Carolina Panthers ’09 Quick Hits
Why the Panthers won’t match their 12-4 record again 2009.
2008 record: 12-4 (1st NFC South
Head Coach: John Fox (8th year)
Roster Quick View (*new veteran, **rookie)
Offense (coordinator: Jeff Davidson)
QB: Jake Delhomme
Has driven Carolina to the Super Bowl before but is too much of an emotional roller coaster to bank on.
RB: DeAngelo Williams
Rushed for 1,515 yards and 18 touchdowns in ’08 yet did not make the Pro Bowl. Excellent shiftiness, and very dangerous bouncing to the outside.
RB: Jonathan Stewart
Weighs 235 and breaks tackles with ease – and he can even be elusive at times.
FB: Brad Hoover
Just because he’s 33 doesn’t mean fourth-round rookie Tony Fiammetta can steal his job. Still one of the game’s best lead-blockers.
WR: Steve Smith
Might be the best pure playmaker in football. It’s not uncommon for defenses to triple-team him.
WR: Muhsin Muhammad
Thirty-six, but hasn’t lost much of a step. Registered 923 yards last season and remains the best blocking WR in the NFC.
WR: Dwayne Jarrett
A young retail version of Muhammad.
TE: Jeff King
Not the most nimble runner, but handles this offense’s heavy blocking duties just fine.
TE: Dante Rosario
Third-year pro who must hone his technique in order to capitalize on stellar athleticism.
LT: Jordan Gross
The best LT in the NFC. Incredible fluidity on the ground; great poise against pass-rushers.
LG: Travelle Wharton
Crafty, well-sized run-blocker who creates excellent angles between the first and second levels. Solid footwork in pass protection, too.
C: Ryan Kalil
With improved strength, he can be one of the game’s preeminent centers. Has the strong hands and cunning technique.
RG: Keydrick Vincent
Injuries have rendered him inconsistent. Carolina may not re-sign the 31-year-old after the season.
RT: Jeff Otah
Has done a nice job learning how to exert his strength while adjusting to the NFL’s quickness. If he stays healthy, he’ll blossom into an upper-tier RT.
6 OL: Duke Robinson**
Can play tackle, but was likely drafted to one day replace RG Keydrick Vincent.
Defense (coordinator: Ron Meeks)
LDE: Kyle Brayton
Coming off perhaps his best season as a pro, though that’s not saying much.
DT: Ma’ake Kemoeatu
Doesn’t get the push you’d prefer from a 345-pounder, but does a good job keeping his linebackers clean.
DT: Damione Lewis
Serviceable when he’s able to maintain spacing. Would be a better fit as a frequently-used backup.
RDE: Julius Peppers
An athlete for the ages. Wanted out of Carolina but ultimately settled for a franchise-player contract that pays him more than $1 million per game.
3 DE: Everette Brown**
Undersized (6’2”, 256) but relies more on leverage than speed. Panthers hope his versatility can ignite their somewhat sterile pass-rush.
3 DT: Corvey Irvin**
Perhaps a stretch to take him in Round Three, but Carolina badly needed another inside presence.
SLB: Na’il Diggs
Stopping and starting and changing directions have gotten difficult, but he stays in the lineup because he’s a rock against the run playside.
MLB: Jon Beason
If not for the occasional over-pursuit, he’d be flawless. Should become more of a playmaker in Year Three and get recognized as the best Mike ‘backer in football.
WLB: Thomas Davis
Has finally settled into a long-term role. Not a ferocious stallion on every down, but well above average.
4 LB: Dan Connor
Coming off a rookie year spent on IR (knee). Versatile enough to capture Landon Johnson’s utility role.
CB: Chris Gamble
Superb technician who rarely gets challenged by opposing quarterbacks.
CB: Richard Marshall
Confident ball-attacker who will enjoy plenty of big-play opportunities as a first-time starter.
NB: Sherrod Martin**
Second-round rookie could begin the season behind veteran Dante Wesley, but he’s too compatible in the Cover 2 to sit long.
SS: Chris Harris
Always looking to lay the lumber. Probably should be more acclaimed than he is.
FS: Charles Godfrey
College CB who adjusted fairly well to new position as a rookie last season. Must show he can play faster as his awareness develops.
6 DB: Nate Salley
Can moonlight as a starter in an emergency, but is best suited for special teams.
K: John Kasay
The last original Panther. Turns 40 in October but remains strong-footed and supremely accurate inside 45 yards.
P: Jason Baker
His ’08 punting numbers may have been mildly inflated by Carolina’s stellar coverage units.
RS: Ryne Robinson
MCL injury wiped out his ’08 campaign. Job is not quite secure.
Offseason Quick Glance
RD PK (OVR) NAME POS SCHOOL
KEY PLAYERS ACQUIRED
LS J.J. Jansen (traded Packers).
KEY PLAYERS LOST
OG Jeremy Bridges (released).
RB Nick Goings (released).
WR D.J. Hackett (released).
OG Geoff Hangartner: UFA Bills; $9.6M/4 yrs, guarantees unknown.
WR/KR Mark Jones: UFA Titans; terms unknown.
CB Ken Lucas (released).
OT Frank Omiyale: UFA Bears; $11.5M/4 yrs, $5.5M SB.
LB Adam Seward: UFA Colts; 1 yr, terms unknown.
The Panthers are making a habit of mortgaging their future on Draft Day. After trading their ’09 first-round pick last year in order to move up and select OT Jeff Otah at No. 19, Carolina shipped its 2010 first-round pick to San Francisco in order to move up and select DE Everett Brown at No. 43. That’s a first-rounder for a second-rounder, basically straight up (the Niners threw in a fourth-rounder to seal the deal). GM Marty Hurney feels that Brown is a first-round talent, which means, in Hurney’s mind, he’s getting a blue-chip pass-rusher at a discount rate. Only time will tell.
The Panthers need Brown to develop because, as the headlines iterated repeatedly during the spring, they’ll likely be without Julius Peppers after this season. They’re paying Peppers $16.683 million (plus possible incentives) as a franchise player. This, along with Jake Delhomme’s new contract (five years, $42.5 million) and the extension of LT Jordan Gross (six years, $60 million) explains why Carolina was dormant during free agency.
Releasing Ken Lucas made sense given the cap space saved and the development of fourth-year corner Richard Marshall. With Marshall now starting, second-round rookie Sherrod Martin will get every chance to step right into the NB role. Martin comes from a smaller school (Troy) but he’s said to be a good fit in new defensive coordinator Ron Meeks’s Cover 2 system.
Third-round DT Corvey Irvin only started one year at Georgia, but the Panthers need him to contribute right away. Current DT’s Ma’ake Kemoeatu and Damione Lewis are adequate starters but more equipped for a rotation.
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