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February 26, 2009

Position-by-position look at Panthers

 The Carolina Panthers aren't expected to be major participants in the NFL's free agency signing period, which opens at 12:01 a.m. Friday, but they could still bargain-hunt for veterans and will try to have another successful draft.

 As of now, they have all 22 offensive and defensive starters back from last season, but cornerback Ken Lucas could be gone soon and the status of franchised defensive end Julius Peppers isn't settled yet.

 The Panthers' primary needs appear to be improving their defensive line, getting another wide receiver, replenishing their offensive line depth, improving their defensive secondary, and possibly finding a young quarterback to groom for the future.

 Here's a position-by-position look at what the Panthers have and what they need:


 QUARTERBACKS

 Starter: Jake Delhomme

 Depth: Josh McCown, Matt Moore

 Looking Ahead: Delhomme, 34, has one year remaining on his contract and counts more than $11 million against the 2009 salary cap. He could receive a contract extension to provide '09 cap relief before the team has to sign its draft picks. There is also pressure on the Panthers to locate Delhomme's eventual successor. If the Panthers believe Moore, entering his third season, can fit the bill, then they're set. But don't be surprised if they choose a quarterback in the draft. There is some fan sentiment for West Virginia's multi-talented Pat White, but he would be a major shift from the more traditional drop-back quarterbacks coach John Fox has employed up to now.


 RUNNING BACKS

 Starter: DeAngelo Williams

 Depth: Jonathan Stewart, Decori Birmingham

 Looking Ahead: Williams and Stewart are an incredible 1-2 combination, but with the release of Nick Goings, the Panthers need some depth. They could pick a running back in the later rounds of the draft and almost certainly will sign some rookie backs who don't get drafted.


 FULLBACKS

 Starter: Brad Hoover

 Depth: Nehemiah Broughton

 Looking Ahead: Hoover is one of the league's top blocking fullbacks and played close to Pro Bowl caliber last year. He is entering his ninth season and the Panthers don't yet have an understudy who looks like a likely successor.


 WIDE RECEIVERS

 Starters: Steve Smith, Muhsin Muhammad

 Depth: Dwayne Jarrett, Ryne Robinson, Kenneth Moore.

 Looking Ahead: Muhammad had an outstanding '08 season, but he'll be 36 next season and the Panthers could use another wide receiver. If former all-pro Torry Holt gets free from the Rams, he'd love to join the Panthers, but it would have to be at a modest price. This area could also be a focus in the draft. The Panthers are hoping Jarrett's third season is a breakout year. Would it be something if one of the two former Independence High stars available in the draft, North Carolina's Hakeem Nicks or Georgia's Mohamed Massaquoi, wind up getting picked by the Panthers? Either of them could be an ideal successor (eventually) for Muhammad.


 TIGHT ENDS

 Starters: Jeff King (RFA)

 Depth: Dante Rosario, Gary Barnidge

 Looking Ahead: The Panthers like the versatility King brings as a blocker and receiver. Barnidge has outstanding potential in the passing game. There is no pressing need to add another tight end.


 OFFENSIVE LINE

 Starters: LT Jordan Gross, LG Travelle Wharton, C Ryan Kalil, RG Keydrick Vincent, RT Jeff Otah.

 Depth: C-G Mackenzy Bernadeau, OT Geoff Schwartz

 Looking Ahead: The Panthers have one of the best starting lines in the NFL, but their depth has been depleted with the release of Jeremy Bridges for cap reasons, and with Geoff Hangartner and Frank Omiyale becoming unrestricted free agents. Bernadeau has outstanding potential. Schwartz has the size, but does he have the feet? Look for more young players to arrive here from the draft and possibly free agency.


 DEFENSIVE LINE

 Starters: LE Tyler Brayton, T Damione Lewis, T Maake Kemoeatu, RE Julius Peppers (Franchised FA)

 Depth: DE Charles Johnson, DE Hilee Taylor, DT Nick Hayden

 Looking Ahead: Perhaps the Panthers' greatest need is to add some talented depth to their defensive line. It won't be surprising if they use some of their earliest draft picks for this area. A big key, of course, is what happens with Peppers. Though he prefers to play elsewhere, he likely knows the chances of him being able to leave are slim now that he has the franchise tag.


 LINEBACKERS

 Starters: MLB Jon Beason, SLB Thomas Davis, WLB Na'il Diggs.

 Depth: Landon Johnson, Dan Connor, James Anderson (RFA)

 Looking Ahead: This is a relatively deep and strong part of the team. Diggs could get some competition for a starting job from former Penn State All-American Connor and perhaps Johnson, whom the Panthers decided to keep despite the fact that he didn't break into the lineup in '08 after starting four seasons with the Bengals.


 CORNERBACKS

 Starters: Chris Gamble, Ken Lucas (could be traded)

 Depth: Richard Marshall, Dante Wesley, C.J. Wilson

 Looking Ahead: Lucas' future with the team is very uncertain. He nixed a possible trade with the Lions, but still could land elsewhere, either via trade or getting released. If he's gone, Marshall likely becomes a starter. The Panthers probably could add another experienced corner in free agency at a bargain price and certainly could supplement the position in the draft.


 SAFETIES

 Starters: SS Chris Harris, FS Charles Godfrey.

 Depth: Nate Salley (RFA), Quinton Teal

 Looking Ahead: The starters are well set. But depth, as always, would help.


 SPECIAL TEAMS

 Kicker: John Kasay

 Kickoff Specialist: Rhys Lloyd

 Punter: Jason Baker

 Snapper: TBA.

 Kick Returns: TBA

 Looking Ahead: Though it's not a glamorous topic, one of the most important issues facing the Panthers is who'll be their snapper next season. Jason Kyle, an unrestricted free agent, has done an excellent job for eight seasons, without missing a game, and would like to return. The Panthers appear to want him back, but have yet to make a move toward getting a contract done. Carolina can ill afford to take chances with that position. They sure don't want to lose a game because of a bad snap. Mark Jones did a nice job returning punts and kickoffs last season, but is now a free agent. He could be re-signed or the Panthers could turn to Ryne Robinson, a 2007 draft pick who spent the '08 season on injured reserve.


 -- Charles Chandler

Posted by Observer Sports on February 26, 2009 at 07:55 PM | Permalink

Comments

Nice analysis chuck!

Posted by: Panthe R ican | Feb 26, 2009 8:26:25 PM

Charles,
Although it would be phenomenal to acquire "local standout" Hakeem Nicks it is unreasonable. Due to his fantastic season, he will most likely be a first day pick. With the glaring needs on defense, a second or slot reciever just wont be an option. However I agree with you that FB has been overlooked too long. Brad has been great, but who steps in? Keep in mind good FB's are not a dime a dozen.

Posted by: Bill | Feb 26, 2009 9:37:38 PM

Offensively, the Panthers have all of the pieces they need to compete for the playoffs in '09. The majority of Panthers fans don't think so (Delhomme), but being a native Charlottean there are two inevitable facts I have come to know after 30 years here; Pat McCrory is the best mayor this city has had and the majority of Panthers fans are stupid.

Defensively, this offseason it would make the most sense if the Panthers made some "additions by subtraction."

Trading Julius Peppers and doing away with Ken Lucas either by trade or release, and getting draft picks for one or both would be the best way to go.

The Panthers are closer to the salary cap than any team in the league. They cannot sign any free agents, so cutting some fat and getting younger seems the most logical way to go.

This team is not that far off, just need to get younger and deeper in a two areas, d-line and secondary.

Posted by: Thomas | Feb 26, 2009 9:41:37 PM

I desperately hope that "Mart Hurney" is not the one in control, but I gotta say something about the Panther fan demographic.

If the majority of Panther fans are not from Charlotte, from where do they hail? Raleigh?, Columbia?, Wilmington?, Myrtle Beach?. Doubtful. (By the way, Ballantyne is almost part of Charlotte, but they don't like it).

Like it or not, Independence possesses the longest high school football winning streak by a public school in the country. People give praise to UNC Chapel Hill, NC State, Duke...why not say something good about the kids from Charlotte?

Posted by: unseen_minority | Feb 26, 2009 9:56:27 PM

Bill, I don't 'know' that the majority of Panther fans are stupid, but they are fickle. Being able to get something for Julius Peppers is probably 3 to 5.......we might get 3 of the 5 things we would like for him in a trade......the other two slots go to either Franchising him again next year or letting go. The burden to prove his worth is now on him. Has anybody even considered that this is a financial ploy to get the Panthers to pay him mad money and make him show his worth every year without risking getting seriously hurt? Then do it again?

I think the world of Julius Peppers; he's an incredible athlete and has made the Panthers d-line more ominous and intimidating as much as any single player could in the NFL. If he wants to go that strongly, let him. If you can get something for him, great; if not, be happy that he doesn't count against the cap anymore.

Bottom Line: Panthers are in a rebuilding year, whether they like it or not. Fox and Hurney bet the year on bringing together an o-line with a great d-line; a pair of RB's with a pair of WR's. Everything looked FANTASTIC on paper; and they DID go 12-4(5), but this year we are going to pay for it.

Posted by: unseen_minority | Feb 26, 2009 10:18:18 PM

Panthers biggest concern. Quarterback. Delhomme showed signs of tiring toward the end of the season. No zip on the ball compared to the begining of the season.

Posted by: par404 | Feb 26, 2009 10:49:03 PM

nobody seems to talk about jason kyle. having a long snapper is a lot more important than people believe. dont overlook the small pieces while trying to sign the larger names.

Posted by: rafi | Feb 26, 2009 11:10:11 PM

hello

Posted by: clay | Feb 26, 2009 11:15:49 PM

How many people on here are intrigued by Pat White? I'm not sure. I dont think that kind of QB leads teams to the Super Bowl. However, a Pat White, Williams, Stewart, and Smith offense would definately be exciting to watch!

Posted by: JD | Feb 27, 2009 12:29:05 AM

I actually think a Pat White can work in this system mainly because we have so many options in the offense that teams wouldn't know what to do. With Pat White being able to run all over the field and elude the defense, that practically gives us a 3rd running back with the glaring aspects of Smitty and Muhammad, plus if we can sign Holt and continue to develop Dwayne, watch out! The Panthers have never been a pass first team..they'd rather run until it doesn't work. Pat White would have a field day here with the complements of DeAngelo and Jonathan.

He would only have to throw to Smitty and occasionally to our other WRs, but his elusiveness would cause trouble to defenses. Fact is, Delhomme is a pocket passer, and is only serviceable in that area. By adding a QB that can run and elude but can also make decent throws, we become a nightmare.

Believe me, Pat White is no Vince Young or Mike Vick. He's a much better thrower than the both of them and possesses the freak atheletic abilities as well. I'd welcome him to the Panthers camp as our #1 pick, if we can somehow move up.

Posted by: Kenneth | Feb 27, 2009 4:07:52 AM

Everyone please understand that Jake Delhomme was definitely the weakest link for the lost playoff season. The Panthers were destined to make it to the Superbowl if not win it. The Panthers kept the ball out of Delhomme hands (meaning majority passing) most of the season and ran the ball but then had confidence in him to throw in a playoff game and he could not prove himself. He is a veteran and supposedly a leader but he hass blown more games than anyone on that team. The Panthers are not in rebuilding stage and all they need is a few pieces here and there and they need a consistent QB who will not lose you a game. You cannot perform like that in a big game of such especially when you are the leader and a veteran over your team. If I was Peppers, I would leave to with Delhomme at QB. MArk my word, they will never go far with Delhomme.

Posted by: JB | Feb 27, 2009 8:30:50 AM

Unseen_minority sounds like your typical Panther fan that doesn't know jack about football. Rebuilding year????!!! That sounds retarded! How can you have a rebuilding year when you only stand to lose maybe one of your core players, Peppers, and an average defensive back, Lucas. Not to mention when you have one of the best running back tandems in the league that can be the core of your offense again next year.

If you post a comment, make sure you at least make sense.

Posted by: dukie | Feb 27, 2009 8:34:30 AM

Bill, I believe the race for "stupid" is between anyone still in Charlotte. I can't decide though if the Native wins for staying here with McCroy or the transplant for not leaving sooner after learning about McCroy. He ran me off several years ago. That reminds me I need to send him a Xmas card this year in appreciation.

Maybe you and your old job at "The Bank" had you stuck but now you are free or will be when the thousands and thousands are gone and uptown returns to the ghost town of the 80's

Posted by: steve | Feb 27, 2009 8:34:50 AM

And BTW, Delhomme is holding the team back.

I can't imagine his attitude in the locker room. I suspect everyone loathes him. Watch him when they come off the field after a bad series or he throws an interception. Always is another's fault.

Posted by: bill | Feb 27, 2009 8:37:50 AM

And BTW, Delhomme is holding the team back.

I can't imagine his attitude in the locker room. I suspect everyone loathes him. Watch him when they come off the field after a bad series or he throws an interception. Always is another's fault.

Posted by: steve | Feb 27, 2009 8:38:33 AM

unseen minority, and the rest of you pessimistic panthers, stop being whining. what are we rebuilding? solve the Lucas and Peppers issues, with fair compensation, and we are set. That means we need a veteran CB and either Peppers return or a decent replacement at DE. This is a solid team with every reason to think we will go 12-4 again next year. tougher schedule blahblahblah look at the NFL last year, its impossible to predict. We will have one of the best offenses in the league, and I'm sure Foxy and Delhomme had a learning experience against Arizona. Don't forget that Delhomme also had some great games last year, and all we really need to score 30ppg is for him to manage the game, complete a few passes without excessive turnovers. Throw a new D coordinator behind that talent on D, we might go 19-0. PANTHERS!!!

Posted by: matt | Feb 27, 2009 8:45:25 AM

I'm warming up to the Pat White idea. He had a great combine....great accuracy and strong arm. Draft him and let him watch for a year or two to develop into a pocket passer. It'll be great to have a dual threat guy along with Smitty, Stewart, and Williams.

Posted by: Jake | Feb 27, 2009 8:52:08 AM

I don't believe this is a rebuilding year. If Peppers ends up staying then they have the talent to have a big year again. If Peppers leaves then they will have to pick up some help on the defensive line in order to compete. I would prefer to see the Panthers trade Peppers for some draft picks. But that really leaves them weak on the defensive line. With this new Defensive Coordinator Meeks I doubt they are going to blitz much. He is a Cover 2 guy, and in Cover 2 you rush with the four defensive lineman.

Posted by: Dan | Feb 27, 2009 9:18:53 AM

Pat White would be the BIGGEST mistake this franhise ever made.

Posted by: Colin | Feb 27, 2009 9:25:13 AM

With the 57th pick in the 2009 NFL draft, the Panthers select quarterback, Rhett Bomar, Sam Houston State University.

Posted by: Roger Goodell | Feb 27, 2009 9:31:40 AM

I think Pat White would be the best thing this franchise could do. He could do nothing and still scare defenses just because he is that good. With Double Trouble and Smith, Moose, and Jarrett. Watch out.

DO NOT GET HOLT

Posted by: Rem | Feb 27, 2009 9:48:38 AM

Steve Smith himself said that Jake's attitude has helped hold the team together. So Bill/Steve, your argument is ridiculous.

Posted by: Aaron | Feb 27, 2009 10:14:00 AM

Pat White NO! ,we don't use the Wildcat enough and every team is getting better at defending this little fad. JP Wilson played against SEC defenses for 4 years ,Rhett Bomar would suit Carolina better. at 6' tall and 190lbs Pat white is to small for QB(he is no Drew Brees) WR though yes ,and his stubborness to not play any other position at the combine like he was asked to is a red flag about being a team player to me ,and he could go undrafted. let some other team add a roster spot for a Wildcat QB Carolina has to much interest in 2 kickers for another "extra"

Posted by: hellfish | Feb 27, 2009 10:19:05 AM

I think Jake D had his days several years ago....we can't keep holding on to the past. Let's move forward and let's cut him!

Posted by: willieb1948 | Feb 27, 2009 10:19:35 AM

Pat White is not the answer, nor an NFL QB-unless a team is going to run 60% wildcat offensive style football. Not sure he will be around, but the big kid (6-6 245) from K-State-Josh Freeman has more long term classic NFL type abilites. His college career was up and down(beat Texas one week lose to Midland Lutheran College the next)but I beleive Freeman has more NFL calibur up's than does White.

I am one fan who hopes that, with or without Peppers---that Meeks breaks the mold of a softer cover 2 or 3 conservative blitzing style and at least does some aggressive m/m style blitzing once and a while...even 2-3 selected times per game would be a huge enhancement to the Panther D and an opponents scouting report...By years end it seemed most teams were able to read the Panther schemes like they did indeed have the play book...they seem to be way to predictable. And i only watch games on the NFL tickets not every possible angle NFL scouting type films....

Posted by: Nebcatfan | Feb 27, 2009 10:25:47 AM

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