Local patriots have answered the call for freedom
This Sunday’s Super Bowl marks the end of another season and another question-filled offseason for our State team.
The Panthers owner was very clear when he bought the team from Jerry Richardson that he has a go-to approach to leading the team, which is how Ron Rivera was shown the door in the middle of the season 2019, despite having already won two Coaches of the Year awards. (And now Ron has won the award for the third time, which makes the move even dumber than it was then.)
So, if the Panthers absolutely have to win in 2021, what should the front office do to improve the roster?
• First of all, don’t train a quarterback.
Yes, I know there are QBs in the draft class this year, and each of them could make a big difference in the course of the franchise. However, if you’re looking to win this year, you’re not starting a rookie quarterback.
I was not convinced by Teddy Bridgewater at mid-season. It was still receiving a lot of praise from advertisers and talking heads in the studios until the end of the year, but I saw a lot of red flags all year round.
The worst? In 15 games, Teddy threw 13 touchdown passes in the first half. Not bad. Looks like he would be halfway through 26 TD passes.
Except Teddy threw exactly two touchdown passes in the second half of those same 15 games. That’s right, two. That’s basically the value of seven and a half games with just two scores.
That’s why I call him Teddy Chokewater.
Swap Teddy somewhere else or cut it and sign another one. Heck, put Teddy on the bench and give PJ Walker a whole offseason to get ready. He showed great arm and athleticism.
Do you know who might have been a good choice right now? The guy Carolina basically gave to Kyle Allen.
Yes, I know Kyle has had its ups and downs, but he was only 23 to complete his first season. Did you see what he did in Washington before he was injured with a dirty leg whip? He had an average of 100 QB. Cam Newton never had a rating of 100, even when he won the league MVP in 2015. Teddy had a rating of 92.1 (artificially inflated by a high completion rate based on control throws ).
• Please, please, please look for Luke Kuechly’s replacement in the project. The worst move in the 2020 roster was bringing in Tahir Whitehead to play middle linebacker. Coach Matt Rhule went with one of his former college players, but Tahir just hasn’t played all season and has ended up being benched in the last two games.
Kuechly’s name would be spoken by announcers 10 times per game, but Tahir could make an entire game without a single mention. The run defense and the short pass defense both suffered due to his terrible play.
• It seems like every year I say the team has to look at the offensive line, and that’s still true, but worse this time. Center Matt Paradis is the only regular starter under contract next year.
I’m okay with part of that – I’m looking at you LG Chris Reed and LT Russell Okung – but the right side with RT Taylor Moton and RG John Miller seemed to be pretty good.
The sad part is that the team invested two draft picks on guys who showed good potential but were injured for much of their two years with the team. Greg Little and Dennis Daley split the time on left tackle in 2019, often going back and forth due to injury. They both finished 2020 in the casualty reserve.
• In 2016, the Panthers used three of their four best draft picks on cornerbacks. Only one succeeded (James Bradberry), and he left with a big contract a year ago.
The team desperately needs to draft at least one, if not two corners.
Donte Jackson is one of the fastest guys in the entire league, but has spent the entire season hampered by a toe injury. Tony Pride Jr. was a rookie who got harassed a lot. The other option, who started 11 games, was Rasul Douglas, who was good against slower large possession receivers, but not against wide rapids.
In fact, Douglas is really better suited as a free security that can also cover receivers and tight ends one to one when needed – rather than each stocking.
Jackson ran a time of 4.32 in the 40 on the combine. Douglas ran a 4.59. It’s a quarter of a second slower.
Rasul was in the 32nd percentile for CBs in the 40th time and the shuttle run and in the 26th percentile for the vertical jump (yes!). But he scored high on weight / height, arm length, and bench press. In fact, when his measurables were compared to other former combine entrants, his best matches weren’t corners at all. His best game was former Pro Bowl double safety Michael Lewis.
Juston Burris started 13 games on safety and made 53 tackles. Douglas started just 11 games at CB and made 62 tackles. Imagine if you re-signed Rasul and put him in Juston’s place. Oh, and cutting Burris would save the team $ 3.8 million over the cap.
• I’ve been saying it for two years: sign or spot a guy to do the majority of the runs to the running back. Let Christian McCaffrey spend more time as a slot machine receiver.
The team are likely to lose Curtis Samuel, a receiver who can spend time in the backfield, as he’s had such a great year it will be too expensive to sign again.
So move McCaffrey more into that role. Get McCaffrey 1,000 receiving yards and fewer runs where he takes such a pounding. I was saying this even before he misses most of 2020 with injuries.
• A big plus for the Panthers is that Coach Rhule had the opportunity to coach one of the Senior Bowl teams, along with some of the best college seniors across the country.
He not only got to see their physical skills up close, but got to see how the players were handling criticism and training.
James Hudson is a former defensive lineman who moved to the O line. Some scouts were very impressed with his Senior Bowl training. What did Rhule think of it? Quinn Meinerz is a Division III O-line stallion in the mold of Ali Marpet from Tampa. Did Rhule find him good enough to write in the second or third round?
• Finally, it’s time for the team to cut former DT star Kawann Short. At one point, Short and Star Lotuleilei formed a formidable tandem in the middle. But, Short has only played five of 32 games over the past two seasons with just seven solo tackles, no sacks and a single tackle for a loss.
And this season, Short is expected to earn $ 20.84 million. His hat trick is $ 11.02, so cutting it off would save $ 9.82 million in ceiling space.
Another possible reduction in payroll would be DE Stephen Weatherly, who is expected to earn $ 7.9 million, but only $ 2 million would count towards the cap, so the reduction would save $ 5.9 million. . He’s only played nine games with just 17 tackles and zero sacks.
The team were hoping he would take a big step forward after finishing his rookie contract at Minnesota with just six sacks in four seasons.