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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Two New Hog Mollies

Carolina added a pair of offensive linemen on the eve of training camp.

Fernando Velasco and Kevin Matthews add a bit of experience and possible
depth; the pair could be fighting for the backup center job or Velasco
could back guard.

Both have center experience - Velasco started 11 at center last year
after losing Marukice Pouncey; Velasco himself tore his Achilles after.
A 2008 grad of Georgia and former teammate of Charles Johnson, he played
from 08-12 with the Titans and has started 30 career games.

Matthews, son of Hall of Famer Bruce Matthews, brother of top rookie
Jake Matthews, and related to the various Clay Matthews and rookie TE
Troy Niklaus (that's not all, there's another one, Mike, that's still at
Tx A&M), was an undrafted of the Titans through 2010, where his father
was line coach. Though he spent some time in camp with the Redskins in
'13, he bounced around the Titans roster the end of the year. He's
started 3 games and appeared in just under 20, some of which was backing
Velasco.

To make room, the team dropped backup center Jared Wheeler and LB Billy
Boyko.


The way I see this?

It could be an effort to push Brian Folkerts. The fourth best C in camp
last year, Folkerts was a Panther all year; when they dropped Geoff
Hangartner last year in camp, they lost their best backup at C. They
had to press Jeff Byers into service at RG, and Byers got hurt in record
time - honestly, I never even knew he was in the game, and then he was
gone. Folkerts isn't bad, but he isn't experienced.

There's also guard depth issues. Right about this time in the year is
when camp starts, obviously; there's generally a correlation between
that happening, and Chris Scott being well overweight. Scott played RG
for a time last year, and has struggled with conditioning; he wasn't
good when he played, but he has talent.

If I had to guess based on nothing but concern, Ed Kugbila might or
might not be ready, either. Amini Silatolu over at LG has been good
when healthy, but has finished on IR both of his years; so that leaves
Garry Williams, who's needed at both G and T for depth (and got hurt in
camp last year), and rookie Trai Turner. You can see why they dropped
a 3rd on Turner, when you see the potential of him being the last man
standing; that's without mentioning the three retirements from the line
(including Byers, Wharton, and Geoff Hangartner).

A stable set of backups at G and C are pretty essential as the last few
years have shown, but they would also allow Garry Williams to back or
compete at OT, where I believe he should be if Turner can provide a
solid RG and Silatolu can be durable.

Velasco, as a veteran, can add that. Starting 27 games in a row across
Tennessee and Pittsburgh, he has the ability to stabilize some things in
the middle when needed. I imagine the first shot at various jobs will
go to Silatolu and Turner or Williams, but he could be plugged in at G
and not lose a lot.

Matthews hasn't shown the ability to make a team as often, arguably with
family help in his corner. This could be his first opportunity to work
outside that family help in a while. But he has some starts under his
belt, and that has value.

These are back-of-the-roster moves (~50th best, not 80th - felt that
needed clarification since the team has all these camp hands). Either
could make the roster, neither should start in an ideal world, but you
have to have at least one guy like this, just in case.
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