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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Rookies

I'm not huge on prediction, so I'm still feeling out how to do this
part.

I've been pondering the rookies - since, to a point, the rookies have
been the best way of improving this team for years now (I can't remember
the last free agent that got a deal more than two years out of this
team, excepting voidables). They're the great x-factor, the unknown.
They're arguably the most exciting part of the team, year after year.
And this year might not have quite the impact as the prior years,
because of circumstance, in that rookie year. Last year, Star Lotulelei
and Kawann Short greatly improved the middle of the defense and each
provided 60% of snaps (even after Ron Rivera suggested 30% for each),
and AJ Klein provided about 600 total snaps including special teams,
with UDFAs pitching in greatly (Melvin White, Robert Lester, Wes Horton
leading the way). This year there may be fewer snaps to go around.


Kelvin Benjamin

I've been preaching patience with this kid. He's raw. There's no way
around it. Receivers start slow anyway, and this one's all puppy. He
has two years real experience, and though he has maturity (partially
because he's an old rookie), it's still going to be a while before he a
while before you just assume he'll be pulling a lot of wagon. There's a
natural talent for him, that bit about grabbing it out of thin air on
one play and out of a defender's hands on the next. Some of that is
going to be his own fault early on, when he lets a smaller man get
position on him or he doesn't put up a great route but the ball is still
coming.

I've stated this so much now on Benjamin versus the other big receivers
- they're efficient, and he's not. He offers this other thing. That's
how I see him possibly starting out as a specialist, a 3rd down guy and
goal type guy. I don't see him playing 1000 snaps. I see the
suggestions of him getting 700 yards/10 TD and I just can't buy. He's
possibly going to have high TD numbers given that he's essentially a
shoe-in to play on goal, but on the average second down, I don't know.
I think the average rookie is going to have a hard time getting playing
time with these receivers.

That might be a nutty concept to some. Absolutely, in the grand scheme
of things, Benjamin is a player with limitless potential and Jerricho
Cotchery and Jason Avant are short-term rentals. Some believe these two
to be third receivers at best, and Benjamin a potential star. The thing
is, the experience is the part that Cam Newton hasn't had. Outside
Steve Smith, the average Carolina receiver has been marginally more
experienced than he is. His most efficient time included a 3rd and 4th
with starting experience, although Ted Ginn isn't a high percentage
player.

These guys do the little things right in the same breath that Benjamin
is working on getting some of the big things right. And that's OK.
There's still plenty of room for him to contribute, plenty of need for
him to fill. He could surprise, and beating on CBs that will soon be
UPS drivers can't hurt (nor can being a TE-sized WR with the NFL's
apparent once-a-decade crackdown on pass interference) to start off
with. But Benjamin just isn't an out of the box #1 receiver. That's
foolish. Arguably, Sammy Watkins might be, Keenan Allen exceeded my
already heightened expectations last year, but I go back to AJ Green
before I really find another immediate workhorse.

I don't know. What I see from Benjamin is about 400-450 snaps, maybe 30
receptions, and I feel like I have to throw 4 TD at him. Next year, I
expect him to start. But for this year, I anticipate him as a guy who
plays a box-out isolation route on 3rd downs (maybe 2nd and long), plays
at the goal, and otherwise mimics anything the coaching staff sees on
tape from Jimmy Graham in the slot.


Kony Ealy

It's early on the Greg Hardy thing. Some sources say he won't see a
suspension until it clears a jury trial, some consider the jury trial an
appeal and the NFL doesn't hold things for appeals (you'd just appeal
for years). I see Ealy playing about 400 snaps as well - he can play
about 10 snaps a game inside, 10 outside, and I'll throw in that he'll
start a game when a guy gets nicked up. Assume 30 extra snaps per game
Hardy is hurt. I could see about 20 tackles, 5 sacks, arbitrarily
I'll throw in a batted ball or two and 2 FF. He's obviously primed to
start for next year but 400 snaps is pretty good given the ends Carolina
currently has.

Trai Turner

1000 snaps, full on starter. Carolina needed this guy, a mauler with
attitude, at RG and we were (are?) focused on the issues at OT instead.
RG was a complete disaster last year and that was including absorbing
the LG issue with Travelle Wharton. Turner will learn to clean it up as
the season goes along. They've never been shy throwing a ready rookie
at the OL. Turner should improve the run game and they'll deal with his
pass snaps same as Amini Silatolu.

Tre Boston

I guess he's going to be ready for the start of camp with the sports
hernia issue, but hard to say. They have Thomas Decoud, and they've
been pushing Colin Jones to be ready as well. I see them keeping Boston
active for special teams , and that's a ton of snaps, but I don't know
that he plays safety this year unless something happens ahead of him.
He can flip to SS as well, but they have Robert Lester backing that.

Bene Benwikere

Right now, I see him concentrating on just nickel, and that's plenty for
a rookie. It might be dependent on Charles Godfrey's achilles, but
Benwikere has this job longterm. I see him logging 200 snaps minimum,
and if he fill that role all year, it's 600+. I'll throw 25 tackles
and 2 picks at him, since I am just guessing Godfrey starts the season
slow.

Tyler Gaffney

I'm essentially expecting he's just waiting for his moment on offense,
and should be a workhorse in preseason. 250 special teams snaps to
start with, and maybe 30 carries total through the year. But eventually
they'll need him and he could pop out a few surprises on you at that
point.

UDFAs

I don't see anyone making the roster, but the opportunity's greatest for
Denicos Allen, the short-stack LB from Michigan State. I don't know if
he'll ever be more than a special teamer, but he should be fantastic
there, and if there's a place you can succeed as a 5'11 LB, it's behind
this front. Maybe David Foucalt makes the practice squad despite being
a pretty raw OT.




So? I see one starter, three specialists, and two special teamers.
Carolina didn't have a ton of jobs open, and you could argue they
neglected one. This should be a solid draft class once 2015 hits and at
least two more are starters, but for now, your rookies are going to have
to scrap to find playing time.
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