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Monday, April 23, 2007

Position Evals - Offense

With the draft upcoming, here's my own version of the traditional "laundry list" evaluation and draft/future expectation, starting with the offense.

QB - Delhomme and Carr are plenty for the next two years.
Basanez may or may not be the future, and it's a good year for guys to groom, but there are likely bigger needs so don't expect anything before the 5th.

RB - Foster and Williams are a good fit for the new scheme, and the pair are both starting quality. Goings and Shelton fill out the quartet and should be all the team will need. There's an off-chance that the team could fill a backup role and kick returner in one spot, but the top 4 are all valuable and chances are, a RB will not be able to return punts as well.

FB - Hoover is aging, and the new staff may feel Goings is better suited to utility RB. It's a day 2 pick, and might be a sizeable player who can play some TE as well (think Boise St.'s Derek Schouman or TN's Cory Anderson). A player who can fill both roles, like Casey Cramer could, may buy the active roster spot to be able to keep both Nick Goings and Eric Shelton active on gameday.

WR - Steve Smith is set to sign an extension, but this is the only stable part at WR longterm. Keyshawn Johnson hinted at retirement, Drew Carter is a free agent after the year, and Keary Colbert continues to regress. Johnson is still a starter, however, and has a couple years left in him; the team may work to re-sign Carter longterm. There's a legitimate need here for a 4th WR who can work the slot in the future, and bring return skills now. Jacoby Jones of Lane College is a hot name. The team could look here 3rd round or later.

TE - Michael Gaines is considered the starter, and Jeff King could be an able #2. The team's variable on what could happen, and there's an undeniable hole here. Gaines, who got immediate play immediately as a rookie, has been inconsistent and started 21 of 42 games. Without Kris Mangum supporting, will Gaines flourish or falter?

King is the only player signed for 2008, so a player needs to be brought in somewhere. Whether it's a support player like the swing TE/FB suggested above, or a blue chip prospect liek Greg Olsen, it's hard to say. TE is the only spot on offense that can significantly improve, but the past offense used it so little it's hard to say what we have in Gaines. The wildcard is Doug Jolley, still out there in free agency and still likely cheap. Since this is the immediate need on O, Jolley may be the right guy if there's not a top prospect available better than a defender. While Olsen looks promising, the dropoff between Olsen and Zach Miller in the 2nd or even Ben Patrick in the 3rd isn't great.

OL - Returning everyone who started a game for Carolina but Todd Fordham, who has aged out, the line is also the theoretical weak point. Sack numbers were OK, but partially for scheme - pressure still got through. The zone scheme should help run blocking, but pass blocking will essentially be the same.

(OT) With Jordan Gross and Travelle Wharton being the two NFL-ready tackles, and both being free agents in 2008, the team could use depth that can start; Rashad Butler looks like an eternal project. Wharton is also coming off injury. Jeremy Bridges backs Gross, and is the only tackle under contract long-term, but may play guard. A tackle in the 4th or 5th would give them stability and allow Bridges to move inside if needed, but talent diminishes by then.

(G) Mike Wahle, now free of an injured shoulder, will be at LG still; Evan Mathis, beleaguered by inexperience, an apparent lack of lower body strength, and constantly tormented by outgoing OL coach Mike Maser, has the inside line to the job again. Will Montgomery proved stable backing Wahle; Geoff Hangartner started the year at C. The pair will fight Mathis. Another player could be welcome, and Bridges may start over all of them if they get a tackle. A player here is unlikely, the team has plenty of talented youth to concentrate on.

(C) Justin Hartwig barely saw the field, but is expected to start; Geoff Hangartner will be the backup, and is more suited to C than G. There's plenty of depth here.

Overall:
The offense, at first look, is where you'd put your effort. It was the lagging end of the team, and the defense has always been a strength. However, the skill positions were all as they wanted, and the only loss is Kris Mangum's retirement at TE and the injuries along the OL. This is the core reason Dan Henning left - the team had the pieces in place to do what they wanted. Because of an inactive free agent period, the team must fill defensive needs when it could be looking at the future at TE, OT, and WR.
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