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February 27, 2012

Memphis DT has big combine

Dontari Poe likely jumped up the Panthers' draft board – as well as those of every other team needing defensive line help – with an impressive combine performance that showed off the Memphis defensive tackle's enticing blend of speed and power.

After Poe did a combine-best 44 reps on the 225-pound bench press Sunday, he followed that up Monday by running the 40-yard dash in an official time of 4.98 seconds.

Did we mention Poe weighs 346 pounds?

Poe did not arrive in Indianapolis an an unknown. ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. mentioned him as one of the top defensive tackles in a pre-combine conference call a couple weeks ago.

Penn State's Devon Still engaged LSU's Michael Brockers in a debate – through the media – Saturday about who was the top defensive tackle in the draft. Poe just ran his way into the conversation.

Other notable performances Monday:

--UNC linebacker Zach Brown ran the second-fastest 40 among linebackers at 4.50. Cal's Marvin Kendricks ran a 4.47.

--Two of the top defensive ends – UNC's Quinton Coples and South Carolina's Melvin Ingram ran 4.78 and 4.79, respectively.

--Arizona State's Omar Bolden did 25 reps on the bench, most among cornerbacks. South Carolina CB Stephon Gilmore, who's from Rock Hill, did 15.

--Joseph Person



Posted by Observer Sports on February 27, 2012 at 04:30 PM | Permalink | Comments (18)

February 25, 2012

Ex-Gamecock Melvin Ingram working with Von Miller


 South Carolina defensive end/linebacker Melvin Ingram has been working with Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller at a training facility in California to improve his linebacking skills. But Ingram needs no help when it comes to athleticism.

Ingram, a 6-1, 264-pounder who went to Richmond County High, did a standing back flip recently after Miller doubted him.

Asked if Miller could do a flip, Ingram said: “He didn't do it that day.”

Ingram, a projected top-10 pick who said the Panthers are among the many team he's met with, has enjoyed his time with Miller. The two have the same agent, Joby Branion.

“We just try to compete against each other every day,” Ingram said. “Obviously, he's the Defensive Rookie of the Year. So I just try to pattern myself after him because I feel like he's had a lot of success in the NFL.”

Ingram, who had two touchdowns in a win against Georgia last season, can dunk a basketball and was on the Gamecocks' “hands,” or onsides prevent, team. At 225 pounds, he was the starting point guard for Richmond County's basketball team.

Was he a pass-first point?

I was a scorer,” Ingram said.

--Joseph Person

Posted by Observer Sports on February 25, 2012 at 02:16 PM | Permalink | Comments (9)

February 24, 2012

Lighter Jeffery might not run

Former South Carolina receiver Alshon Jeffery answered questions about his weight Friday. But Jeffery's speed might remain a mystery until the Gamecocks' pro day March 28.

Following reports he had ballooned to 235 pounds, Jeffery measured 6-3 and weighed 216 at the combine. He said he feels better than his playing weight of “like 230” last season.

“I think that was too heavy for me,” he said. “When I got to the NFL, I had to make a better transition.”

But Jeffery said he's not sure whether he'll run in Indy. NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said before the combine that if Jeffery ran the 40-yard dash in 4.6 seconds or slower, he would drop on draft boards.

Jeffery downplayed the impact quarterback Stephen Garcia's dismissal had on Jeffery's diminshed productivity in 2011, saying the loss of Garcia affected the entire team.

And while it might be another month before the issues of Jeffery's speed are answered, he said there's no questioning his hands, which he called the best among all the wideouts in the draft.

Better than Justin Blackmon's?

“I'm sure he'll say he's got better hands than me,” Jeffery said. “So I think I've got the best hands myself.”

--Joseph Person

Posted by Observer Sports on February 24, 2012 at 03:21 PM | Permalink | Comments (5)

Rivera: James Anderson played hurt, played well in '11


Most of the offseason talk about the Panthers' linebackers has been about the two that didn't play the majority of the 2011 season.

Lost in the shuffle is the one who did -- James Anderson, who turned in a record-setting year following season-ending injuries to Jon Beason and Thomas Davis.

Anderson set a franchise record with 174 tackles, breaking Beason's mark of 169 set in 2009.

But Panthers coach Ron Rivera said Anderson's increased leadership responsibilities and willingness to play through pain were just as impressive as the tackles.

"When we first got started he was not a very vocal guy. But as his role increased, you could see his confidence grow as a linebacker and took a leadership role," Rivera said at the combine.

"I think that's the biggest thing he had to do. He shows you he can do it athletically. He shows he can do it mentally – a very cerebral, smart football player with good athletic ability."

Rivera said Anderson played the second half of the season with an ankle injury, but did not miss any games.

"He had that ankle that just constantly nagged him. And every day he was out there practicing, doing the best he can," Rivera said. "I really thought he stepped up in terms of his career."

One more defensive note from Rivera's visit with the media Thursday:

--The Panthers plan to use free agent Jyles Tucker as a pass-rushing end. Tucker, who played for Rivera in San Diego but was out of the league last year, lined up at linebacker and end for the Chargers.

Tucker, 28, who played at Wake Forest, started 12 games and had 5.5 sacks for San Diego in 2008. But he has played in only 10 games, with one sack, in the three years since.

"We've got to find out if Jyles has a little juice left like he had a couple years ago for us in San Diego," Rivera said. "He'll be down (in a three-point stance). Take him back to his roots that he had when he was at Wake Forest in terms of being a pass-rusher.

"We're going to ask him to see if he still has it. When he came in and worked out for us, we were very pleased with what we saw."

--Joseph Person


Posted by Observer Sports on February 24, 2012 at 12:22 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)

Panthers lose coin flip, will pick 9th


The Panthers lost their coin flip with the Dolphins this morning, giving the Panthers the ninth overall pick in April's draft.

The Panthers and Dolphins each finished 6-10 in 2011, and had the same strength of schedule percentage -- the first tiebreaker used in determining draft order. That necessitated the coin flip, which took place at 7:30 a.m. at an Indianapolis hotel.

The Panthers will pick 8th in the second round, with the pick alternating with the Dolphins in each subsequent round. The Panthers currently hold six picks in the draft, having traded their third-round pick to Chicago last year in exchange for tight end Greg Olsen.

Kansas City won the league's other coin flip, giving the Chiefs the 11th pick and the Seahawks the 12th selection.

--Joseph Person

Posted by Observer Sports on February 24, 2012 at 07:46 AM | Permalink | Comments (49)

February 23, 2012

Rivera: Shockey might retire


Panthers coach Ron Rivera said veteran tight end Jeremy Shockey is considering retirement after 10 NFL seasons.

In a discussion with Shockey in January following his first year in Carolina, Rivera said Shockey mentioned the possibility of calling it quits.

“It was a great conversation and he just said, 'Well, we'll see,'” Rivera said today at the scouting combine. “With him, who knows?”

Shockey, who will turn 32 in August, signed a one-year deal worth $4 million with Carolina last year after New Orleans cut him. He said during the season he enjoyed playing for the Panthers and was interested in returning to Charlotte.

Attempts to reach Shockey today have been unsuccessful.

Shockey, who is an unrestricted free agent, caught 37 passes for 455 yards and four touchdowns in 15 games last season. Shockey has never played a full, 16-game season since entering the league with the Giants in 2002.

Rivera said he has not talked to Shockey since the end of the season, and made a reference to Shockey's travel schedule.

“He had talked about (retiring) prior, but we don't know because he's either in Costa Rica or Panama,” Rivera said, smiling. “Last year he went to Scotland, so he could be in Ireland now.”

The Panthers have three tight ends under contract – Greg Olsen, Ben Hartsock and Gary Barnidge, who was having a good training camp last year when he broke his ankle. Olsen was the Panthers' third-leading receiver in 2011 with 45 catches for 540 yards and five touchdowns.

--Joseph Person

Posted by Observer Sports on February 23, 2012 at 03:32 PM | Permalink | Comments (21)

February 22, 2012

VIDEO: Newton up all night for Under Armour: See Cam's new commercial here

Cam Newton pulled an all-nighter earlier this month that was captured by cameras in Charlotte.

TV viewers -- at least those other than Time-Warner customers in Charlotte -- can see the end result tonight when the 60-second, Under Armour spot airs on the NFL Network.

Entitled "Cam's Night Out," the commercial plays on Newton's off-season training, and depicts him working out under the lights at Bank of America Stadium --in his Under Armour gear and UA Highlight cleats.

Well-known producer/DJ AraabMuzik handles the soundtrack for the spot on an MPC.

An Under Armour spokesman said the commerical was shot at BoA Stadium. Most of the filming took place after 7 p.m., and the shoot lasted through the night.

The receivers are not Panthers' players, but paid actors.

The spot will begin airing regularly Thursday.

--Joseph Person

Posted by Observer Sports on February 22, 2012 at 11:11 AM | Permalink | Comments (39)

February 17, 2012

Panthers sign defensive end

AP100728063874The Panthers have brought in another player with ties to Ron Rivera from San Diego, signing free agent defensive end Jyles Tucker, the team announced Friday.

Tucker, 28, who played at Wake Forest, spent four years with the Chargers before getting released before the 2011 season. He started 12 games in 2008, but has played in only 10 games, with one sack, in the three years since.

Like Panthers free agent defensive end Antwan Applewhite – another former Charger – the 6-3, 258-pound Tucker can play defensive end or linebacker. Because Tucker was not with a team last season, the Panthers were able to sign him before March 13, the first day teams can sign other clubs' free agents.

--Joseph Person



Posted by Observer Sports on February 17, 2012 at 03:12 PM | Permalink | Comments (41)

February 16, 2012

Agent: Brockers to visit Panthers

Former LSU defensive tackle Michael Brockers is scheduled to visit Charlotte for a pre-draft meeting with the Panthers on March 8, according to his agent.

Albert Elias of Elias Sports Management posted details of the visit on his Twitter page Thursday evening.

Brockers, 6-5 and 306 pounds, had 54 tackles, an interception and three pass breakups in 2011 in his only season as a starter at LSU. He blocked a field goal in the Tigers' BCS championship game loss to Alabama.

In his latest mock draft, ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. projected Brockers to go to the Panthers, who will pick 8th or 9th, pending a coin flip with Miami at next week's NFL scouting combine.

The Panthers drafted a pair of defensive tackles in the third round last season -- Terrell McClain and Sione Fua, who were starters before ending the season on injured reserve.

The Panthers signed veteran defensive tackle Ron Edwards in free agency last summer, but Edwards tore his triceps at the first training camp practice and was lost for the year.

--Joseph Person


Posted by Observer Sports on February 16, 2012 at 08:51 PM | Permalink | Comments (32)

February 15, 2012

Mike Mayock likes LSU DT for Panthers

To hear Mike Mayock describe it, the Panthers' coin flip with Miami at the combine could be as important as any evaluations the Panthers do next week in Indianapolis.

A coin flip on Feb. 24 will determine the 8th and 9th picks between Carolina and Miami, which finished with 6-10 records and an identical .504 strength-of-schedule percentage.

I think the first seven or eight picks are pretty solid, then after that there's questions,” Mayock said today during a teleconference with the NFL Network analyst. “So they're right on the cusp of that with that coin flip.”

Mayock – like ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper – thinks the Panthers could take LSU defensive tackle Michael Brockers in the first round. The Panthers took a pair of DTs in the third round last year – Sione Fua and Terrell McClain – but had trouble getting penetration and a pass rush from the interior in 2011.

I think he's a potential top-10 pick, and I think he's a logical guy who could play even outside if you needed him to,” Mayock said of Brockers. “He's a really explosive, 6-foot-5, 300-pound defensive tackle. So I think Brockers is real logical for them right there.”

With LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne likely off the board when the Panthers pick, he said Carolina would be taking the second- or third-best corner if it goes that route.

And that's probably (Alabama's) Dre' Kirkpatrick,” Mayock said. “He's big and he's long. I'm not sure what he's going to run (in the 40). Some people might even think he could convert to safety down the road.

He's a kid I really like a lot, but is that too high for him? Because sitting there at 8 or 9, you've got to get the best football player on the board.”

--Joseph Person

Posted by Observer Sports on February 15, 2012 at 04:52 PM | Permalink | Comments (23)