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Saturday, May 3, 2008

Two DT Added; Changes In Scheme Overblown

The Panthers added Darwin Walker and Ian Scott, two of the four DTs that I stated may be pre-draft signings. Turns out, they were put on hold for post-draft contracts, and for good reason. While I disagreed with most on the state of DT (the view: Lewis and/or Kemoeatu aren't good enough to start, therefore we need a starter; my view: they are our starters, we just need depth), I'm glad that they didn't reach for a DT or DE.

Walker, who apparently turned down a deal with Carolina earlier in the offseason, takes a one year deal now so he can play anywhere. As an Eagle, he was a terror, but as a Bear he was injured and inconsistent.

He'll be on the field on third down, and more if he can earn it, but given his money issues and his agent's continual pursuing of the best dollar around, Walker will probably be gone again next year. Walker was in Buffalo only in theory - he was traded there but didn't report. I'm OK with his money grubbing, because I believe next year we'll have a much better idea of our current quartet has worked and who needs to stay. If Walker earns a start, we pay him, but in the meantime we need a mercenary for a year to try to get this line back to form.

Scott, as a run stopper, is another Eagle and Bear; his pedigree is less flashy than Walker's, but he has experience and ability. Chances are, these two will be given the first shots at the backup jobs, and they'll find a way to keep Nick Hayden, assuming each of them earn that ability.

Minicamp Update 1: Defensive Alignment

Fairly exciting news out of minicamp out of our defense includes the idea that every one of our DL spots have been reshuffled (meaning, of course, that all 9 line spots on offense and defense are new starters in either position or team). Key in that is Julius Peppers to right end, where he'll be on the blind side. Peppers was effective in the role late in 2006 in Mike Rucker's absence, and it should allow him to more

On the other side, the bulky and less talented ends will anchor the run and try to get a little rush in: Tyler Brayton and Charles Johnson fit in there. There's not much rush here right now, though Johnson may have developed in the offseason. In the middle, it looks like Maake Kemoeatu is taking Kris Jenkins' spot in the lineup instead of his own, and Damione Lewis becomes the left tackle starter.

Over-blowing the Nose

One thing being consistently stated in minicamp is that Kemoeatu is now a nosetackle. While some correctly state that this would remain a one-gap, 1970s Steelers/1990s Buccaneers style NT, people tend to think this will be a two gap, 3-4 style NT.

Here's the deal: Kris Jenkins often played against the center. Remember him jumping offsides? He did that more at a NT style alignment than anywhere else. Jenkins almost always lined up on the weakside shoulder of the C, or same on LG, and shot that gap. It didn't make him "the NT" or the other player an under-tackle. The two DTs were just DTs, and that's all they'll be now, too. It really doesn't make a difference.

Kemoeatu was a backup NT in Baltimore, but when he started, it was in Rex Ryan's defense, not Mike Nolan's. Ryan got him on the field, where he was in an even-front 4-3.

Minicamp Update #2:

Starters of note:
Muhsin Muhammad (DJ Hackett was behind Steve Smith)
Dante Rosario (King 2nd)
Ryan Kalil (Hangartner backing)
Keydrick Vincent (at RG: Fonoti was 2nd, and Milford Brown backed Wharton)
Jeremy Bridges (at RT: since Otah was out).
Charles Godfrey (at FS: with Holt behind him; Salley was backing SS)

Godfrey's being penciled in at FS from the first moment is a critical change. This is the first time since Chris Gamble that a rookie DB came into camp with a job he didn't have to earn; we'll see whether that holds, but he's more talented than his competition, and the incumbent remains unsigned (which shouldn't change, though hopefully Deke does get a job somewhere).

Bridges going back to OT is interesting, but without Otah in a helmet it's hard to say whether that's permanent, and whether Otah is penciled in or has to fight for it.

Also, with Evan Mathis not making the two-deep even with Otah out, it's worth continuing to wonder why they put RFA money into him. He makes more than the two backups at G, and now they have both Otah and Schwartz at guard to develop. So why pay Mathis roughly a million to be a camp body?

Muhammad's first-string insertion isn't a surprise to the team, but seems to be for media and fans. The hype on DJ Hackett is finally receding from critical mass, but the more important thing to remember is how much the team values Muhammad on every down, not just passing downs, and that Hackett is very much the opposite: a guy only useful on passing downs.

Rosario's is a surprise to me: He's the better player, but he's not a better blocker. And when "the other guy" is Jeff King, it's hard to be a worse blocker. But, he's a more explosive player with more athleticism, and maybe he'll improve the blocking.
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