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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Carolina Cuts Mare, Harris

Carolina continued to get younger, dropping 39 year old Olindo Mare as kicker and veteran Nick Harris as punter.  So, for now (and subject to change, as this is definitely not official until it’s official), the kicker is Justin Medlock, and the punter is rookie Brad Nortman.

Medlock (5’11, 200 lb) was a 5th round pick for the Chiefs out of UCLA after being first team All PAC-10, and a consensus All-American in his senior year.  As a Chief, he only hit 3 of 6 FG in preseason, and signed a veteran out of camp.  Similarly, he signed with the Rams the upcoming year and lost out to Josh Brown.  He turned to the CFL, and had stints with the Toronto Argonauts and various other teams, before coming to Carolina, where he out-kicked Mare.

Mare himself was a terrible choice based on sound ideals.  A fantastic kickoff guy, Mare was signed to a 4 year deal before the team dropped John Kasay – essentially the team’s patron saint, and original Panther from day 1 – under the idea that he’d take both roles.   It came with, unfortunately, $12 million of revenue, some of which will count against next year. He was, as promised, a fantastic kickoff guy who didn’t deliver on field goals.  It didn’t work out, so at least Carolina didn’t prolong the inevitable with another year of sticking it out.

Whether the replacement is Medlock, or someone else, is harder to say.   Medlock has been fantastic at times on long field goals, and no less accurate overall than Mare, though the goal is to be better.  His kickoff range is fine, but his consistency isn’t – his short kickoff is a major cause of the Trindon Holliday touchdown v/s Houston.  Medlock has the ability, but up to now hasn’t been able to stick.  Time will tell if he’s won the job, or just hasn’t lost it yet.

On the other end, draftee Brad Nortman seems to have a stronger hold on his job.  A strong legged punter, Nortman got excellent hang time and distance on his kicks, but worked on ball placement as well over camp.  As one of the team’s draft picks from this year, he outpaced the veteran Harris, who had been replaced by 3rd rounder Brian Anger earlier in the offseason by Jacksonville.

Personally, I feared they’d go with the safer veterans, but have gone with what appears to be the better talent.   I’m also a bit surprised the team didn’t wait another week for the move, and instead chose to sit at 75 players to divine the difference between the 2nd and 3rd string in their entirety.

Other Cuts, Moves

Carolina made some choices in the kicking game today, but also made other moves to get from 90 players to 75:
*WR David Gettis stays on the PUP list, limiting his chances to participate until week 6;
*CB Brandon Hogan’s ongoing knee puts him on injured reserve;
*Releasing 4th round DE Eric Norwood
*Last year and older undrafted players released:  WR Darvin Adams, RB Josh Vaughan;
*Current undrafted players released: WRs Rico Wallace, Brenton Bersin, Michael Avila; RB Lyndon Rowells; TE Greg Smith; OL Will Blackwell, Roger Allen

Interesting that RB Armond Smith has made it so far; he’s likely to take a big role in the upcoming 4th preseason game. 4th TE Joe Jon Finley will inevitably make it through a lot of reps this upcoming week to find himself out a few days later.

Letting Norwood go continues to tarnish the pre-2011 draft record for Carolina; Norwood as a 4th rounder was highly touted, and I’m still surprised he didn’t do any better in the hybrid scheme under Ron Rivera. He seemed made for it, but just didn’t pick things up in the new scheme.  This time last year, he had a shot at a starting role, and couldn’t pull it in.

So far, all the safeties have made it.  Clearly, Charles Godfrey, Haruki Nakamura, and the recently displaced Sherrod Martin will make it; but, the team may only keep 1 from amongst Reggie Smith, Jordan Pugh, and DJ Campbell.  Smith is the veteran, and he played the ball well this past week; he’s been somewhat invisible, however, for a starting-level player with the 2s.  Pugh is active, but still makes a lot of mistakes; Campbell isn’t a guy I’ve even noticed so far.

At corner, the top 3 are essentially solved; it appears that the remaining will come from Josh Thomas (last year’s defacto 3rd guy), Darius Butler, or RJ Stanford.  The least of these will probably be cut.  At LB, Nixon and Wilson appear destined to make it no further than this week; Kenny Onatolu may make the team but has to get healthy.

On the OL, struggling linemen Garry Williams and Jeff Byars get another day.  Williams may still make the roster. Bryant Browning, Matt Reynolds, Justin Wells hang on as well; that group likely battles for the last 2 line spots.

It will be interesting, as Jonathan Stewart rehabs the ankle sprain and Mike Tolbert deals with a minor knick as well, what happens with fringe players Ben Hartsock and Richie Brockel.

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