Friday, August 7, 2009

1 week in

OK, almost one week in. As I type this blog post, the Panthers are wrapping up their morning practice in Spartanburg. One more to go today, and then the team will be looking at a Saturday workout at Bank of America Stadium for Fan Fest. Then a night away from football with family and friends.

So far, here's what we have learned.

The DT position got real thin (no pun intended), after Maake Kemoeatu went down with his season-ending achilles injury. Even after signing rookie DT George Hypolite, the Panthers are still looking for additional depth (read veteran) to fill that void. The search continues.

By all accounts, the offense will be the side of the ball that needs to perform well if the Panthers are going to be successful. It's a matter of numbers. All 11 starters are back on the side of the ball. They hung some stout stats up in 2008. Health will be the biggest factor in determining how far the Panthers can go. When was the last time that the Panthers were in camp, and the offense was thought to be the strongest of their 3 phases? Under John Fox, the defense has always been the side that has been at the forefront.

The WR position isn't as thin as people might think, in my opinion. Once you get past Steve Smith and Muhsin Muhammad, there is a noticeable drop in experience. Here's why my glass is half full on the subject. Dwayne Jarrett (barring injury) will be a force. He stepped up and made some big catches in big situations last season. It seems like Jake Delhomme started trusting Jarrett more with those throws in 2008. Look for more in 2009. You also have Jason Carter, who is coming off of knee surgery in 2008. A year ago, Carter was having a huge camp, but was injured. In my opinion, that cost him a roster spot. Ryne Robinson was also banged up, but he's back. His main gig will be to return punts and kicks, with Mark Jones gone to Tennessee. The Panthers may or may not need a 5th WR based on these 5 players. Larry Beavers might be the guy to lock up that spot IF the Panthers go that route.

Injuries are a part of football, but when knee dings hit Thomas Davis and Jon Beason in the first week, that's a shot of reality. Davis and Beason don't need THAT much work in camp. Sure, there's a new DC in Ron Meeks on board, but Davis and Beason are two guys that get it. They should be back on the field next week (that's the hope anyway), and should be ready to start the season. Ultimately, the regular season is the most important. Get some work in the pre-season, but not so much that you blow yourself up.

Other notes in the world of sports: App State QB Armanti Edwards is out 2-4 weeks after injuring his right foot in a lawn mowing accident. Note to Armanti: They are called "freshmen." Have one of THEM cut your grass. Seriously, you've earned that right.

Props to Tucker Dupree, the paralympic swimmer from Cary, NC. he was chosen to Team USA's short course squad that will swim in Brazil in December. Nice young man, great athlete, wonderful story.

Hey Charlotte Bobcats, can you guys get a deal done with Raymond Felton, like now, so you have a chance at growing the fan base? Nothing makes an organization look worse to the public, than when they drag their feet on signing a player the fans love. Don't completely give in, but get the talking to the serious level. Meet halfway, sign the deal (that goes for you, too, Raymond--gotta meet in the middle), and start promoting this new look team. I'm sure Tyson Chandler will enjoy dunking lob passes from Felton in the same way he enjoyed them from Chris Paul.

One other item, an American hockey legend retired on Thursday. Jeremy Roenick ended his career after 20 NHL seasons. I had the rare pleasure of seeing him play at the tender age of 16, back in 1986. He was part of USA Hockey's program along with a couple other players Mike Modano and Keith Tkachuk. and they all skated in a tournament near my hometown in Illinois. All of those players showed they had the game to go to the big stage, but Roenick had that extra flash. You knew he would be brash, bold, and flamboyant. He was all those things as a professional, but above all, he was simply a hockey player. Cheers, JR. Enjoy the golf course.

Mike Solarte

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