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July 11, 2008

How important is signing on time?

    Interesting discussion on the past two blogs about when draft picks sign, and guys, you've pretty much covered it; late rounders always sign first, while the top selections try to wait and see how much green the players drafted around them get. It turns into sort of a game of "chicken;" who'll be the first to accept his offer?

        The coaches insist every year that it really hurts players to miss even a day of camp; that there is so much for college players to learn about the pro game that each day without that big fat playbook is a mini-disaster. That may be true for marginal guys -- it's also one reason they sign quickly -- but missing a few days, or even more than a few, won't kill those who can really play.

    Jon Beason, as was mentioned in an earlier comment, is the perfect example of that. Despite missing that 2007 training camp's first week, he quickly figured out how to be an NFL linebacker.

    The Panthers have a good record of getting their top picks signed on time, usually just before camp starts. But if first-round picks Jonathan Stewart (RB) and Jeff Otah (OT) miss some time in Spartanburg, expect them to catch up quickly.

    If, like Beason, they can really play.

--Stan Olson

Posted by Observer Sports on July 11, 2008 at 04:55 PM | Permalink


I recall Tim Biakabatuka, he held out a while and missed a whole lot. When it came to game time, I believe the 4th reg. sea. game he was injured and put on the I.R. for the rest of the season.
He never quite was right after that 1st season injury and like Dan Morgan, he never played a full season!
Getting to camp on time helps not only the player get ready, but it is a team jelling, bonding thing too!
Not all players who miss some of summer camp
turn out like John Beason, he was fortunate and really smart and ready!

My favorite player was DeAngelo Williams the Panthers 1st pick a few years back, he made it look like he would be a hold out and then talked to his agent on the last day and signed in the last minute and was on the practise field with his new teammates saying, I just had to be here!

Posted by: MikePhelan | Jul 11, 2008 5:37:02 PM

Great point Mike! I forgot all about that. That was a pretty stand-up thing to do. Makes me want to pull for him even more.

Posted by: SYRPIS | Jul 11, 2008 6:55:49 PM

Mike and Nick, I had forgotten that as well. And I missed the bonding point. Holding out can cause some resentment among teammates, most of whom aren't making as much as the high pick gets anyway.
Speaking of resentment, I have none now--even against what's-his-fake-name who was ragging me earlier, because Tom Petty's concert was brilliant tonight. Guy sounds awful good for someone in my generation...

Posted by: stan olson | Jul 12, 2008 2:02:26 AM

I was there too Stan...hell of a show!

Posted by: Murphy | Jul 12, 2008 3:23:13 AM

Awesome show,,,well worth the 2 hr traffic jam before and after show...

Posted by: Catsnmbr1fan | Jul 12, 2008 10:48:32 AM

Resentment may be a big factor in camp for a hold out but as far as Beason Def players have a tendency to come along faster because instinct plays such a big roll in thier development. So as a hold-out on def I wouldn't think it so critical but Off is a whole other story. Skill and tactical positioning makes the play effective. So the coordiation is the key. So an off hold out may be more detrimental to a players success.

Posted by: MBPantfan | Jul 12, 2008 4:16:19 PM

Cats, we waited an hour before we even tried to leave; listening to more Petty on the I-Pod. Truly outstanding. But they really need another way in and out of there.
MB, your def-off point is good; also figuring in is how the guy is when he gets to camp. If he's respectful and works hard, resentment on both sides goes away fast. If he acts like the team owes him a living, not so much.

Posted by: stan olson | Jul 12, 2008 4:26:34 PM

Otah needs to get in on time. He's dumb and needs to learn all his responsibilities at RT. Running back is much easier: see the hole, hit the hole. Not that I want Stewart to miss any of camp, but it'd be much less of a big deal.

Posted by: Michael Procton | Jul 12, 2008 5:20:04 PM

This is a curiosity question, Procton...not an attack...but why do you consider Otah "dumb" exactly? Was there a football IQ test administered on him somewhere that declared him incapable of studying the playbook as effectively as other rookies?

I mean, granted, he only played...what?...2 years of collegiate ball before being drafted into the NFL? But he was high on just about everyone's draft boards. Dave Wannstedt praised him early on as one of (if not the best) offensive lineman he's ever coached. I don't know how much praise that can really be, considering Wannstedt wasn't all that successful as an NFL head coach...and his primary influence was on the defensive side of the ball with Dallas during the height of his claim to fame. Still, Wannstedt's a guy with double-digit years as a head coach who had to evaluate talent in the NFL.

Is Wannstedt just saying it because Otah was his boy and he wanted to support him going high in the draft? Maybe. But most unbiased analysts have also praised him. In fact, the most negative comments I've ever seen on him, have always come from you. So what's the beef you've got with him? Aside from your very strong feeling that Gross should be playing the RT position instead of him...

As a discussion starter, I looked up some of the negative pre-draft commentary about him and here's the worst of it:

"Very raw and might be a bit of a project...Has some trouble with quickness...Hand use is sub par...Does not always play with proper leverage...He needs to work on getting in better shape...Work ethic and desire have been questioned...Has some trouble with power...Only has two years of experience against top DI competition."

But in the very same analysis, he's also evaluated as:

"...outstanding size with a huge frame and long arms...Great athlete with terrific quickness...Very light on his feet...Extremely strong and powerful...Is physical and aggressive...Mobile with nice range...Has a good initial punch...Shows the ability to recover when beat...Offers some versatility...Still improving and has major upside....A potential left tackle and that's where he played in college but could also project to the right side as well...An excellent physical specimen who is already a great player but still oozes potential...Might just have a higher upside than any o-linemen in this draft."

So, the "glass is half-full" from what I can tell. I'm just trying to understand why you're constantly a "glass is half-empty" or "completely empty" guy everytime you talk about him.


Posted by: NSpicer | Jul 12, 2008 8:28:18 PM

Thanks Stan, nice to know you guys actually do read our responses. Even though they can be a tad harsh, most of us appreciate all you guys do for us.

Neil, you go boy!

Otah and Fonoti on the right side could be one lethal combination. They are both huge athletic maulers.I may be too homeristic, (If that is a word) but I see a vast improvement for the O-line. For what the Panthers want to do, it is a perfect fit.

If you can run the ball effectively, it allows you the opportunity to run your entire offense. I think it was Mr. Scott that said; Because of Jake getting injured so early, Davidson did not have time to get everything in. They have smarts and imagination, could be an interesting year for Panther Nation.

I'm done. As always, GO CATS!

Posted by: iamhubby | Jul 13, 2008 2:36:57 AM

From NFL.com, and tell me that this overall analysis (including both negatives and positives) doesn't read like a half-full review: "Otah has the frame and bulk that the football gods love in a left tackle, but with his relative inexperience and just adequate field instincts, he might be a liability as a left tackle. He needs to be more consistent shooting his hands in attempts to battle counter moves and struggles to adjust when working on the edge. He could be a better fit at right tackle or as a guard, but will need to rededicate himself in the training room, as he has good natural strength, but poor weight-room numbers. He can play like an all-world prospect one game (see 2007 vs. and George Selvie-South Florida), but at other times, he can self destruct when facing speedy edge rushers with an array of counter moves (see 2007 Michigan State, Louisville and Rutgers games)."

--So we know he's not a good fit for left tackle, but he could just as easily be a better guard than tackle? Doesn't sound like a ringing endorsement to me.

Also, for some validation of my complaints that he's lumbering and not particularly smart:
--"Struggles quite a bit in space (see 2007 Michigan State, Louisville and Rutgers games), as he lacks the balance to reach and cut off in the second level...Doesn't bend well at the knees and shows stiffness in his legs when trying to execute his kick slide."
"Has adequate feet to sustain blocks, but struggles with too much room, as he has poor slide and mirror agility...Adequate as a run blocker because of his size, but struggles to get out in front when pulling. He can get in front in the short area, but fails to keep his feet running long distances, especially when playing in space because of his lower-body stiffness...Does an adequate job of getting his hands on outside linebackers, but struggles in space on screens and draws when he fails to generate good power behind his punch"
"Lacks the hip snap to readjust to counter moves and struggles vs. the speed rush, as he lacks the balance to mirror defenders coming off the edge."

--"Shows an ability to learn, but will need some reps, as he is not quick to take plays from the chalkboard to the playing field -- he lacks high football intelligence"

Other major concerns:
--Work Ethic/desire: "Needs to be monitored in the training room because of poor work habits and lacks the maturity needed to handle the mental aspect of playing on an island at left tackle. He might be a better fit on the right side...Has questionable toughness and plays with inconsistent aggression"
"Some snaps, Otah looks like a franchise tackle, it’s those other snaps, when he looks like a 2nd day pick, learning to harness his weight and playing with better leverage that will decide his impact on the next level."

"has some of the same faults as Flozell Adams. While Adams is a very good left tackle, it took the veteran a while to get it together. Adams battled weight problems, bouts of laziness and injuries early in his career. Otah could take that same path if he doesn’t control his weight and get in better shape. He could stand to lose 10 pounds and harness his attitude. He is naturally powerful, so the weight would not affect that but he would be better able to handle the speed rushers he sometimes struggled with in college. Despite his rep as a team leader, his focus wavers and his work ethic and desire have been questioned."

Another problem I have is that the vast majority of his positives have as much to do with the fact that he's a huge man and has the strength inherent of that as him actually being a good football player. As far as I can tell, the guy's a huge project who will never be a quality left tackle and is no guarantee to even do well on the right side. Despite that, we're forcing ourselves to make him learn on the job at the expense of not only two different drafts (1+2+4≠1) but an All-Pro quality player in Gross whose effectiveness is greatly reduced when forced away from the right side.

Posted by: Michael Procton | Jul 13, 2008 12:44:40 PM

Gotta say Procton makes a strong case. For everone's sake, I hope he is not as smart as he sounds.

Posted by: R Allison | Jul 13, 2008 1:11:52 PM

All good points, good information to bring to the table....Now let's take at look at the positives mentioned in that same analysis:

"Has a rare-sized frame with very long arms and legs, big bubble, thick thighs and calves, wide hips and large hands..."

--Yep, so he's big and strong. Definitely has the prototypical body of an OT in the NFL. That's a very good building block, but not the be-all, end-all of demonstrating All-Pro talent. I agree.

"Raw talent with the frame to engulf the smaller defenders, especially when he keeps his hands inside the frame..."

--The operative words that always jump out at me when I read things about Otah like this is "raw talent." But we have to remember, the guy's only played 2 years of Div-I college football at Pittsburgh. He only started playing competitively a short time ago, as well. And yet, obviously, he's got a pretty major talent for NFL scouts to notice him and for most to view him as a Top-20 pick.

We got him at #19 by trading back up. The extra 2nd and 4th round pick we traded away to do that would've been nice to keep, of course. So we paid a high price for him on an individual level. Even so, I think we clearly needed someone like him to help overhaul the offense and get back to a road-grading run game.

So, it may turn out to be draft picks well-spent. We won't know, however, until he plays. For now, it's raw, coachable talent wrapped up in a great physical specimen. That's how I read it, at least...

"Shows adequate competitiveness on the field to finish blocks, playing with good nastiness, as added experience has allowed him to come off the snap with better aggressiveness than he showed as a junior..."

--Now this statement makes me re-evaluate what they indicate in the negatives where they question his "inconsistent aggression" and "desire." Also, if he improved from his junior to his senior season in that area...and he only played his junior and senior season at Pittsburgh...it kind of implies he's still growing into his abilities.

So, if that continues, I think he may well reverse a lot of those negatives they were pointing out. Time will tell, of course. But that's true about all rookies. You never know what you've got until you see it on the field. It's encouraging, however, to hear the Panthers coaches, other players, and outside analysts say he seems to be doing well so far.

"Works hard to improve his blocking technique and takes to hard coaching..."

--This seems at odds with the assertion that he doesn't have a strong work ethic or motivation if he's truly working hard to improve his technique. And, if he does take well to "hard coaching" that would imply to me that the Panthers' line coach should be able to mold and train him even better than Wannstedt was doing at Pittsburgh. At least, that's the "glass half full" view of it, I admit.

"Has developed a strong hand punch to shock and jolt the defender, coming off the snap with arms properly extended to lock on and control with strength...Uses his lower-body power and size to move defenders off the snap..."

--This sounds ideal and again questions some of the negatives about him around how he uses his hands. From the snap at the line, it sounds like he's good. But when trying to operate in space on draws, screens, or pulling for lead blocks, he doesn't punch as strongly as they'd like. I think that's still coachable, though. And if so, it's correctable. Clearly he can do it at the line, so he should be able to learn to do it on the move.

"Well-liked, but quiet player who gets along with teammates..."

--At least we know he won't cause problems in the locker room. But honestly, how many O-linemen do that anyway? It is good to note, however, that he was a team captain at Pitt. So, that would imply he does have some leadership qualities to him. But who knows?

"Shows adequate feet in his kick slide and uses his long arms well to hold off defensive ends on the edge..."

--Now how can they claim this and then cite him for not playing as well in pass-blocking DEs on the edges? Seems contradictory, so I don't really know what to make of it until we see him in play. At least we'll see him start out on the right side as opposed to going up against the speed rushers on the left, though. So again, I think where the Panthers are starting him is a wise move.

"Lacks the foot speed to play on an island at left tackle, but with his ability to quickly recoil and reset his hands after initially locking on to the opponent, he could earn a starting job immediately at right tackle at the next level..."

--And this is what clinches it for me. Everybody thinks he'll do well at RT, but most of the questioning is about how well he'd do at LT. That's okay. We're not starting him at LT. Granted, we've got a great RT in Jordan Gross right now...but what would you prefer to do? Sit Otah or have him play as Gross' backup? No way. He's 1st round talent and completely coachable to reach a comparable level of performance as Gross on the right side...and certainly a more than adequate level of performance as a run blocker on that side, which is what the Panthers are clearly focusing the future of our offense on.

So, sliding Otah in at RT and asking Gross to move over and pair with Wharton again at LT-LG doens't sound so bad to me. They've done it before. And again, statistically, I think they did quite well there together last time. I know you've questioned the 19th ranked rushing offense that resulted from the Gross-Wharton pairing on the left that year, but that's the same year where we lost lots of guys to injuries (including Smith) which allowed teams to focus on stopping our run game without having to worry about our passing game so much.

That's just my opinion, of course. But even so, I still think I'd like to see what Gross and Wharton can do on the left side knowing we've got a great WR corps this go-around as well as a couple of road-graders on the right in Otah and Fonoti...AND a couple of really good running backs in Stewart and Williams. Personally, I'm looking to forward to what they can do. And it sounds like the players, coaching staff, and even the writers and analysts who cover the NFL are expecting great things too.

"Lacks explosion, but uses his size effectively to hold his ground and create movement, working hard to wall off...When he keeps his hands inside, he can generate the punch needed to stymie the defender's forward charge...Has the functional foot movement to slide and reach his set point, but needs to do it more consistently...Not an explosive hip roller, but shows good body control to generate movement..."

--Again, all of these things sound coachable to me. And, with him already growing into his frame, learning well from his junior to senior year, and taking to "hard coaching"...I think he can do okay in turning around some of these kinds of negatives.

"Best when driving forward to knock defenders off the ball in the ground game..."

--Now this sounds like exactly what we need.

"When he uses his hands properly to engage, he has good success in attempts to maintain inside leverage...For a player of his size, he does not put enough force behind his hand punch at times, but he is quick to reset his hands after initially catching the defender...Because he struggles to handle the speed rush, he has learned to compensate by dropping his pads and using his size to wall off. However, he will struggle to readjust to quick counter moves."

--This stuff doesn't sound too bad. In fact, it sounds more like they were trying pick a few nits in order fill out some text on him...because they described a lot of these negatives with caveats and additional positives...or at least, some extra stuff to soften the seriousness of the negative at the same time.

If you take at look at the major "franchise" outings he had, the experts cite how he played against Chris Long of Virginia. I know you've questioned how quickly the game was out of hand and/or how long they played against one another...but the tape doesn't lie. He performed well enough against Long that the experts can see how he'd do against NFL-calbre talent. And, in George Selvie of South Florida, Otah absolutely owned him. And Selvie was #2 in sacks and tackles for loss in the nation at that point.

Meanwhile, if you look at the major games in which Otah didn't perform as well, it would seem to me that the Rutgers game might be questionable, as that's the one where Otah sprained his ankle...but he kept on playing on it. In fact, he played on it for the rest of the season and even ran his 40-yard dash for the pro scouts on it too. I'd think that would affect him at least a little bit. So I'm willing to cut him some slack there.

So, bottom line for me...again...is that the glass is "half full" and we drafted a "raw talent" who needs some more coaching, but who can do an adequate job on sheer raw ability in the interim. I agree that I'd be concerned that the guy stay focused, learn the plays, listen to his coaches, and so forth. If he does all that, this draft pick pays off in spades for what the Panthers want to do this year and for the foreseeable future.

Just my two-cents,

Posted by: NSpicer | Jul 13, 2008 2:13:27 PM

And let's not forget the shuffle at the other O-line spots...as I've said before Furney has got to get lucky with the Otah pick and subsequent line moves. The analysis means squat right now, we'll know in week one what we've got.

Posted by: rayray | Jul 13, 2008 2:22:05 PM

"What would you prefer to do? Sit Otah or have him play as Gross' backup?"

I would have preferred not to have him in the first place, particularly at the expense of, as I mentioned, two drafts and Gross.

"Which allowed teams to focus on stopping our run game without having to worry about our passing game so much."

Really? Teams weren't paying attention to the 9th ranked passing O in the NFL?

And your notion as to Otah being a "glass half-full project" and that being a good thing is one that I simply will not agree with. We're not the Dolphins. We're not building to success within the next 3-5 years. We're not the Patriots. We haven't had consistent success over the last 5+ years (although if we traded our injuries for their cameras, we might be doing alright.) We have the talent to be a division-winning team that could make a deep run in the playoffs. Unfortunately, we didn't last year, and we needed to fill in with as much quality depth as we could to prevent against the kind of injuries that have killed us. That 2nd and 4th round pick could certainly have been guys who did that. My point is that this team is not in the position where it can take on "raw, projectable" players because we can't afford to have a guy making rookie mistakes (and from everything I read, he'll be more prone to those than most) as a starter on one of our most important units.

Again, I understand that this move may pay off in the future, but my key words in that phrase are "may" and "future." I'd be much more comfortable with Gross and Wharton at the same positions they were last year, with one of the vets or a rookie we could have picked up in the draft (somebody like Mike McGlynn, who played next to Otah and has experience at OT, OG, and center, as well as long-snapping ability; or Jeremy Zuttah, who has the same versatility as McGlynn; or Shawn Murphy, who's already been installed as the Dolphins' starter at RG) instead of Wharton at LG.

I understand we had a need at OT with Gross' contract set to expire and little depth; however, if we were going to draft a project OT, I would have preferred we draft one that we wouldn't feel compelled to start simply because of his draft position, rather than his ability or progress.

Posted by: Michael Procton | Jul 13, 2008 2:36:22 PM

Neil, you're a sharp guy dude but I think you've broken the record for longest post already. ;-) I think it's nothing but good football management to get your picks signed on time just for the simple fact that it makes no sense to not have them in. We all can state examples of players who have missed and haven't missed and the results vary but my point is...why take the chance? If you're going to spend all this money on a guy and he's going to be on your team for the next six years then what's the point of risking it? I understand the economics of it and the game that the agents and GM's play but when it starts getting down to the nitty gritty I don't think any player can afford to miss any time in camp. Jon Beason is a freak which I think we all can agree and we really made out with him. I do agree with you on Otah Procton. I think there were other tackles avaliable that would have suited us better in the long run. I think the kid from Vandy was much better than Otah...more polished and faced better competition throughout his career and he is a very smart player. Fox liked Otah because of his power but I just hope he doesn't run into another Evan Mathis. If that kid doesn't have anyone in front of him and has to find someone to block he usually ends up face first in the ground with chunks of grass in his helmet...but if he gets a hold of someone he'll push them halfway up the field...here's to hoping that's not Otah. I'm fearful of guys coming out of school that are known as road graders. To me that's a polite way of saying that they have no feet.

Posted by: JT | Jul 13, 2008 5:30:14 PM

"From everything I read"

Do you ever have a thought that isn't a regurgitation of something you have read, Procton?

Prospect analyses that are written on sites such as ESPN.com, NFL.com, etc. are nothing but contradictions.

They say such things as "this prospect has the size and strength to be a great player in the NFL", and then later will write in the negatives that "this prospect needs to hit the weights hard and add 10-15 lbs. to his frame."

They write these things like horoscopes, vague enough so that you can read what you WANT to read in each evaluation. Neil reads the positive side (not a hit on you, Neil, I am an optimist too), Procton reads the negatives.

I prefer to watch the games. And I saw a kid who could play every time I watched Otah.

By the way Procton, for all of your bluster about needing to win NOW, I can't see how a FUTURE 2nd and 4th round pick for a 1st round pick THIS YEAR is stalling us from winning earlier rather than later.

You keep saying Otah is a project, so what I see in that is that Otah will be one year more experienced and farther along in his development next year, while that 2nd and 4th round pick would be rookies, and in the same position as Otah is this year.

Go ahead, read some more articles and do some research and pick apart my post, Procton, and I will be content to watch the Panthers rush for 150 yards a game this year behind our new O-line while you are trolling the ESPN.com stats page and message boards, trying to figure out how to prove you shouldn't be eating crow.

Posted by: Steve | Jul 13, 2008 5:39:24 PM

JT, it's an interesting line to draw. I don't think Williams is going to get much better than he is, and I think he's going to be average. But these "upside projects" really only work well if you don't need to expect immediate results out of them, and in the case of installing Otah as our starter at RT, we've said we are.

Posted by: Michael Procton | Jul 13, 2008 5:54:14 PM

I really wish you douche bags would limit your posts to under 1000 words. It's so annoying to see these comments that took you 1/2 a day to type out.

Posted by: Bob Procton | Jul 13, 2008 6:16:38 PM

Actually, Steve, you're wrong. The 2nd and the 4th-round picks were given up this year. Only the 1st we "swapped" came from next year. And your notion that all players develop at the same rate is idiotic. If you're admitting that Otah is a project, then why is it that he's our #1 option at RT? Oh, and I've watched the same game film as you, but I include scouting reports of those who make them regularly because they tend to get more credence than any one person's opinion. Even yours, Steve. The fact that you've seen "a kid who can play" won't mean a damn thing when Shawne Merriman blows by him for two or three sacks in Week 1.

Posted by: Michael Procton | Jul 13, 2008 7:41:17 PM

"Bob", if you're too dumb or lazy to read posts that probably took closer to 12 minutes than 12 hours to compose, then you can either hit up your local Sylvan Learning Center or not read at all...that simple.

Posted by: Michael Procton | Jul 13, 2008 7:42:57 PM

Procton is a trip!!!!!

Posted by: Chuck | Jul 13, 2008 8:27:03 PM

Otah is essentially a big, fat, nothing. I guarantee we're not getting 150 yards a game behind that "road grader"; even if we had the second-coming of Emmitt Smith in the backfield. You guys need to respect my all-knowing intelligence when evaluating future talent in the NFL...and Otah ain't much of a talent.

Posted by: Michael Procton | Jul 13, 2008 8:44:17 PM

Procton, did your search engine tell you anything about Otah's work ethic. Proc the Croc any idiot can pull stats out of a hat, put that in your search engine and smoke it.

Posted by: SAM | Jul 13, 2008 9:07:56 PM

Procton / Neil - do you guys have lives? Might want to think about getting one....

Posted by: JD | Jul 13, 2008 9:19:27 PM

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