Thursday, August 20, 2009

Adios, Spartanburg!

The Carolina Panthers are about to hear the command, "Gentlemen, start your engines," in Spartanburg. Training camp is wrapping up as this blog is being written. guys, if you check this thing out, watch your speeds!

Camp was as eventful as ever-injuries, near fights during practice, the good, the bad and of course the ugly. Some general observations:

The Panthers DT spot will be upgraded. My colleague Darin Gantt from the Rock Hill Herald offered up some intriguing thoughts. Basically, a guy like LB Jeremy "J" Leman might snag a spot on the 53 man roster because of the Panthers need at DT. There are more expensive linebackers in the mix right now, and Leman has held his own during this camp. Trimming some of the payroll excess could mean a bargain basement price for the Panthers in keeping Leman. It's something to watch.

The kids are alright after all. Rave reviews for guys like RB Mike Goodson, CB Captain Munnerlyn, CB Sherrod Martin and DE Everette Brown. Brown, Martin, DT Corvey Irvin are under more scrutiny because of the Panthers changes/needs in their respective spots. So far, not bad.

WR Dwayne Jarrett has had an average camp. Here's hoping that #80 has some good work in the remaining exhibition games. The Panthers need a viable #3 receiver, otherwise Steve Smith and Muhsin Muhammad could be in for a long year.

Got asked a question via e-mail, basically asking how many bad games Jake Delhomme can have before the masses stop griping about not signing Michael Vick. Seriously, that question came in.

OK, here's the rub. Before Delhomme's arrival, the Panthers went to exactly one post-season. That was year 2, with Kerry Collins at QB. Carolina got crushed by Green Bay in the NFC Title game. Since Delhomme's arrival, there have been 8 playoff games for the Panthers, 2 NFC Title games, and one Super Bowl trip. Like it or not, Delhomme is the best QB the Panthers have had in their history (and this is with all due respect for the beatings the Steve Beuerlein took while playing behind some suspect weak offensive lines). Yes, Jake is older. Yes, he has had surgery to repair his elbow. No, someone else is not the answer. Jake is the guy. End of story.

Oh yeah, the answer to the question doesn't matter how many bad games he has. If he's not getting it done, the guys behind him will do just as well handing off to DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, and throwing the occasional pass. Carolina is a "run first" offense.

One note from hockey, the Carolina Hurricanes are not scheduled to appear on the Versus network for any of the 54 telecasts laid out on Wednesday. There are fans that are upset by this. Seriously? C'mon people. There are bigger issues out there for the Hurricanes to contend with, being on Versus is not one of them. A reminder, you want your team to be on national TV when the games mean something, i.e. the playoffs. Getting on Versus then means your team is doing well, and is contending for the Stanley Cup.

By way of comparison, the Chicago Blackhawks, runners up in the Western Conference to Detroit (like the Hurricanes in the East to Pittsburgh), will be on Versus 10 times. I won't like, this pleases me because of my Chicago upbringing. Still, there are reasons for this. One, the Blackhawks are in TV market #3. The Hurricanes are in market #27. The lower the number, the bigger the market. Also, the Blackhawks are loaded with young, exciting talent. They are considered one of the up and coming teams in the league. Loads of sizzle. At the end of the day, sizzle sells.

The Hurricanes have a wonderful TV package (in my opinion). I'm a hockey guy, love the game, played it through college. Can't get enough of it. I'd love to watch them on NBC in June. Wouldn't you?

Mike Solarte

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