Thursday, July 30, 2009

Thumbnailing the Panthers

The Panthers report to training camp this Sunday in Spartanburg, S.C. Yes, already. Here's a quick overview of the team from my perspective.


Quality at the skill positions. DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart make up a great 1-2 combo in the backfield. There will be competition for the starting FB spot between Brad Hoover and rookie Tony Fiametta. Jake Delhomme is the starting QB (stop pining for Michael Vick, he's not coming to Charlotte), and WR's Steve Smith and Muhsin Muhammad along with a thrust into the 3rd spot Dwayne Jarrett give the Panthers some solid targets.

Biggest question mark is offensive line depth. Starting 5 are all quality, but the reserves from a year ago have basically gotten starting gigs elsewhere. Geoff Hangartner and Frank Omiyale signed free agent deal, and the Panthers saved some money by cutting Jeremy Bridges. Bridges is now in Washington with the Redskins. The backups are battling for jobs, so expect to see plenty of new faces at that position in the final 53.


How well received Julius Peppers is by the team will go a long way in determining how good this unit can be. I would expect the players to put the "Summer of the Franchise Tag" behind them, and move forward. They did that last year after the Smith-Ken Lucas fight that could have divided the team in half. The D-Line depth is mildly questionable these days. Sure, there is Peppers, Charles Johnson, Tyler Brayton, and rookie Everette Brown at the DE spots. Maake Kemoeatu and Damione Lewis are the anchors at DT, but there is some depth question there. Rookie Corvey Irvin should contribute, so it's not as bad as one might think. A couple injuries to Kemo and Lewis, and it could get bad fast.

The LB corps is the strength of the defense. Jon Beason anchors this group that should get a look at Dan Conor this season. His rookie year was ended with a knee injury, and Na'il Diggs continues to be the consummate pro. In the secondary, Lucas is gone, meaning Richard Marshall steps in full time to help Chris Gamble. Chris Harris remains the lead safety on the defense, keeping the secondary in good hands.


Jason Baker, John Kasay and Rhys Lloyd remain the legs for this team. Kasay scoring the points, Lloyd handling kickoffs, and Baker punting the ball away. Biggest void on special teams is long snapper Jason Kyle going to New Orleans. You never heard his name, which was a good thing. Steady, and reliable, Kyle was the key in the special teams engine. Without a good snap, nothing else can happen. replacing him is the chore for the Panthers in this area.

Overall, 2009 has the makings of being a good season, or a miserable one. Even if the Panthers play above what they did last year, they could still end up 7-9, due to their brutal schedule (rated 2nd toughest in the league). How quickly this team addresses roster weaknesses will go a long way in determining what kind of success they will have.

Mike Solarte

PS-notice there was no mention of the playoff loss to Arizona. I've moved on. You should too.

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