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Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Position Spotlight, Week 1

I want to make this a quarterly thing – so here’s a baseline coming out of preseason. Instead of basing it on games that don’t matter, I’ll discuss talent level and depth instead of performance, along with a somewhat arbitrary letter grade based on nothing but how things look on paper.

QB – Carolina’s fine here.  Cam Newton’s the guy, Derek Anderson is the necessary solid backup.  Team kept Jimmy Clausen, and it’d be nice to see a week 4 trade of the goober so they’ll have room for someone else. Status: Improvement. Grade, B+ with room depending on interceptions.

RB – Can’t ask for anything better out of this group.  Not going to waste time on it. Grade, A+.

TE – Greg Olsen has high expectations.  Gary Barnidge is an effective clone.  Ben Hartsock could block better for a blocking specialist, but I guess they need one around since the other two aren’t blockers at all (being 6’6 and 245 doesn’t bode well for strength or pad level even if they had better technical ability). Status: improvement, for Barnidge’s health. Grade, B

WR – Still the Steve Smith show here, but Brandon LaFell has grown and there’s no way Louis Murphy isn’t an upgrade over Legedu Naanee.  SO there’s growth.  The rest depends on how Murphy and 4th guy Kealoha Pilares are used in the deep game, but there’s a lot of potential here that wasn’t there coming out of last camp. Status: Improvement. Grade, B-.

OL – There’s a lot of variance.  Amini Silatolu is definitely an upgrade over Travelle Wharton in the run game, and in pass protection he can be good, but often can be catastrophic.  Team knows more about Byron Bell and there’s some growth there. Geoff Hangartner grew into the RG role over time, so the right side has improved.  Having Mike Pollak as the top interior backup, and Bruce Campbell as the 3rd tackle, is a big improvement over last year’s depth. Status: Improvement. Grade, B- with most of it hanging on the rookie.

Offense Overall – more weapons, more depth than last year. B+.

DT – Just having Ron Edwards healthy should make things better – having an experienced under tackle in Dwan Edwards should mean some gap integrity, and hopefully one solid interior rusher.  Frank Kearse and Andre Neblett (currently suspended, of course) improved things over time; it’s up to Sione Fua to see if he’s done same.  Status: Improvement. Grade, C+.

DE – This has much improved depth from this time last year – starting the season with Thomas Keiser as a practice squadder, and without Antwan Applewhite, meant this unit didn’t have much going for it.  Charles Johnson got hurt, and Greg Hardy wore down over time; Applewhite, Keiser, and rookie Frank Alexander should help in depth, but the key part is on the starters.  Status: Even.  Grade: C+ until one of the starters looks more like their antcipated production.

LB – Having four starters instead of two is a massive difference.  No reason to go further into it.  Status: massive improvement. Grade,A+.

CB – Improvement shows based on Josh Norman, but now the real work begins.   Not having Brandon Hogan right now hurts.

S – potential is down, but this should be a much more sound squad.  Haruki Nakamura tackling well and getting to the right spot should be more important than Sherrod Martin’s lack of doing so, assuming other starter Charles Godfrey can improve and start making some plays.  Martin is better depth than what’s ever been behind him when he was a starter.  Status: Improvement, Grade: C+ based on Nakamura’s limitations and whether Godfrey can remember to play the ball.

Defense – more depth, and they may actually implement a real scheme this year.  Improvement, but with a massive air of uncertainty.  C+.

Kick specialists: Young.   The problem with the older guys became the inability to do what they should’ve.  Now, the team has two young guys who should be consistent, but have some limitations – whether kicker Justin Medlock is up to the pressure, and whether Brad Nortman can do anything besides outkick his coverage.   Status: Incomplete, grade: incomplete.  Beats failure.

Special teams units: more potential, but still raggedy.  Units gave up a number of special teams touchdowns, some of them just didn’t technically count.  Status: disarray.  Grade: D.
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