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April 30, 2008

Trade Travelle? Not likely

   Received this question from "mh" via e-mail with the request to post as a blog ...

   Q: "Since the Panthers seem to have depth at OL and LB, do you think they would make a trade offer to the Dolphins for Taylor if he was willing to rework his contract? The fins need help on the OL so how about a Travelle Wharton for Taylor trade?"

   Don't think the Panthers would be interested in trading for Taylor and don't think the Dolphins would take anything less than a first- or second-round pick. Carolina certainly wouldn't give that up. As far as trading Travelle Wharton, no way. He was recently signed to a big, new contract and the team is excited about moving him to left guard now that they've got Jeff Otah to pair with Jordan Gross at tackle.

   (EXTRA, EXTRA: By the way, we and some other media outlets referred to Otah as Jeffrey in pre-draft coverage. We'll be changing that to Jeff now. When asked Sunday at his news conference at Bank of America Stadium what he prefers to be called, he said basically everybody calls him Jeff except his mother. She calls him Jeffrey.)

-- Charles Chandler

Posted by Observer Sports on April 30, 2008 at 09:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (89)

April 29, 2008

An updated defensive depth chart

   The signings of veteran defensive tackles Darwin Walker and Ian Scott today give a big boost to the look of the Panthers' defensive depth chart. There was a glaring weakness of depth at defensive tackle immediately after the draft, but now that's been addressed.
   So here's how the defensive depth chart looks today. As you'll see, the Panthers are especially deep at linebacker after the surprising selection of Penn State's Dan Connor in the third round.
   DT -- Maake Kemoeatu, Ian Scott, Nick Hayden
   DT -- Damione Lewis, Darwin Walker
   DE -- Julius Peppers, Stanley McClover
   DE -- Charles Johnson, Tyler Brayton, Hilee Taylor
   MLB -- Jon Beason, Dan Connor, Landon Johnson, Adam Seward
   SLB -- Thomas Davis, Adam Seward, James Anderson, Tim Shaw
   WLB -- Landon Johnson, Na'il Diggs, Dan Connor
   CB -- Ken Lucas, Richard Marshall
   CB -- Chris Gamble, Ricardo Colclough, Dante Wesley
   SS -- Chris Harris, Nate Salley
   FS -- Charles Godfrey, Terrence Holt
-- Charles Chandler

Posted by Observer Sports on April 29, 2008 at 03:20 PM | Permalink | Comments (73)

DTs Walker, Scott signed to contracts

    The Carolina Panthers took a huge step towards strengthening the front four of their defense today when they signed veteran free agent  defensive tackles Darwin Walker and Ian Scott.

Walker's signing was expected; he simply had to clear a Carolina  physical today. But the addition of Scott as well solidifies what will  likely be a four-man rotation at the position, along with holdovers  Maake Kemoeatu and Damione Lewis.

    "We had a chance to get two veteran defensive tackles," Panthers  general manager Marty Hurney said today. "You bring experience and  talent into the mix with both of them. Obviously, we feel very good  and fortunate to have been able to sign them."

    Both players battled injuries last year, but both passed Carolina  physicals.

    Walker, who is 6-foot-3 and 295 pounds and who will be 31 in June,  has the higher NFL profile.  He has 28.5 career sacks and has had six  or more in three different seasons. Sacks are much harder for inside players to accumulate than for defensive ends.

    "Darwin has the ability to rush the passer; he's a very good player inside," Hurney said. "Both of them are very good inside."

    Scott, 26, has good size as well at 6-6 and 302 pounds.  He played in 49 games with 33 starts with the Chicago Bears from 2003 to 2006.  He was signed as an unrestricted free agent by Philadelphia last year, but was placed on injured reserve before the start of the season with a knee injury.

    A fourth-round draft pick in 2003, Scott had 155 tackles, two sacks, and one interception with the Bears.

    "Ian's a guy we have always liked," Hurney said. "We had been talking (with his agent) for some time."

      Part of Carolina's lure for both players was being able to play closer to home. Walker is from Walterboro, S.C., while Scott is from Greenville, S.C.

-- Stan Olson

Posted by Observer Sports on April 29, 2008 at 01:43 PM | Permalink | Comments (49)

Panthers Add DT Ian Scott

        The Panthers just announced the signing of not only DT Darwin Walker, 
which was expected, but also DT Ian Scott, whom they had had 
discussions with in the past. Scott, who is 6-foot-6 and 302 pounds, 
played in 49 games with 33 starts with the Chicago Bears
from 2003 to 2006.  He was signed as an unrestricted free agent by
Philadelphia last year, but was placed on injured reserve before the 
of the season with a knee injury.
        Seems like they're bringing back the homeboys; Scott is from 
Greenville, S.C., while Walker is from Walterboro, S.C.--STAN OLSON

Posted by Observer Sports on April 29, 2008 at 01:05 PM | Permalink | Comments (14)

Kiper on Panthers: Best on Day 2

  ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. says he would have given the Carolina Panthers an "A" grade for their picks last weekend if they hadn't given up a 2009 first round pick to acquire Pittsburgh offensive tackle Jeff Otah with the 19th selection this year. So he gave them a "B" instead.

   Speaking Monday on a conference call with reporters from around the country, Kiper said the Panthers' talent takeaway was comparable to that of the Kansas City Chiefs, whose draft class has been widely hailed as the best in the league.

   Kiper said the Panthers had "arguably the best draft of anybody out there had it not been such a steep price to pay (for Otah). I don't like going into next year without a first round pick. ... (But) overall, they brought in more good players than just about any team, including Kansas City."

   Kiper said the Panthers' picks on Sunday in Rounds 3-7 were the best in the league.

   He compared fifth-rounder Gary Barnidge, a tight end from Louisville, to former Dallas Cowboys TE Jay Novacek.

   "I think (third-round pick) Charles Godfrey can play corner or safety," said Kiper. "He's a very good pickup. I thought he was the best player available on Day 2.

   "Dan Connor (Penn State linebacker and third-round pick), we all know about him. I think (sixth-round pick) Nick Hayden will make it as a defensive tackle. (Seventh-round defensive end) Hilee Taylor had a great year at North Carolina. (Seventh-round Oregon tackle) Geoff Schwartz, at one point in time I thought he could be a fourth- or fifth-round pick. (Seventh-round guard Mackenzy) Bernadeau from Bentley will make the team and could be a starter down the road.

   "They did the best job on Day 2. There's no question."

   Kiper was also high on the Panthers' Day 1 picks -- Oregon running back Jonathan Stewart, the 13th selection, and Otah.

   He said of Stewart: "The only issue with him is durability. He's a powerhouse runner. He attacks defenders. He's not a guy who's going to go out of bounds or go down. He's going to battle for everything. He's had some injury problems. But for a one-two punch with DeAngelo Williams, it certainly makes sense."

   On Otah: "They got him at 19. You're looking at a guy who a lot of people thought could go 12 or 13 very easily. ... They gave up next year's first-round pick and some other picks. It was a steep price to pay. But I think they really feel they want to win now. We know about the whole situation with this coaching staff. The pressure's on to win this year and what can happen with Bill Cowher lurking out there."
   -- Charles Chandler

Posted by Observer Sports on April 29, 2008 at 11:06 AM | Permalink | Comments (40)

April 28, 2008

Walker can fill role Jenkins once did

If defensive tackle Darwin Walker, who agreed to terms today with the Panthers, can play at close to the ability he showed during his days in Philadelphia, Carolina's defensive front will be far more formidable. 

Walker has 28.5 sacks, a large number for an inside guy, where sacks  are tougher to come by. That statistic shows that at his best, he can be a disruptive force inside.

The now traded Kris Jenkins was once that kind of player, and  Carolina desperately needs someone to not only be strong against the run but to explode the pocket from time to time. Maybe Walker can be  that guy. -- Stan Olson

Posted by Observer Sports on April 28, 2008 at 06:10 PM | Permalink | Comments (24)

Walker not quite a Panther yet

While reports almost everywhere, including our own, were announcing that defensive tackle Darwin Walker had signed with the Panthers, the sides have not inked the contract. What they do have is an agreement on terms. Walker is expected in town Tuesday to take a physical, and if he passes that, the deal will be completed.

He’s almost certain to pass and become a Panther, but technically, he’s not one yet. Just wanted to clarify that after mushing it up.

-- Stan Olson

Posted by Observer Sports on April 28, 2008 at 05:40 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

Panthers announce 10 signings

    The Panthers just released this list of signed free agents:
    They have reached agreements with 10 free agents, including
defensive end Casper Brinkley of South Carolina and tight end Chris 
Conklin of Wingate.

Free agent agreements:

Casper Brinkley                     DE                        South Carolina
Chris Conklin                       TE                        Wingate
Cortney Grixby                      CB                        Nebraska
Breyone Evans                       FB                       Massachusetts
Joseph Fiedls                       FS                        Syracuse
Brandon Jenkins                     DT                     Mississippi
Damon Morton                        WR                     Colorado State
Taylor Tharp                        QB                        Boise State
Darren Toney                        CB                        Arkansas State
Dan Ziedman                          P                        Idaho State

Each player will have to pass a physical and sign a contract before
participating in the start of mini-camp Friday.

Posted by Observer Sports on April 28, 2008 at 02:17 PM | Permalink | Comments (25)

Panthers sign Syracuse S Fields

    As was pointed out by one of our posters, the Panthers have also signed free agent safety Joe Fields of Syracuse today. He joins the guys we have already listed, with more to come this afternoon.

    A 2007 all-Big East second team selection, Fields finished the season tied for sixth in the league with 8.1 tackles per game. He had 97 tackles, including 53 solo stops, and four interceptions and one fumble recovery. Fields started 25 consecutive games in the secondary after moving to free safety from quarterback before the 2006 season.

-- Stan Olson

Posted by Observer Sports on April 28, 2008 at 01:35 PM | Permalink | Comments (6)

Some early free agent signees emerge

    The Panthers are already signing free agents to fill out their training camp roster, among them tight end Chris Conklin from nearby Wingate.

    Conklin earned first team All-South Atlantic Conference honors in 2007, for the second year in a row. He led South Atlantic Conference tight ends with 30 catches for 446 yards and 10 touchdowns. His TDs were the most of any SAC receiver (WR, TE, RB) this year.

    The others that we've heard about so far include a quarterback, Taylor Tharp of Boise State, along with wide receiver Damon Morton of Colorado State and Cortney Grixby, a cornerback from Nebraska.

    Tharp became the Boise State starter as a senior, leading the team to its surprising 10-3 season. He completed 289 of 423 passes (68.3 percent), with 30 scores and just 11 intercepts. He's 6-2 and 210 
pounds, and runs a 4.9 40. He gives Carolina, which already has three quarterbacks on its roster, a needed extra body for off-season workouts and training camp.

    Morton, who is 5-10 and 176 pounds, also returns kicks, averaged 19.4 yards a catch as a senior. He had 40 catches, including six for TDs. For his career, he averaged 21 yards on kickoff returns and 8.9 on
punts, and returned a punt for a score in 2006. Snubbed by the NFL Scouting Combine as well as the Senior Bowl, he opened eyes with a  4.38 40 at his pro day.

    Grixby (5-9, 170) was a three-time honorable mention All-Big 12 selection. A starter at corner for three seasons, he was also a  successful return man, averaging 24.3 on kickoffs in 2007. He had 147  career tackles, and 32 pass breakups.

    Carolina will announce more signees later today.


Posted by Observer Sports on April 28, 2008 at 11:19 AM | Permalink | Comments (29)