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Friday, April 11, 2014

Secondary Improvement

You'll see argument regarding the wide receiver situation and whether or not Carolina is better off.

You'll see it for months at minimum - I'm convinced if Carolina pulled off a (quite highly improbable and inadvisable) trade for Sammy Watkins, you may still see that argument.

But, looking back at the other year-to-year situation-  the defensive secondary - and I don't see that argument.  I don't know if it's just uninteresting, but it had no less room to grow.

This time last year, Carolina cast a wide net, bringing back Captain Munnerlyn to go with new signings DJ Moore Drayton Florence, Mike Mitchell, among others.   I believe that Carolina has legitimately upgraded already, with room to continue (they don't have a good 3rd cornerback, and you critically need that).

It's not that Carolina didnt' value the guys they got for nearly nothing last year - Munnerlyn, for instance, was offered a 3 year deal, and I think Mitchell was, too. They got improbably lucky that an experienced and system-knowledgeable Quintin Mikell was available at the start of the season, and that they were able to nab two undrafted players (Melvin White and Robert Lester) to contribute heavily.  But those players worked out partially because of the front seven, and others didn't work out despite it.  That last trio I'm not counting toward last year - not really being in the veteran plans, but even with, I think Carolina's better this year.

From a talent standpoint, and honestly a 'fit' standpoint, having two veteran safeties that fit their roles (compared to shoehorning Mitchell to free safety, a move I'm still amazed worked) is a major benefit.  They're both veterans - last year, early reliance meant Mitchell with zero experience and Charles Godfrey moving out of his element to FS.  The other corners struggled enough that Josh Norman became the fan favorite and Josh Thomas became the early starter.  Munnerlyn held his spot, but midseason almost got benched because of Miami.  None of the starters picked up otherwise played well enough to supplant the rookie White, and Mitchell had to have a second chance because of injury - again, out of place. 

A lot of that secondary success came at significant luck - the pair of UDFAs growing up quickly, Mitchell fitting at FS despite being barely competent looking (and uncontrolled) at his more natural SS.  Only Munnerlyn really worked out as planned, Florence being a nice guy to bring back off the street because of injury and therefore no more in the plans than Mikell.

I don't see that with the highly talented versions of the scrap-heap this year.  Roman Harper does have coverage concerns deep, a concern eased with playing him in the box a great deal more.  Thomas Decoud brings back a more natural FS.  Antoine Cason brings back a guy who did his best work under the same men currently in charge of this mess.

There's room for failure, sure.  The skeptic can pick it apart.  Cason didn't start last year.  Decoud, soft.  You could argue Harper is a dirty meathead.  All of these players were, at a time, unwanted while teams gave guys like Munnerlyn and Mitchell $5 million.  I find there to be more talent there, honestly, than the $5 million men - either of which I'd have loved to have, for the money we're paying these new guys now.  But I think right now, we're ahead of the game comparatively. 
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