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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

A side effect of the uproar that Panthers GM Dave Gettleman, inevitably facing this level of scrutiny for the first time, received by calling on coach Ron Rivera and QB Cam Newton to win?

It's the first time the team has breached the topic of Newton's contract.

Gettleman's comments were haphazard.  They were, honestly, somewhat foolish, even if in some form they state the obvious.  Rivera and Newton are in what you'd consider contract years; finishing year 3 for both, Rivera has a year left, and that's almost always when you decide if you're going to move forward.  Newton is able to start negotiating a deal after this season thanks to the new CBA that preludes him from doing so prior to then.

Newton could be held to his current deal, a 4 year base deal that has a 5th year option that's essentially a franchise tag.  Year 6, of course, could be a real franchise tag.   Compare that to quarterbacks who are routinely charging more for every starting contract signed (Matt Stafford recently extended for $53 million over 3 years; Aaron Rodgers will make between 105 and 130 million in 5 years), and the franchise tag gives you everything except security.

At any rate, more than what Gettleman does with Rivera, or what happens with anyone else, that contract is the most critical situation the franchise faces.  And they've finally decided to mention that.

Still No Movement With Vets

Carolina brought in a few veterans recently - notably, G Travelle Wharton and S Quintin Mikell, both of which have experience in their respective units' schemes and coaches.

But no moves have been made.

So far, there's room for Mike Mitchell to succeed at safety, and recent fluff pieces suggest it could be happening.   There are no fluff pieces on the right side of the Panthers' OL, and the team has no depth at all.  So maybe Wharton wouldn't be a bad idea.

Brandon Moore, the best guard available and a guy with right side experience, is reportedly retiring.  I missed where Eric Winston is a Cardinal now, too.   So the options are starting to dry up.

The team might have a shot at Wharton or Mikell as needed in the next few days, maybe even weeks.  I'm sure there's a part of the camp hustle that the pair of 32 year old players won't miss.  But with over ten million left in cap room, nothing's happening.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Rosario Out: Pianalto In

Nelson Rosario, a project from last year at WR that bulked up to 245 lbs to play TE, has been released. UNC alum Zach Pianalto is his replacement.

Pianalto, a 6'4 end from the 2011 draft class, was undrafted; he made the Bills' 53 man roster for a few days, spent most of that season with the Buccaneers, and went through the offseason with the Steelers.

The book is out on Pianalto - some find him marginal, some find him having had a fantastic college career that constant injury hampered from being incredible.  He seems to be a passable blocker and receiver in my book, but isn't anything spectacular athletically.

With the 3rd TE spot up for grabs, Rosario was apparently not making ground.  Former Oregon star Brandon Williams, whose career was altered significantly by an auto accident, might have the early lead for the 3rd spot, but the team likes the versatile Richie Brockel as well.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Camp Underway

Training camp is exciting. It's where most of the information about
the team seems to come, honestly. The downside? So much of it's

You have the fluff pieces from the local media, for one. It's
essentially that time again, you have a story about where Steve Smith is
(he's awesome), the yearly story about how a formerly disappointing wide
receiver looks fantastic (the Keary Colbert-Dwayne Jarrett-Armanti
Edwards stories need minimal change, especially since the statistics
don't change much either).

And, you get hundreds of tweets about a single data point in a player's
practice history. Observations are great, even untrained eyes. If I
were there, I'd be the same way, so consider that if anyone's reading
this amongst the rapid-fire tweeters.

But nonetheless, I'd caution against putting long term implications on
players based on what was said in a couple tweets. Or who lined up
where for a couple snaps.

It's tough not to do it. I know a single disastrous snap in a real
game can damage a fringe player significantly. I know a small success
in a game for a hopeful player can be a great start toward full-on
success. But it's just one data point. Even less, honestly, if it
happens in the early stages of camp.

The truth is, I've only really seen a handful of examples of being
really fantastic in training camp and fan expectation turning into
realistic production - and those guys tend to be undrafteds that
happened to far exceed expectation. Fred Lane is an incredible example
- but for every Lane, there's a hundred big receivers that were going to
be the next Muhsin Muhammad, before Moose left - after he left, and
after he came back. Same Moose, and a hundred guys who looked awesome
facing the same cornerback day in and day out, and couldn't do anything
on a real field.

As well, don't forget - one guy's success is another's failure. When
you're on the practice field, someone's failure is your teammate's.
It's not a terrible sign if Greg Hardy's killing it out there, but that
naturally means the line isn't doing their job either.

So, temper expectations. It's so fantastic just to have football -
maybe we can verbally end careers later in preseason.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Stewart, Beason out for a while; Wharton Visits

It appears that the injury bug, as camp starts, isn't completely gone.

Jon Beason has some lingering issues from knee surgery that will
require him to miss at least part of training camp. Jonathan Stewart,
who had ankle surgery on both ankles, reports that the left ankle is now
healed; the right one, not as much.

Beason has been terminally unhealthy since signing his 5 year, $51
million contract in 2011; maybe the recent restructure will bring better
luck. I don't have numbers on what the restructure means, yet.

Stewart's backup plan is clear; obviously, Deangelo Williams, Mike
Tolbert, Tauren Poole, and Kenjon Barner will suffice for a moment or
two. For Beason, the team has put work into LB; it appears that, in
preseason, you'd have Chase Blackburn playing more initially and coming
off the field. No idea what will happen with both Beason and Thomas
Davis on the field, as far as nickel coverage; but, for now, that won't
matter without him available.

Former Panthers G/T Travelle Wharton visited Charlotte this week, and
has apparently canceled a trip to Denver. Former Panthers coaches John
Fox and position coack John Matsko are installed there; no information
was available as to how the Panthers visit went, or why the Broncos trip
was canceled.

With a lot of teams coming to camp right now, it wouldn't be
inconceivable to see the team make a move for an inexpensive veteran if
possible at a spot or two; Wharton and S Quintin Mikell seem the obvious

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

PFF Rates Our Starters

I thought this interesting enough to post.  I can argue with it - but a lot of the argument comes within unknowns.  I can't really complain I don't like their work, they do more of it than really anyone in their field.  And this is a useful tool.

It's also of a cumulative nature, whereas clearly's Aaron Schatz singles out Silatolu's improvement as being very helpful.   So it's tough to compare a cumulative season from a rookie with where he is now.  It's just tough.  But, a lot of early mistakes were made.  With the inside relevance on defense, it's for the best they had not put work into grading Silatolu on unplayed games, and that underlines how thin the margin is on rookie preparedness for this team's success overall.

It also does suggest, shorter term, that the two rookie DT method doesn't look great on paper - it's the greatest depth and talent on paper the team has seen in six years, but it also leaves the team with one of its more talented players on the field at most times.  No, you can't really scheme out of it that hard - putting 3 DTs on the field could happen, and it's a nice luxury, but you also have OLBs weighing an average of 285 and you're leaving Thomas Davis or Jon Beason off the field.

Past that, it just gets you somewhat excited to see this.  There are new facets to the team.   It's about time to remember that Star Lotuleilei - who I'll again reiterate was the best defender in the draft and I'll defend that to the death - is onboard, and he has help in Kawann Short.

You remember that a very crafty Domenik Hixon is on board.  You have, suddenly, one of the better return men in Ted Ginn.    You get Beason back, hopefully, next to Davis and Luke Kuechly.

Oh, and a ridiculous quintet of runners including Jonathan Stewart, Deangelo Williams, Cam Newton, Kenjon Barner, and Mike Tolbert.  Newton throwing to Steve Smith, Greg Olsen isn't something to sleep on, either.

None of this is new, but it's a reminder.  No matter what, it'll be interesting.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Travelle Wharton Cut By Bengals

The Bengals cut former Panthers starter Travelle Wharton today.

Wharton, the former South Carolina star, started when healthy from
midway through 2004 through 2011 for the Panthers, totaling 99 starts.
2004 was at guard; 2008 and on, with a new contract was at guard as
well. The space between the two, minus injury, was at left tackle.

He was cut going into 2012 because of cap reasons and replaced by Amini
Silatolu, a rookie 2nd rounder who initially struggled and eventually
finished strong.

Obviously, it makes sense to link Wharton and the Panthers. He has
experience here, and he has the potential to be a solid starter at

But there are obviously barriers to that happening, too. New GM Dave
Gettleman doesn't have the history with him; he doesn't appear to be
sentimental the way that Marty Hurney was about players (if that in fact
was him, and not Jerry Richardson).

Carolina has Silatolu starting again; they have no room on the left
side, and Wharton's only been a left side player. They have a hole at
right guard, in my opinion; Geoff Hangartner was an awful guard last
year and even worse center in 2012, Garry Williams has spent a
significant amount of time injured and has never shown anything at guard
(you could argue that 2010 was OK as a pass blocker at RT). Rookie Ed
Kugbila is the other option, and whether fair or not, he's got the same
small school leap to make as Silatolu.

The amount of "ifs" to process are massive. He's 32, so you have to
wonder what he has left; he's coming off a preseason 2012 ACL injury, so
you have to hope he's healthy. Then you have to be willing to process
his talent - would he be a better backup option at LT and LG? Possibly.
Does he have the ability to play to the right? If he did, sign him
up, but most players don't like the switch.

On paper, a best-9 of linemen, Wharton definitely pushes a lesser
player off the roster, and improves things overall, but doesn't help
right guard. He probably replaces Bruce Campbell, and backs both spots,
if he's healthy.

As well, there are experienced players who might improve the team more
- Brandon Moore, Eric Winston - at that right side that could be a sore
spot. Both players, along with a handful of other veterans out there,
are probably unwilling to take a base deal, and Wharton might.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Jon Richardson Passes

A key figure in the Carolina Panthers' history died this week.
Minority co-owner Jon Richardson and son of founder Jerry Richardson
died of cancer at 53. Richardson was president of Stadium Operations
until 2009, when he and brother Mark (President of Football Operations)

It's also the stark reality of life, that riches don't always earn you
time, and that modern medicine still has so many gaps (that a guy over
70 can get a replacement heart but that we still can't handle cancer in
people much younger).

Over time since early 2009 - the fracture of the younger Richardsons -
the team has changed by a good bit. Operations of the stadium have
improved, not to blame the younger Richardson for inaction; the team
will finally refresh their stadium in general after a 2011 refresh of
the workout and locker room areas and an earlier upgrade of the
televisions above the end zones.

But the team itself has been somewhat wayward. It's not that Mark
Richardson was doing a good or bad job, or that Jerry Richardson has
pushed things in a dangerous direction himself; but the team has been up
and down in spending, controversial in the CBA negotiations, and below
average on the field since that fracture with the younger Richardsons in

Moreover, the team doesn't have a legitimate succession plan. The
elder Richardson has chosen to go outside his family for operating staff
- which is correct to do, and hopefully Danny Morrison and Dave
Gettleman are the right choices. But he's also stated that the
ownership won't extend in his family past his lifetime. I don't know
that the younger Richardsons, who inevitably did something to help sever
that possibility, were the right choice, but at minimum, you had the
ability to groom them over time.

It's been two full decades now, and in two months the team kicks off
its 19th season. Mark Richardson? I had problems with him. But, he
worked alongside some cornerstones of this team - he worked under Mike
McCormack, he helped employ Sam Mills. He worked alongside
controversial names like Bill Polian. He was a part of the learned
lessons of George Seifert, Kevin Greene, Kerry Collins. He was around
for Fred Lane and Rae Carruth.

Now, that's not to say that a franchise should be gunshy about
unrelated issues from a decade ago. Maybe a fresh perspective will
help. Maybe not worrying about what the last guy did or how he'd do it,
maybe that'll help Carolina down the road. But for the idealistic of
us, there was some comfort in 1999 when you could imagine that the
guy(s) moving forward would know where the team came from. That's
essentially impossible, now.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Quintin Mikell?

That's what I get for starting to pay attention, out of the blue,
safety Quintin Mikell is in talks with the Carolina Panthers.

You won't hear about this story without hearing about the dearth of
talent in the Panthers' secondary - that it's Charles Godfrey and a
couple hopeful names, but nothing substantial, next to him. It feels
worth skipping past that under the assumption that yes, Carolina has
safety issues.

The 32 year old Mikell was a career Eagle when he signed with the Rams
in 2011. So he'd spent plenty of time under Sean McDermott- including
being All-Pro in 2009, McDermott's first season as a coordinator in
Philly. Now that was at 28 - not his current 32. But apparently
Mikell was a fantastic Ram last year and may not have deserved to be
cut, and at best seems to be the victim of his own contract.

A good in-the-box safety, Mikell isn't huge (5'10, 205), but is a
fairly sure tackling safety with good ball skills. has him as their 5th best safety last year. He had
75 tackles, 3 sacks, and 9 QB pressures last year moving forward. His
deeper stats weren't great - 0 INT, 4 forced fumbles, and 2 PD, but PFF
grades him well in coverage.

He'd definitely be an upgrade in the box, and it's hard to say anyone
Carolina has would be better in coverage. He's been reliable, missing
3 of the last 158 games he could've played in.

It'd probably cost the team $3-4 million. They currently have some
room to make such a move, if it's a one year deal. But past that, it's
hard to say.

It's interesting they're after Mikell this late in the game, but
interesting he's still out there, too. Will be interesting to see how
this one turns out.

Summer Rolling Along

So we've collectively made it into July - so we're almost there. It's
been a long, mostly eventless summer outside of a week or two of bargain
spending on DBs and WRs, and a few days' worth of drafting some size and

But now, camp starts in three weeks. Fanfest (8/3) is exactly a month
away, so the first preseason game is five weeks away.

Most of what's going on lately includes the sort of pre-pre-season
fluff that includes supposedly heartwarming stories about this player or
that player who's local or a newcomer with an interesting story. But,
occasionally something squeaks out from the media (and, of course, not
the locals) that's interesting enough, so I'm sharing this:

The shotgun/under center stats are interesting (and the reasoning up
for grabs based on situation and circumstance), but I like the bit where
Don Shula is in on the conversation.

Yes, absolutely - Don had a few of the better quarterbacks in NFL
history, and a former Bills fan might say that Don just dealt with what
he had instead of being responsible for a Marino or Unitas, but that's a
pretty cynical approach. There's no doubting that having the elder
Shula consult for a few moments would pay dividends in the long game, a
consistently under-rated part of Newton's game.

It's harder to say that it will matter; it's also hard to say, yet
again, whether the tremendously conservative approach will work with a
dynamic player like Newton. It's a near make-or-break season for both
Newton and the team; much of the team is essentially on one year deals
(or become very cuttable in 2014) along with the coaching staff. Newton
himself is eligible for contract renegotiation after the season.