN LUCAS!

He may not be able to cover a WR OFF THE LINE, but with his size, he'd be a great "centerfielder" type of FS who can still break on the ball ...

He's not the best tackler, but neither are most FS's in the league unless they're in the top 5 ...

Top 5 at tackling in my opinion ...

Bob Sanders
Roy Williams
Brian Dawkins
Ed Reed
Marlon McCree

Every other FS is an average tackler at best ...

The main bulletpoint of my presentation is START KEN LUCAS AT FS!

Posted by: Shane Dunaway | Jan 23, 2008 4:50:16 PM

Excuse me for my english, i am from Denmark/Germany, but i`ll try as good as i can.

I guess everything starts with the Offensive Line. Protecting the Quarterback and getting holes to pop up for the backfield commitee, is essential for the Panthers (especially if Richardson wants this team to be a dominant rushing type of team).

So my first choice would be an Offensive Lineman (Tackle > Guard > Center).

The second choice falls on an defense end.
As you mentioned above, Stan, there is a hole to fill after Mike Rucker says goodbye and farewell.

My third choice would be a bruising back, that really can bruise trough defenses (Foster wore defenses down, at times, but if he cant find glue in his dresser for next season, i guess he is gone). A Marion Barber type of player would be an awesome acquisition.

Fourth choice is Safety (Free Safety). I know that Safety is a big concern, but i thought since Richardson made his comments about a stable running game, i couldnt move safety higher than fourth.

Of course there are still some issues with the second Wideout, but i hope Smitty teaches Jarret something about dedication and effort (Read the goddamn playbook Dwayne and show us what you are made of!).

Posted by: Krueger | Jan 23, 2008 5:06:00 PM

Great commentary guys; y'all often think of things that hadn't occured to me. I know Morgan keeps popping up as a trade possibility, but right now--with his injury string--that value is nil. Carolina could renegotiate with him (again) and at a reasonable price would be worth keeping--its possible that taking fewer hits at WLB (Beason ain't moving out of the middle) he might be a bit more durable. He's going to play somewhere, but don't expect anyone to make a viable offer.

Posted by: stan olson | Jan 23, 2008 5:07:07 PM

How about Morgan and Beason in the middle and Davis and Peps on the outside with Kemo at DT and Jenkins (yes I think he could play DE in the 3-4 and either Johnson or McGlover on the outside. I know this wont happen but I think it is worth trying.

Posted by: m | Jan 23, 2008 5:09:55 PM

The offense was our weak link last year so I think the top priority would be to improve the offense.

Either through trades or the draft, the first target should be an offensive lineman, a wide receiver like DeSean Jackson (one that can actually learn the playbook), a safety, a big bruising running back like Schmitt out of WVU - who could possibly be available in rounds 3-4 of the draft, and in the later rounds of the draft look at more defensive players.

Finally, STOP putting the most promising defensive players on the practice squad for other teams to pick up. (Otis Grigsby, Jarrett Bush, and Jovan Haye come to mind immediately). Who is the talent evaluator on this team...we need a new one ASAP!!!!

Posted by: Cool Cats | Jan 23, 2008 5:29:49 PM

Would you clowns please stop suggesting that the Panthers move Gross to the left? Can the guy get consecutive seasons at a position for once in his career? Please? I'm begging over here.

Posted by: Janitor Dan | Jan 23, 2008 5:39:30 PM

First, I'll start off with yesterday's Senior Bowl notes...our staff ran individual drills with:
Andre Fluellen (DT, Florida ST...late first/early second day)- Fluellen is real quick and had a great day in "The Pit".

Dorien Bryant (WR/KR, Purdue...late first/ early second day)

Matt Forte (HB, Tulane...early second day)-Forte showed good power but didn't have the speed to get to the edge or turn the corner.

Sedrick Ellis may be playing his way out in front of our pick position:
• Yesterday USC defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis showed off his ability to wreak havoc in the backfield and today he showed he could be just as effective against the run. Ellis has looked every bit the part of a Top 10 pick.

I hope we get a 1st-round LT, but here's one that might be good a little later:
• Boston College offensive tackle Gosder Cherilus may be a very large man but he also moves his feet well.

• Notre Dame safety Tom Zbikowski laid a bit hit on Justin Forsett toward the end of practice.

• USC linebacker Keith Rivers is real vocal on the field and had another strong showing. On one play he got good pressure on the quarterback after avoiding a block on a blitz.

• East Carolina's Chris Johnson, Indiana's Tracy Porter, Purdue's Dorien Bryant, Virginia Tech's Eddie Royal, Colorado's Terrence Wheatley and Lavelle Hawkins and Justin Forsett, both of Cal, worked as kick returners.

• Michigan safety Jamar Adams did a nice job in coverage, showing the ability to hold his own against smaller, quicker wideouts.

• Cal running back Justin Forsett displayed nice vision and cut-back ability today.

• Georgia Tech running back Tashard Choice looked good, showing terrific vision and a nice burst to turn the corner. Choice is a natural runner and helped himself today.

We all know Fox loves for his TEs to be another lineman for the run game...could this be our guy?
• Tennessee tight end Brad Cottam is HUGE and really stands out on the field. In fact, he definitely has the frame to bulk up even further and a move to offensive tackle is not out of the question in my mind.

• L.S.U. outside linebacker Ali Highsmith drew positive praise from none other than the Mike Singletary throughout the day. He was explosive off the ball, moved well laterally and did a nice job of dropping into coverage.

• Georgia Tech linebacker Philip Wheeler looked smooth and natural when dropping back into coverage. He was also a little feisty and played with a nasty demeanor.

• Florida wide receiver Andre Caldwell made several nice catches and looked good.

• South Florida linebacker Ben Moffitt didn't stand out in positional drills but he looked better once put in football situations.

This note could portend well for Hester's transition from college RB to NFL FB...Hoover, anyone?
• L.S.U. fullback Jacob Hester looked thicker than I expected, especially his lower body.

• Rafael Little also worked as a punt returner.

Posted by: Michael Procton | Jan 23, 2008 5:58:38 PM

The lions are shopping shaun rogers and roy williams. Go get them. Jenkins for shaun rogers is a no brainer, find a package with morgan, foster, and a 2nd rounder for williams. That's all great in theory, but what can Mary do with the salary cap. He's made a mess of it right now. If he can fix that, we will be able to pay these big name stars.

Posted by: Clay | Jan 23, 2008 6:04:20 PM

1. LT- Will open things up for offense all around.
2. DL- Stan is right, we need an upgrade on the D-Line... any spot would be great!!
3. RB- If you can get three picks from the draft to contribute right away, you are doing great.

Posted by: SYRPIS | Jan 23, 2008 6:33:11 PM

Now, on to the "priorities", as it were. In my mind, the 13th pick in the draft needs to come in and help any team (but especially this one) immediately. As such, I think it's got to be at one of these positions: OT (to play at left if at all possible), DE, DT, FS, OLB (depending on the terms of Diggs' contract), WR (if they're REALLY sure he can step up and be a player his first year in a position where its notoriously difficult to do so), or potentially TE (if they trade down to the mid-late 20s.)
Now, position-by-position:
QB: I think Delhomme will come back, I really like Bret Basanez' future, and I don't mind Matt Moore as long as he doesn't have to start for another couple of years. Even so, I don't view either of the young guys as a potential franchise QB, so I think any QB rated in the 2nd-4th rounds should be snapped up if he falls at least a round below his valuation.
HB: I'd love to get a power back in the mix, but it's not a priority, and I see no reason to spend a pick any higher than 4 or 5.
FB: I think this is a pretty significant need, and there are a ton of strong players available in the middle rounds this year: Brandon McAnderson, Owen Schmitt, Jacob Hester, or Peyton Hillis would all be good fits as strong runners in a way Hoover hasn't been able to give for years and very solid blockers (except maybe Hester.)
WR: I think this position is about production rather than potential for the Panthers this year. I like the future promise of Jarrett, and--to a lesser degree--Ryne Robinson, but we need somebody on the field who can compete at wideout immediately. If the evaluation team thinks there's a guy capable of doing that, I'd pull the trigger in a second.
OL: I think we're very solid along the interior line, and this is one of a very few positions where I wouldn't even consider a pick. As for tackle, however, we really need to solidify the LT spot, and with Gross' performance at RT this year, I don't think we should move him back AGAIN. I'd love to get a Sam Baker or a Ryan Clady in the first to protect our QB's blind side for years to come.
DE: I like the potential of both McClover and Johnson (who really showed some flashes at the end of the year when he got on the field), but I don't like the idea of starting them both two years from now (I absolutely think Peppers and his nonexistent heart should be let go.) If Vernon Gholston is around when our pick rolls around, I would think long and hard about picking him up.
DT: This is a position where I think we'd be better off looking for a rotation kind of guy since cutting Kemoeatu would be financially ludicrous and I don't want Jenkins traded, but Sedrick Ellis would be a fine player to add. As for another thing, if I hear the name Kentwan Balmer and 'first round pick' associated again, I'll just freak out. This guy was nothing before he was decent-good this year, and we've seen what UNC turns out on the d-line (Peppers, Ryan Sims, anyone?)
LB: We're obviously very set at MLB and SLB, and our overall depth even looks pretty young and talented (I think Tim Shaw is a PLAYER.) However, depending on the way Diggs' new contract is structured and how easily he can be cut a year from now (or even now? I can't find details anywhere), I'd be very happy upgrading at WLB, even if the benefit of grabbing a guy like Keith Rivers doesn't truly show up until a year from now.
CB: Wouldn't mind an ST standout who could hold his own in dime coverage. We've got 3 very solid corners (all of whom will look even better with an actual pass rush), but we won't be able to keep all of them forever, and Ken Lucas' contract gets more cuttable by the year.
S: We really need a rangy, ball-hawking, centerfield type of FS (though I'd like to see what CJ Wilson and Nate Salley can do in camp.) Kenny Phillips could fit the bill, but so could a guy like Craig Steltz, Thomas DeCoud, Marcus Griffin, or Jamar Adams, all of whom would come significantly later.
I'm happy with all of the specialty positions, and I think Rhys Lloyd--beyond being a great addition as a KOS--could be the guy to step in for Kasay when he's finally ready to hang 'em up. Baltimore was really upset to lose him. Ryne Robinson is a fine returner, and his skills will show with improved blocking schemes/personnel. My one other note would be that cutting Jason Kyle (almost $800 K in savings) might make sense since Ryan Kalil has experience with long-snapping.

Posted by: Michael Procton | Jan 23, 2008 6:40:23 PM

Procton I agree. Letting Kalil long-snap will free up the roster spot to keep both kickers on the active roster.

Posted by: Steven | Jan 23, 2008 6:45:24 PM

Ooh...forgot TE: I really like both of our young kids, but I think there's still room for improvement over either of them, and if we did that, we could also shift Dante Rosario to FB (where he has experience) as Hoover's successor. I wouldn't mind if we traded down into the bottom of the first round and got John Carlson or Fred Davis, which could net us extra picks in the second and third rounds, a potential good move given the number of different positions of need on this roster.

Posted by: Michael Procton | Jan 23, 2008 6:47:34 PM

Hey Clay! Now we are talking! Sportscenter said that the Lions are either going to cut or trade Shaun Rogers. They are going to need a big DT in the middle. We ought to trade Maake and a 3rd or 4th rounder for Roy Williams. If we don't go that route, Bryant Johnson of the Cardinals absolutely should be who we go after as a free agent WR. Young, big, runs great routes and has learned from Fitz and Boldin out in ARZ. After Johnson, Gibril Wilson (safety) of the Giants should be our focus. Thirdly, the Titans have 2 DE that are free agents. Both of them should come at a decent price. That would fill 3 huge holes and allow us to concentrate on our offensive line, defensive line and running back in the draft. If we have any money left after hopefully resigning Gross, B. Johnson, G. Wilson and maybe a Titan DE, we should look at bringing in Derrick Ward of the Giants. He is big, strong and not afraid to run inside. We all know that we need to get atleast 2 or 3 quality free agents to make significant strides next year. I just hope Fox and Hurney pick the right ones!!!

Posted by: JLiv | Jan 23, 2008 6:55:00 PM

how 'bout some players who a:don't get a concussion when the wind blows b:care when they put on the uniform and go out on the field not just when they cash that check c:have some football sense and passion, yes that's right i want some players whose PASSION BUCKET IS FULL!!!!!!

Posted by: ned | Jan 23, 2008 7:03:02 PM

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