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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Carr rumors; Looking Ahead?

A rumor involving David Carr:
Carr said he came here because we were the only team who told him he could use any delivery he wanted. He wanted to go back to the side armed delivery he used in HS. Apparently at Fresno St and in Houston the coaches made him use a more overhead delivery, although it still looked somewhat sidearmed. No wonder his accuracy and arm strength have suffered. That isnt even mentioning those gloves.

Also, per his weekly interview on Sirius Radio, it seems the Carr era has officially come to an end, and that he won't see the field if not necessary. As it stands now, it looks like Vinny Testaverde will remain #1, for now, and Matt Moore #2.

For you Cowher fans, grasping to straws like "we can get him early" or "he has a house in Raleigh", Chan Gailey was fired from his GT job. The former Florida QB, and Cowher alum, has head coaching experience, ran a progressive offense in the NFL, had a two game over .500 record with the Dallas Cowboys, and never won less than seven games with GT (though more than 7 only once). His work with Cowher was some of Cowher's more innovative offense at the time, despite having to win with Kordell Stewart. As well, another former staffer, Mike Mularkey, probably gets the boot in Miami as OC.

And for you Schottenheimer fans, Cam Cameron will most likely be booted completely out of Miami, possibly before the season ends. Whether he has any respectability left after such a long year is hard to say.

I guess, in that respect, if Dom Capers hadn't already coached here, he could come coach the defense under a mythical Cowher regime.

And, under the guise that the 49er staff fails, I think anyone who can win the Mike Nolan derby is a good bet. As an added bonus, getting Nolan might mean getting Mike Singletary.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Wow

After the Super Bowl, and then another run, I didn't figure I'd be expecting John Fox to be fired. But I'm leaning in that direction now. This run isn't as bad as 1998, or 2001, and the staff hasn't lost the players totally - they still fight.

But I don't think this staff is going to get another year.


That game was awful, and this is the first time in 12 years that the fans actually called a coaching decision out loud. That's not good. Chants of Matt Moore - as if Moore is some elite prospect - may have killed the Panthers' regime as it stands. I think the only thing that saves John Fox at this point is being able to pull a Charlie Weis move.

v/s NO, v2.0

After last week, I saw a team that's still willing to fight. But it's hard, going through a losing streak, and that's taking a toll on my want to analyze here right now. Specifically, seeing them fight, and end up putting points together toward the end, after some early turnovers and an awful, awful call on the pooch punt (as well as the lack of an 11th man on the field), it's not easy.

And after Vinny started to put it together late, now he's out again. David Carr starts this week, and that'll mean the Matt Moore hype will grow again. I see a lot of calls for him to get put in, and maybe that'll happen, but as of now this team has a need to win a football game, and I don't see a misake-prone Moore doing that. Then again, right now I don't see Carr doing that at this point.

New Orleans means two things for our offense - spread, and pass protect. The middle should be open in the pass, and should be blockable up front for the run. On D, just contain Bush. He's gotten better, and more confident, since last time.




(to edit, this was written before the game, posted after)

Saturday, November 17, 2007

OC and DC thoughts

Lots of things being bandied about by unhappy fans about "next year". If only we could start over again, like this is some sort of video game, and then things would magically be better. I can empathize - I don't like our talent level. I don't see where coaching change will make a difference, but I'll go ahead and defend them. I don't like defeatism, personally, and giving up is discouraging.

Fox himself has shown to be very solid, if stubborn. He's had slumps, but overall, he's a fine game manager and a guy who coaches a lot out of his guys.

Trgovac:
He's been well above average in 03, 05, 06. 04's D turned around halfway through, but still finished 20th in yards. There's a strong pedigree in the Bo Schembechler-alum, and he's shown he's worth being here.

The frustrating thing about this year has been inconsistency. 10 TDs rushing, whereas only 8 TDs passing (sadly, 3 from ATL). 13th in the league in scoring D despite the 10 TDs rushing. 14th in passing/18th in rushing. Nonetheless, the D has done well most times; the blowouts have been frustrating.
In 03, 04, 05, we had a ton of turnovers, and that's where we're lacking since. 06 we struggled to get picks and FFs, but are starting to turn that around again. Still 23rd in INTs (partially from high rushing attempts), but 9th in FF, and 2nd in recoveries. More pass attempts, and the whole thing looks a little better.

Davidson:
A lot of people, myself included, expected things to be more progressive. More 3/4 WR sets, more 2-TE combo routes, more ways of getting Smith the ball. At times, the O has looked brilliant, much of it under Delhomme or Testaverde; the script drives from STL and IND come to mind. But a lot of the time we've had to be conservative, running a lot and limiting QB throws. The O is 12th rushing, despite taking Smith away in most games and being unable to get good QB play; still, 3rd down is still a problem, and execution is still a problem.


The biggest disappointment for me in the offseason was the blank promotion of other staffers: Mike McCoy, a QBs coach who has shown little, almost got the OC job and was still promoted to "Passing Game Coordinator". I've nothing against Dave Magazu, and I think a lot of Geep Chryst, but each just got promoted to their new positions despite being a part of the unsuccessful product of last year. Better options were available: Steve Loney, Tom Cable for OL coach. And then you still keep the guys you felt were good enough to promote.

Past that, I can't blame the OC for our personnel issues - QB was a priority to upgrade as a backup, and we tried to do that. Davidson got a grand total of one lineman to work with, and overall, was handed the idea that a 6th round TE to be promoted and the rest coming back minus a veteran 2nd WR was going to be enough. He didn't make the decision to release Keyshawn Johnson, or to not replace him well enough; he didn't draft what's here.

I was hoping that we'd get more than just audibles and a bit better run game from this, though. Execution is still inconsistent, playcalling has been up and down, and things do need to get better.


Still, here are our options:
If Fox stays, there's the option of letting go the coordinators. Likely first to go: Danny Crossman. Fans have been bellowing for him to go for years, and ironically, special teams are now starting to improve.

If Trgovac went, it's possible that Tim Lewis would get promoted; it's also possible that Mike Gillhamer would be the DBs coach. I don't believe that inside promotion is the way; going after a Ron Rivera, looking to regain power after last year's debacle, is more successful a way to fix things. Fox may be enamored with seeing the possible success in his own guys, where a change means needing a move toward something different.

If Davidson went, the dream scenario is that a possibly available Charlie Weis comes in and finishes what he almost started in 2002. In the scenario, it's even possible, in this sham of a fantasy, that Davidson stays and coaches the OL. Weis almost took on the job in 2002, but the Pats could offer more than good friend Fox, because of Fox' own light salary at the time, and he instead recommended Henning. The Irish are floundering, and he may be let go. This alone might save Fox's job even if he went 0-season from here. There are other options, but since Davidson is 1st-year, the inclination would be to give more time, or let the whole staff go if Fox couldn't do something drastic like draw Weis.

If Fox goes, the assistants go. Maybe Richard Williamson stays, but for what? I imagine he'd as soon retire. Fox assistants would likely get snapped up quickly by the team that quickly snaps him up: Jim Skipper, specifically, and Trgovac.

That leaves us in the Cowher/Schottenheimer race, if we wanted; we could also sift through other fired coaches, like Denny Green (unlikely); we could promote a young assistant like Rivera or an old one like Norm Chow, but probably won't. We're not rebuilding when we make a change; the reason we're doing so is because we feel the product on the field isn't up to par. Richardson isn't going to blow this up and start over.

So that leaves Cowher or Schottenheimer, the first one in for whatever money it takes. Schottenheimer comes with the unfortunate baggage of expecting to hire his brother Kurt as DC; Kurt's underwhelming and certainly no Wade Phillips or Ron Rivera. His OC, Cam Cameron, is struggling mightily in Miami, and Phillips is in Dallas; his longtime DC Gunther Cunningham is entrenched in KC still. Most of his other offensive staff stayed with the Chargers. Nonetheless, his ties to SD, and Hurney's, boost his chances.

Cowher has gone through tons of coordinator change, so him starting over isn't 100% outrageous. He has no emotional ties to any coaches, and can probably pick through the best available in college and pro. There's also the ideal of him being the guy that drove us to take a chance on Dom Capers; and his being much more progressive a conservative coach than Fox, but in that mold. He's also golden boy of the Roonies, friends with the Richardsons, so there's a good chance we wouldn't have to give up anything.


It kinda hurts to point out those options. John Fox won't likely be going anywhere, and in my opinion right now, shouldn't.

Starting Updates, and ATL Notes

Vinny Testaverde is the starter on Sunday, so hopefully that means we'll at least try to find ways to get the ball to Steve Smith early and try to run the ball, keeping the pace of the game in hand. Smith, however, might not even suit up, still ailing with a sore shin. It's possible that Smith suits up, but we keep all 5 WR active; it's also possible we keep Jarrett on last minute warning. I personally don't see Smith sitting the game out if he can do anything more than walk.


ATL:

Not to put the loss on Steve Smith, but if he pulls the football in before trying to cross the goal line, we're likely to win against ATL. If Chris Harris doesn't get picked on the Crumpler play, ATL is out of Andersen's FG range, and we likely go into overtime. It's unfortunate, and we should've been better, but a bounce of the ball in the other direction and we still win.

Thomas Davis looked very good rushing the passer, getting two solid hits on Harrington, one that pulled him out of the game for a snap, and had to go against tackles to get to Harrington to do it. I've always felt that Davis was a good strongside minded guy, even before Fox put him on that side, but I never saw him as a good player to put outside Peppers on the line because his bulk isn't enough to go against NFL tackles. But this week he held his ground radially against Todd Weiner and got two good hits on the quarterback.

Jon Beason came to play with a combined 11 tackles.

Ken Lucas obviously has reverted back to '05 form, 5 tackles, 3 defended passes, and a fumble recovery for TD.

And Mike Rucker, 4 tackles, a sack, and a QB pressure.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

V/s ATL - Get Wharton Help

The starter might be Matt Moore, or it might be Vinny Testaverde - it's hard to say at this point. But the key in today's matchup against Atlanta will be getting Travelle Wharton help. Wharton has 6.5 sacks on the year, more than twice the next player (Justin Hartwig and Ryan Kalil have 3 apiece). John Abraham has torn up Travelle before, and whoever starts against Atlanta must have time to throw. There's no reason we can't help Wharton, and he's going to require it. The Falcons only have 11 sacks, but 6 are Abraham's.

On the other side, Jordan Gross should be able to handle Jamaal Anderson, the top Falcons' pick who hasn't had a sack as a pro. Jordan Babineaux inside isn't a hard player to move, and Rod Coleman is a

On the second level, Michael Boley leads the team in tackles at SLB; Keith Brooking has manned the middle solidly, but has dropped off from Pro Bowl form a little. Still, the team must account for the pair and WLB Demorrio Williams in the stretch game, and pursuit is generally good. Carolina won this game in week 3 on the back of Deshaun Foster, who the Falcons haven't been able to stop often in years; the meeting before that featured Deangelo Williams running the offense from the single wing. Getting solid blocking on the Falcons' front is key, and certainly realistic.

Last game's passing was limited, partially by the Delhomme injury, and by some game sickness for Steve Smith; the ongoing feud with Deangelo Hall left Smith with 1 catch but with Hall's actions leading to the game winning points. Jeff King was active, and should be getting targets again this week; Keary Colbert had 3 receptions in the game, but is out for this week. Drew Carter and Dwayne Jarrett have to take the pressure off Smith. With the Falcons' rush, look for some screen action, but hopefully this time it will be executed better. Carolina can sustain drives against this defense, and should. Look for a lot of running, no matter who the QB is.


On defense, it's critical to not allow the mistakes that were made last time. Letting Roddy White have 127 yards and a score isn't acceptable in this type game, and Michael Jenkins was more productive than we can allow. The team did a solid job overall of holding Alge Crumpler despite one score last game, and haven't let TEs kill them this year overall. Coverage will be better simply by not playing Marquand Manuel, and by having Jon Beason in the middle of the defense.

Joey Harrington can't be allowed to be as efficient, and he needs to be pressured consistently. The Falcons have given up a lot of sacks, and Carolina hasn't notched many, which will have to change. Harrington's not a good quarterback, and shouldn't be allowed to notch 75% completions last time. Kris Jenkins came up with one sack, but pressure was negligible.

The Falcons' run offense is its only moderately redeeming unit, being 20th in the league where most stats are rock-bottom. Warrick Dunn is still a solid back, but Carolina held him to 55 yards last meeting and Dunn's averages have dropped this year. Jerious Norwood may not play at all due to injury.

The rest is up to the QB, whoever he may be.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Blowout; Injuries Mount

The Tennessee game was a disaster, needless to say. Special teams were special in the wrong way; the passing offense netter 6 first downs and 7 sacks. The defense, the lone bright spot, couldn't do enough by itself, and in the end, attrition meant another 100 yard rusher that didn't deserve the yards.

David Carr was awful - timid decision making was this time supplanted with holding the ball, and the sacks mounted. A well called defense, with good talent, was going to do some damage, but we let a DT sack Carr that was wrapped up in a blocker - he just fell forward, taking Carr down. Twice Carr couldn't outrun a defensive lineman, negating supposed mobility, and many more times he had to go on the run because of pressure that wouldn't have been there because the ball didn't come out in time. On the upside, he realized Steve Smith is a Panther, and threw to receivers occasionally.

The line certainly did its part, with miscommunication on a blitz, on a rolling pocket, and then on just not being prepared to take on Albert Haynesworth. Seven sacks is unacceptable, regardless of a timid QB. For their credit, the OL moved the TN front around in the first half, running solidly against the #1 rush defense in the league.


The defense held Lendale White at bay while the game was still in play, and held Vince Young to menial success for the game (and forced two interceptions). It gave up a tone-setting first drive that put us down 7-0 right off, but after that, settled down and did well.



David Carr received a concussion in the game, and will be out this week. Keary Colbert (foot), RT Jordan Gross (ankle), C Justin Hartwig (thumb), and DE Otis Grigsby (thigh) all missed time this week and are unknowns.

It's hard to say who'll start this week: Carr is out, Testaverde had practiced twice this week but couldn't practice Friday; Matt Moore took the snaps Friday and Drew Olson was promoted from the practice squad.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

V/S TN, preview

not much of an O/D breakdown this week, with gametime approaching.

The biggest concerns:
  • Find Steve Smith. After last week, Smith yelled at the staff, the QB, and a guy who as 5th WR doesn't even dress most times (Dwayne Jarrett). The guy couldn't be more amped up, and it was clear that he was frustrated. Use it. Find ways to get him the damn ball already. Meanwhile, reports about Carr simply not looking at him from locals at the game is hurting. This offense has to start running through Smith at some point, and TN's stout run defense means making something happen or losing this game.
  • Don't fret the front four. The Panthers' rush will want to be on their game, but playing desperation ball will not get the team anywhere. Young, obviously, runs well and can make things happen in space. This is also where the team struggles, and they haven't played a running QB in a while. Rucker and Peppers need to play contain.
  • It might seem counterintuitive, but it's not - blitz. Young struggled with the blitz last year, finishing 38th with 50% completion against the blitz; his yards/completion were low (dumpoffs), but the problem? Young was 2nd in the league in rushing yards off blitzes with 187. Contain behind blitz is still a solid ideal, and the biggest downfall of the idea is putting players in man over top of a running QB who'll see room to move.
  • Challenge Young in the pocket. Young was top five in the league last year in interceptions off bad decisions, and it's easier to force him into bad decisions when he's not improvising.
  • Coincidentally, David Carr is good against the blitz, or was last year. Better than Jake Delhomme (who struggled in 2006 after being very good in 2005). Hopefully, the Titans will try to tee off and let us have some easy completions.
  • Is it going to be another Feed-the-King game? Jeff King led the team with 10 receptions last week, and it looks like we might have to dump to the TE to move the ball again.
  • TN leads the league in rushing defense, and are 3rd in yards per attempt rushing (3.4). The best place to run them? There really isn't one. The Titans are 3.55 yards in the middle, and worse off tackle and off end. Albert Haynesworth is going to be the key to block. Tony Brown, a Panther until after preseason 2006, is the other starter, with something to prove this week. Kyle VandenBosch is a solid end as well, not giving up much against the run. David Thornton, a beast against the run, is a necessity to block out, and Keith Bullock on the other side has range and speed to close on the ball up front or in pursuit.
  • Even though Testaverde didn't shine toward the end of his time last week, I'm concerned if the team can be behind Carr. It's not necessarily his fault, and this team is an emotional rollercoaster willing to jump track for less than necessary. Energy to start this game will be huge after finishing off so poor last week. Hopefully, there will be something good scripted for Carr, and he'll get the chance to have some things scripted to get comfortable.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

A First Drive, Then A Defeat

  • That first drive against Indy was magical. While absolutely no big plays, we saw a bunch of variances in formation, few mistakes, a few tricks, and we always found a way to move the chains. The inside run was there, Vinny was making the throws. He and Hoover each made it as ballcarriers, gaining 6 yards each; Foster gained 17, Williams gained 8 - 37 yards rushing.
Violating the middle of the Colts' defense, and attacking the corners of the pass defense behind their elite ends, the Panthers were ramming it down their throats. If not for the fumble by Robinson, and the INT by Testaverde, we'd have led 14-0 midway in the 2nd. Even with the bomb to Wayne and the Addai TD, we'd have had a touchdown lead going in. With the 3rd quarter fumble that should've been a boost,

Maybe it was just a matter of time. You're not going to hold Peyton Manning scoreless, and he was taking deep shots in the first half, waiting on one to show. Was it going to be luck? Maybe, but they're too good to just be lucky. Inevitably, a few deep balls would connect, and we had to respond. We just didn't. And even with the momentum, the upper hand, we were making mistakes.

Overall positives - we stopped Freeney (Colts had 0 sacks) and Dwight Clark/Utecht overall, and were limiting Addai until the game got out of hand.
The middle of the defense was respectable in pass coverage, though 133 yards rushing is obviously not good enough.

Overwhelming negatives:
  • We can't stop the #1 receiver. Reggie Wayne was covered, but we didn't contest, for the most part, and he made plays with just one step. With Harrison out, why not more attention on him? Just as with the Houston game, with Andre Johnson lighting us up, we didn't stop the most aggressive option on the field, which is critical for this defense.
  • Carr plays far too safe, and Vinny's hurt. Carr almost got Jeff King hurt, and it ended up hurting DB Marlin Jackson (a weakness we obviously didn't flaunt). Nonetheless, he fed King and didn't bother with the receivers, the only way we'd get back in the game. It doesn't appear the team has confidence in Carr, even if the staff does.

Targets (each QB had a half, Testaverde had 20 att, Carr 25)
Steve Smith - Vinny 6 (3 deep, 0 caught; 2 catches total), Carr 1 (not caught).
Jeff King - Vinny (4, caught 3/19), Carr (19, 7 caught for 63 and a fumble)
Keary Colbert - Vinny 5 (3 caught, one INT at goal), Carr 2 (1 caught)
Drew Carter - Carr 1 (caught)
Christian Fauria - Vinny 1 (caught)
D. Williams - Vinny 4 (3 caught), Carr 3 (3 caught)

Carr just isn't looking downfield. 25 attempts, no sacks, but 4 looks at WRs. No shots downfield. Also, while he hit all of his 3rd down attempts (and a 4th down), only one third and one fourth down attempt made the first down. Execution is fine, but make something happen out there. At this point, Carr would need to be bolstered by an incredible team effort, as opposed to him earning his own keep. With Testaverde banged up, Carr will have to be better than he is right now for us to go anywhere.


Also:
  • If Geoff Hangartner is going to insist on settling under kicks, people will keep kicking it short right at him. If he's going to be out there, he needs to be ready to do so and stop running like a timid hippo.
  • What's happening to Ken Lucas and Richard Marshall? In my opinion, thought to be our two best corners, Lucas and Marshall each got burned this week badly. Maybe Chris Gamble is, in fact, the best of the three. Gamble is a free agent after 2008, giving us this year and next year to consider whether he's good enough to keep over Marshall, signed through 2009, or whether to dump Lucas, the expensive of the three, who's signed through 2010 at a premium rate.
  • With Curtis Deloatch making some plays right before getting hurt, that's a loss. He was a solid special teamer, as well. In the time since cutting Jared Bush, at the time our 5th corner but still a very promising backup in 2006, we've lost Reggie Howard to family issues, Ken Lucas to herb supplements and Chris Gamble to a groin (both of which cost them games) , Dante Wesley to an ACL, Deloatch to an ACL, and now have also run through Derrick Strait and a host of others replacing him, now going with
  • Ryne Robinson broke one good punt, his first realistically decent punt, and it was called back for holding that helped precipitate the return. Robinson may develop, but when you hand the job to a guy you expect him to do it. He can't return punts well, he's awful at kick returns, and now we're having to use Williams to return kicks with Nick Goings out.
  • We look so much better scripting plays than just making those decisions. We're vanilla without planning, but Davidson's scripts are good stuff. We need to script every opening series, and have some idea what we're going to do after.