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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

CB Battle Profile

Cornerback came in with plenty of need - with requirements of upgrading at both nickel and left CB - here's a basic idea of what Carolina is dealing with:

#20 Chris Gamble – As a formality, here’s Chris Gamble (6’1, 200).   Gamble’s rock solid pair of performances in 2010-2011 (despite his comments to get benched) once again leave him the team’s top CB, and a player who some believe could receive Pro Bowl credability should it continue.  His 27 INT are a team record, though his last two years show a relative lack of targets and few interceptions.   Gamble’s main weakness is his missed tackling, a problem for the team in general as well.

#41 Captain Munnerlyn – The incumbent (5’9, 185).  Munnerlyn enters year four a lot less comfortable than when he showed up in camp last year – having more or less been given the other CB job, having also had a good 2010 playing on the outside while Richard Marshall played the slot.  Munnerlyn himself struggled in Marshall’s role and had to give up punt returning.  A good football player who may or may not be able to handle a full game of coverage, Munnerlyn does a decent job at tackling, blitzing (2 sacks last year), does most of the little things right, but he’s the least able to match up against the big receivers in this division.

Munnerlyn’s in a contract year, has already released a statement that he’s not giving up the job, and is the most experienced candidate for the other starting spot.  He won’t magically grow, and it will be tough to find a guy who can do the little things as well as he can out of the below contenders, but it’s still an obstacle that he’s not taller or more able to match up.

#21 Brandon Hogan (5’10, 190) – a physical, somewhat smart (on the field), and very talented corner, Hogan’s taken a rough course to get here.  Suspension, DUI, and a still-fresh ACL injury were part of his portfolio when drafted at the top of the 4th last year.  He received immense credit for a play against the Texans in which he rode a bigger receiver out of bounds, and since the receiver didn’t immediately establish himself back in play, that player’s catch was overturned.  It was a heady play, but one play.  Hogan can play in man or zone, and is a bargain in the 4th round if you discount that he couldn’t play last year.  He’s the most likely contender, and probably the most talented outside of Gamble, but he still has to show it on the field, as he’s essentially an incoming rookie.

Darius Butler (5’10, 183) – A former 2nd rounder (2009, out of Connecticut), Butler was cut after two years as a Patriot, and picked up by Carolina while in need.  Butler had solid play as a Patriot, but was still cut by the DB-needy team in camp in 2011.  As a waiver pickup, Butler saw extensive time (detail how much) on the outside.  Butler has done a good job of staying with his man and has greate speed and athleticism, but doesn’t always play the ball well.

Josh Norman (6’0.5, 200) – the Coastal Carolina star is a rookie, coming in through the 5th round though many (myself included) felt he was a higher rated player.  He slipped somewhat due to a slower 4.55 40 time, and his lower level of competition.  Norman always attacks the ball high in the air, has good ball skills, long arms, and is a player Carolina will want to develop into an outside corner.  The only question is how quickly that would happen.

Josh Thomas (5’10, 190).  The University of Buffalo star was a draft pick with Dallas in 2011, claimed by Carolina.  Thomas barely saw the field, and will get camp to see if he can show enough to be a reserve.

The solution?
Naturally, competition should settle through a lot of the questions.  But, you’d assume Carolina has Hogan in position to succeed first.   The easiest thing may be to see where Hogan can contribute, and start working him there.  Does he start out as an outside guy, or a slot guy? Whatever he can handle, I’d put Munnerlyn at the other spot. I wouldn’t want either player handling some of each, as easy as it might be to say that Hogan is the better outside guy so Munnerlyn starts and moves to the slot when needed.

Munnerlyn likely succeeds more if he’s given a role and sticks with it, and isn’t relied as heavily to do everything.  And that would likely go for the younger guys, most of which seem like outside players.   It’s just up to one to show enough starting ability to beat the Scrappin Cap’n and put him on the bench.
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