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Sunday, March 27, 2011

Rivera Talking All The Time

When Jerry Richardson talked about the new coach being "what they want" instead of just "what the coach wants", it appears offense wasn't the only thing on their mind.

Being more media friendly has to be part of it. Rivera, quoted plenty as a player and assistant coach, is popping up everywhere. From commenting on new Eagles DC Juan Castillo, to going on Profootballtalk live to talk about free agents, he's been on the clock as a media quotable since being hired.

It makes sense, since he came from TV before coaching. A GM that came from news couldn't have missed that. But, it's also a stark change from the last guy, who did a lot of doublespeak and dismissed media often.

The problem? local media isn't picking it up. There's not a regular discussion with Rivera, and yet Rivera's still talking.

Rivera went on NFL Live on ESPN this week, talking about how he felt Marcel Dareus is the better player between he and Nick Fairley. Some suggest the smokescreen was in play, stating he raved more about Fairley. Still, I can say with certainty, no Panthers coach has openly discussed player ratings with media.

Then, he discussed the idea that Patrick Peterson isn't a bad choice at #1 just because he's a CB:

the thing is, though, the local media isn't touching it. None of this has made what should be the top source about what the team might do, which has apparently chosen to be on the sidelines. No wonder Rivera's talking to other sources.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Clausen Press

It's been an interesting week for heir-apparent of the moment Jimmy Clausen, sitting back and watching the press pick any of various quarterbacks for his team. He recently returned from the Bahamas, and curiously, retweeted a motivational statement from someone who isn't actually Beyonce Knowles.!/jimmyclausen

I'll spare analysis of whether it's better that Clausen would unknowingly retweet a Beyonce impersonator, did it knowingly, or follows either the real or fake thing. It's all suspect.

At any rate, Ron Rivera says Clausen got too much blame, in one of the least encouraging ways to support a young quarterback.

Marty Hurney was more encouraging:

So will they replace him?

It's obviously more complicated than that. First, Clausen won't be leaving, unless he's traded. There's apparently a market for him still, though they'll never get back that mid-2nd round pick.

They need a veteran anyway, so it's not a matter of who will play right now. That's the amazing thing, that you have to learn from last year's debacle and understand all this quarterback talk is talk. Whoever plays next year most likely won't be among the group being discussed.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

More Newton Fodder

I hate to hammer on Cam Newton, but even as he seemingly falls (at least
in internet rankings), advocating for him becomes greater in the community.

I'd love the opportunity to get the average Newton supporter one on one, no audience to impress. Tell me more about his accuracy - we know his mechanics aren't great. Tell me more about his pocket presence - we know he can run, but while he's the type who could force rushers to slide off him, can he just slide in the pocket and get the ball out without the concerns?

Tell me more about him reading defenses - our offense is a deep-to-short offense. Can he read the defense, check down if needed? Tell me more about his release. Is it lightning fast? Tell me all about his footwork. His feet are fast, but can he get in his drops, quickly, consistently? Can he transfer his weight to the front foot and power into his release?

I have concerns about all of those questions. We know he's athletic and has a big arm, and those two attributes are secondary to the above questions - in that order, as my opinion stands, on any quarterback. So why bother the average fan? Because hammering the internet daily on a crusade for a player should, in my opinion, come with some knowledge.

Make no mistake, I don't think Blaine Gabbert is really it, either. He looks the part, but doesn't have many positives over Newton, and didn't have as good a season last year. He's a measurables QB, too - high wonderlic, tall, big - and while he's a better pro prospect for bust potential, he's got a long way to go, too. And the ceiling doesn't seem as high - he panics a bit in the pocket, he doesn't have a lot of productivity. If tape is what you go by, and it should be, Newton does
win that battle despite horrendous mechanics that won't fix themselves quickly.

And that's the problem. I don't know who fits. I don't like either at #1. I'd prefer neither, but would at least feel better about a trade down if we had to do this. The alternatives, without a free agency session before the draft, aren't great (and 2012 doesn't offer more hope). There could be a feeling inside Mint St that we need to pay the price while we have the capital, regardless of the downside.

PA offered 2010 rollback

The aftermath of last Friday's eventual NFLPA decertification and NFL lockout won't be fully known for months, if not years. I'm squarely behind the owners in this one (2006 deal was bad, and the owners still tried right up to the end; the PA didn't really deal and then made outrageous demands before cutting things off), but the PA did offer one suggestion I've stated they should do - roll things back to 2010 rules.

2010 rules would ensure football through 2011, and a 2012 draft. Those two are critical to the survival of the league, and two things they don't currently have. Carolina, specifically, would benefit from being able to work out now, installing the offense and defense to a ton of new, young players.

2010 rules would also give teams a lot of things they've prepared for -
a franchise tag and restricted free agency (extended to 4th and 5th year players). It would allow Carolina up to a full year to retain long term deals with Deangelo Williams, Charles Johnson, and so on; it would give them players like James Anderson and Richard Marshall at low-rent one year deals, allowing time to work younger players into roles.

But, 2010 didn't have the rookie wage scale. That seemed to be settled, but I don't know how easily that would've ported into rules that otherwise would remain unchanged, and under the idea that the rookie scale was to push benefits to other entities. Without a rookie pay scale, Carolina would've grossly overpaid for a #1 overall rookie, unable to dish the deal off.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Lockout; Marcell Dareus

The NFL is apparently officially locked out. Given that the players' association doesn't exist, but what's left of it will have to fight the lockout - and then antitrust after - there will not be free agency before the draft.

That changes the NFL's landscape of how it will go about picking the new players - most teams expecting free agency won't have the luxury, and no team will have the luxury of knowing whether they'll get to keep anyone (Carolina, for instance, could go from having two free agents to 25+, depending on whether 2010 rules or more traditional FA rules apply).

I haven't talked much about the draft yet, and so far most of the info has surrounded quarterbacks - Andrew Luck when available, and Cam Newton adversely taking that space, right or wrong. At 90% of the time since December started, I've been against taking a quarterback. That's not meant to be a ringing endorsement of Jimmy Clausen, as much as it is a lack of great options. A veteran is needed anyway, so despite the want, you can't reach for an ill-fitting malcontent like Newton.

I can come up with valid reasons to not choose any number of various players, and rarely many reasons otherwise. It's harder to say what I'd do. So what would I do?

I'd pick Marcell Dareus, as of right now. He's not really worse than Nick Fairley, who entered the offseason higher, and has a lot smaller downside and more versatility. But does that mean he's not explosive? Not at all. He doesn't have the higher ceiling Fairley does, but he's better, has been better, and probably will be better long term.

Since most people only saw Fairley in the national championship game this year, consider where Fairley was last year when Dareus was in that championship - winning defensive MVP, returning an INT for a TD and knocking Colt McCoy out of the game. Fairley, like most, watched from home, but not as an Auburn player, as a community college player. Fairley's been more explosive, and for longer.

And, he fits into the pro multiple defense, as I explained in an earlier post. DaQuan Bowers is a left end, Robert Quinn a right end. Fairley is a 3-technique DT. Dareus can play even-front DT, nose, 3-technique under tackle, 5-technique (3-4 DE, lining up on the OT), and in a pinch, 4-3 DE. He's a fluid athlete that can pursue down the line, but has the strength and body type to be disruptive against the run as well.

And it fits a need. Dareus would be the versatile Richard Seymour type player you need in a pro multiple defense, a true 3-down DL, that would round out the power needed in the new defense. An offensive player would be great, if the right one's there, but better to hit on a huge need with a great player than reach for a lesser one.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Decertification And You

With Jeremy Shockey, the Panthers picked up the last free agent before labor unrest officially came due.

With the NFLPA decertifying, they may be bookending Shockey with the next player assigned in the league. There won't be free agency before the draft with decertification.

Decertification means the NFLPA gave up. In my opinion, the league gave a good stab at the last offer, the PA wouldn't budge, and decertification makes them look unwilling to continue to work. Here's more on decertification itself:

and here's the last offer the league gave:

If they go the hardcore litigation route, there won't be free agency before the draft.

Otherwise, there'll be 2010 rules, which means the team can choose to keep almost their entire team together through restricted free agency.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Shockey's Impact on Future FAs

it looks like Jeremy Shockey's deal is essentially half guaranteed:

Base Salary is $3,000,000, 1/3 of which is guaranteed (paid now). There's also a roster bonus of $812,500, which he'll certainly achieve anyway, since they're almost certainly not going to cut him before the season.

$3.8 million isn't excessive for a one year rental of a guy of this ability.

The guarantees are interesting, though he would inevitably get all that money within the year anyway.

The Pro Multiple Defense

Watched the Chargers tape of dismantling the Colts from 2010, to get an idea for our offense and defense. I imagine I'll have more later, but the biggest thing I received from this was that Rivera didn't really run a 3-4 last year - he ran a pro multiple - and I take him very seriously (now) about him doing so now.

The 3-4 questions come from sportswriters with very short memory. I, of longer memory, assumed 4-3 - the Tampa 2 will be represented, but so would the Jim Johnson defense. While those will undoubtedly be the case, after watching the 3-4 in action I have no doubts we'll use some of that, too.

Two reasons. One, fairly simply, is that the SLB blitzes enough in the Jim Johnson defense, and from the edge, that it resembles one anyway, and two, because Rivera adapts.

Watching the Colts/Chargers game, it was clear that he was doing what a 4-3 team had done to them. Three weeks before that for Indy was Philly, and new Panthers coordinator Sean McDermott did a great job taking Peyton Manning on - The Eagles won by two points in a game they forced Manning into 2 INT and 3 sacks (the last of which was the most IND gave up all year). Rivera openly states he copied McDermott's gameplan even though NE's 3-4 and KC's 3-4 both were successful as well.

In that game, Rivera did run 3-4 fronts, and his personnel essentially was all 3-4. But he commonly threw four-man fronts at Manning, still zone blitzing much of the time. Nickel fronts were the Johnson-style 3-3. The 4-man lines typically included a stand-up end from the 3-4 OLB, to adjust to personnel.

So a man of his word. A pro multiple defense.

Not many run it - Seifert used it in the 80s, Belichick used it until recently. Most teams never touch it, despite watching teams with an opposing defensive philosophy do well on game tape v/s a mutual opponent.

Most can't run it - 3-4 is most often two-gap, 4-3 one-gap. Even though most 4-3 teams do run an odd-front, their nosetackle is certainly not the same - a penetrating gap-splitter instead of the two-gap's plugger. Rivera inherited an oddity in SD - Wade Phillips' one-gap 3-4, which doesn't require 320 lb+ two-gappers. It requires larger OLB, sure, but otherwise, the 5 inside guys aren't all that different.

so, having to run a 3-4, he adapted. A Pro Multiple, made able with one-gap personnel. You can go from Tampa 2 to Jim Johnson looks fairly easily already, but you can add in the 3-4.

I really have no idea why more teams don't give these looks. A team lining up in essentially the same front play after play, week after week, is very basic compared to what the offense does. There's more room to adjust in a defense that can give you any of ten looks with different players in different places.

With more and more options to look for chinks in the Rivera armor, the more he means what he states. We will have a lot of looks on defense, and with it will come tons of pressure. Hard to argue with that.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Shockey Signed

Carolina signed Jeremy Shockey to a one year deal Thursday, in a move that definitely changed the way Carolina has operated and may signal more to come.

Shockey, 30, has five pro bowls and two Super Bowl rings, most recently with the Saints. Emergence of rookie Jimmy Graham made him expendable, and his receptions and TDs had started to decline. Nonetheless, he's a weapon.

It looks like this regime made good on their promise to change the TE position, as well as apparently changing business on Mint Street in general. The one year deal is significant - not because it'll be big money (it's not, most likely), or long term (we know it's a one year rental). It's a tight end, a real one. They last had one in 2002, when Wesley Walls was tailing off. It would've been smart to at least use him in 2003 as a 2nd TE, but instead cut him, and the John Fox era would rarely hear from the position again.

So, here, a decade later, it's an honest to God tight end again. It's a guy with some deep speed, size, and a hell of a blocker. It'll remain to be seen if he can keep his attitude in check, keep himself healthy, and keep from getting punched by Steve Smith.

As for business on Mint St? This is the first real free agent signing since 2008 - and that featured low dollar high value veterans, not stars. Shockey is a star, regardless of his age or recent value on the market. Last year saw the purge of almost anyone over 30, and here we are with a guy over 30 (and with Super Bowl rings - to keep Ron Rivera from being the only one in the building with one, I guess).

Hopefully, this will work. Hopefully, we'll look back on this in October fondly. It was the first real step in showing that they're serious: that they want to throw the ball, and well; that they can and will spend.