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Thursday, August 16, 2007

Panthers Sign Ex-Nemesis Walker; Line Gets Shake-up

Carolina signed OT Kenyatta Walker, a 73-game starter from division rival Tampa Bay, this week in an odd move rekindling old memories for defensive end Julius Peppers. A former 14th overall pick in 2001, Walker is Carolina's 2nd largest free agent signing of the season, behind 2001 #1 overall David Carr (a backup for Carolina now after 75 starts in Houston).

Walker is most known to Panthers fans as "the guy Peppers beat twice a year"; after a pair of spirited games v/s TB in 2003, Walker had 3 personal fouls plus numerous false starts, Peppers had thrown a punch, and Kris Jenkins had this to say:
"When you have to hit somebody's facemask every play because you cannot block people fundamentally by yourself, you are supposed to be in the CFL," Jenkins said. "You aren't supposed to be in this league."
So far, Walker is saying the right things, and Jenkins/Peppers have been reserved about the move. Rumors abound as to what the move means, which is directly related to some other movement along the line this week.

Line Shifts - Kalil In, Bridges Out
Jeremy Bridges, last year's starting RT, has been shuffled out of the lineup. Ryan Kalil moves into the starting center role, and Justin Hartwig will take over at RG for Bridges. The move is likely more a sign of confidence for Kalil than anything else - while Bridges did struggle a bit at guard in the Giants game, the line executed very well and looked potent enough to start the season. Bridges has a 2-game suspension to fill at the start of the season, but team officials kept Bridges first string.

Now, Bridges is out of the starting lineup, a move that might cost him his job overall. A non-starting Bridges is still a versatile backup, but if you have Kenyatta Walker, Bridges' value as an experienced backup goes down.

So far, there's no word as to how the team will adjust the second string with Bridges' demotion and Walker's addition: both can play tackle or guard.
  • Kalil's upgrade leaves either Geoff Hangartner (as of now, backup LG) or Will Montgomery (before this week, 3rd string C) as the backup center. Hartwig would likely play if Kalil couldn't, but if the team pits the two young backups against each other, it'll likely be either one or the other making the cut.
  • Evan Mathis, last year's starting RG and currently backup RT, and/or backup LT Rashad Butler may be demoted for Walker and/or Bridges.
  • Mathis may move to backup RG if Bridges moves back out, but Butler can only play OT.
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