Posts Tagged ‘Carolina Panthers’

NFC South: Preseason Grades and Analysis

ATLANTA FALCONS

Key Acquisitions: OG Brandon Fusco, WR Calvin Ridley, DT Terrell McClain, CB Justin Bethel, TE Logan Paulsen, CB Isaiah Oliver, DT Deadrin Senat

Key Losses: DT Dontari Poe, DE Adrian Clayborn, WR Taylor Gabriel, TE Levine Toilolo, DE Courtney Upshaw, FB Derrick Coleman, DT Ahtyba Rubin

ATLANTA FALCONS

Key Acquisitions: OG Brandon Fusco, WR Calvin Ridley, DT Terrell McClain, CB Justin Bethel, TE Logan Paulsen, CB Isaiah Oliver, DT Deadrin Senat

Key Losses: DT Dontari Poe, DE Adrian Clayborn, WR Taylor Gabriel, TE Levine Toilolo, DE Courtney Upshaw, FB Derrick Coleman, DT Ahtyba Rubin

Offensive regression brought the Falcons back to earth a bit last season, but it wasn’t for a lack of talent, and the roster didn’t require much of a tweak in the offseason. The Falcons slotted Fusco in as a starting guard and were able to snag Ridley at No. 26 overall in the draft. Ridley has the polish and savvy to contribute immediately, and he should be very explosive on Atlanta’s home turf.

There are a few more questions on defense, where four linemen left via free agency, including Dontari Poe and Adrian Clayborn. Atlanta added only former Redskin Terrell McClain and third-round pick Deadrin Senat at defensive tackle, which could be an issue for a group that ranked 19th in yards per carry allowed in 2017. The Falcons deserve credit for using their top two draft picks on valuable players who slid, but waiting to address their biggest need may yield some headaches.

The Falcons did a lot of their off-season work in-house — making Matt Ryan the highest-paid quarterback in league history and trying to resolve Julio Jones’ contract situation without his holdout bleeding into the regular season. Management of the Jones situation will be crucial, especially with several youngsters (left tackle Jake Matthews, defensive tackle Grady Jarrett, safety Ricardo Allen) seeking extensions as they enter contract years.

Our Take: The Falcons needed less work than most teams, but it’s not clear whether they did enough at defensive tackle. — B-

 

CAROLINA PANTHERS

Key Acquisitions: DT Dontari Poe, RB C.J. Anderson, WR Torrey Smith, WR D.J. Moore, WR Jarius Wright, OG Jeremiah Sirles, S Da’Norris Searcy, CB Ross Cockrell, CB Donte Jackson, TE Ian Thomas

Key Losses: OG Andrew Norwell, DT Star Lotulelei, S Kurt Coleman, RB Jonathan Stewart, DE Charles Johnson, TE Ed Dickson, CB Daryl Worley, QB Derek Anderson, WR Russell Shepard

A big chunk of the team that reached Super Bowl 50 departed this offseason, but it’s hard to fault Carolina for the exodus. It was expected that Andrew Norwell and Star Lotulelei would leave after counterparts Trai Turner and Kawann Short, respectively, received massive contracts. Meanwhile, Kurt Coleman, Jonathan Stewart and Charles Johnson are well into the backstretch of their careers.

Jeremiah Sirles has big shoes to fill following Norwell’s departure, but the offense upgraded elsewhere, with speedster Torrey Smith and first-rounder D.J. Moore, who should add some juice to the passing game under new coordinator Norv Turner. Despite his struggles as a head coach, Turner’s track record as a coordinator is excellent, and he could make magic with Cam Newton if the two develop chemistry.

C.J. Anderson arrived after the draft for just $1.75 million over one year, and he should complement 2017 first-round pick Christian McCaffrey extremely well. Nabbing Ian Thomas in Round 4 was a nice upside bet on a possible long-term replacement for 33-year-old Greg Olsen.

Getting Dontari Poe from the rival Falcons for less annual money than Lotulelei received in Buffalo was a steal, while Da’Norris Searcy and Ross Cockrell are exactly the types of veterans that Carolina has succeeded with in its zone-heavy defensive scheme under Ron Rivera. Second-rounder Donte Jackson could see early time in the slot as well.

Our Take: The Panthers recovered nicely, but some key losses will be felt. How Newton plays in Turner’s offense will likely make or break this team. — C+

 

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

Key Acquisitions: CB Patrick Robinson, LB Demario Davis, DE Marcus Davenport, S Kurt Coleman, WR Cameron Meredith, OG Jermon Bushrod, TE Ben Watson, QB Tom Savage

Key Losses: OT Zach Strief, S Kenny Vaccaro, WR Willie Snead, OG Senio Kelemete, TE Coby Fleener, S Rafael Bush, CB Delvin Breaux, LB Jonathan Freeny, QB Chase Daniel

The Saints accomplished their top priority — re-signing Drew Brees — and managed to keep him for $25 million annually. That qualifies as a bargain considering the current QB market. New Orleans then turned its attention to reinforcing and already improved defense by adding Patrick Robinson ($5 million/year) and Demario Davis ($8 million/year), though they might have bought high.

The Saints also nabbed savvy veteran Kurt Coleman to replace Kenny Vaccaro. Coleman will be a great fit in Dennis Allen’s three-safety nickel and dime packages the team also re-signed Alex Okafor (4.5 sacks in 10 games in 2017). Then came the splash in the draft, when New Orleans sent its 2019 first-rounder to Green Bay to trade up for Marcus Davenport. While Davenport is extremely talented, the move was awfully aggressive for a player most consider quite raw.

Little changed on offense, though Ryan Ramczyk will have big shoes to fill following veteran right tackle Zach Strief’s retirement. Jermon Bushrod returned to provide depth at guard in place of Senio Kelemete. The Ravens pilfered restricted free agent Willie Snead, but the Saints added an RFA wideout of their own in former Bear Cameron Meredith. They surprisingly didn’t add a young tight end, despite their top three veterans entering contract years.

Our Take: The Saints saved some money on Brees and found several upgrades. That’s impressive for an 11-5 team, although the Davenport trade must pan out. — A

 

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

Key Acquisitions: DE Jason Pierre-Paul, DE Vinny Curry, C Ryan Jensen, DT Vita Vea, RB Ronald Jones, DT Beau Allen, DT Mitch Unrein, K Chandler Catanzaro, CB Carlton Davis, CB M.J. Stewart

Key Losses: RB Doug Martin, DE Robert Ayers, S T.J. Ward, DT Chris Baker, DT Clinton McDonald, C Joe Hawley, OG Kevin Pamphile, K Patrick Murray

It seems like the Bucs have often had productive offseasons that don’t translate into on-field wins, but it’s hard not to give them credit for this spring’s work. Rarely does a weak spot on the depth chart become a strength in a single offseason, but with the additions of Jason Pierre-Paul, Vinny Curry, Beau Allen, Mitch Unrein and Vita Vea make Tampa Bay’s D-line well stocked around Gerald McCoy and Noah Spence. The group may lack an elite pass rush — which was one reason to question picking Vea at No. 12 overall — but it should bother quarterbacks plenty while shutting down opposing run games. GM Jason Licht also added Carlton Davis and M.J. Stewart, who could play early, to the secondary in Round 2.

With a third second-rounder (two were acquired by trading down) Licht grabbed Ronald Jones, who should immediately take the lead role after Doug Martin’s release. Ryan Jensen will help clear the way up front, though the Bucs almost certainly overpaid ($10.5 million annually, most ever for a center). But the move allows allows Ali Marpet to move back to guard. The Bucs also locked up tight end Cameron Brate to a hefty extension (six years, $41 million), meaning two tight-end sets with 2017 first-rounder O.J. Howard will be featured plenty. Tampa Bay took another swing at a kicker as well, but who knows if Chandler Catanzaro will be the answer.

Our Take: The Bucs’ roster is clearly improved, though it’s not guaranteed to lead to wins in a brutally tough division. — A-

– Field Level Media

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Did Denver Give The NFL The Key To Stop Cam and The Panthers?

Cam Newton

Up until last year's Super Bowl, it appeared that nobody had an answer to Cam Newton. He was running and passing all over the best defenses in the NFL, making them look inept. Then along came The Super Bowl, and frankly, they made it look easy.  The Denver formula went something like this.

Up until last year’s Super Bowl, it appeared that nobody had an answer to Cam Newton. He was running and passing all over the best defenses in the NFL, making them look inept. Then along came The Super Bowl, and frankly, they made it look easy.  The Denver formula went something like this. Stop the run on first down, putting the Panthers in second and long. Bring everybody up on second down and stuff the run or the short pass. Then put pressure on Newton on third down, not letting him scramble out of the pocket.

 

The Broncos defense had another component as well. They went conservative on offense and played the field position game. Denver did not try to stay with the Panthers, score for score. They did not try to take chances on offense. They were quite to punt, put the Panthers back deep in their own territory, play great defense and dare Cam to drive the Panthers down the field. A taunt that ended up working out very well, they just could not do it.

 

Last year, the Panthers formula for winning was to cause turnovers and turn the ball over to Cam and the offense with a short field. Denver made sure that did not happen, even if it meant handing the ball off on third and long.

 

To pull this off, a team needs a stout defense and a good amount of patience. If your defense can’t stuff the Panthers run game, then third won’t work. If the Panthers can keep the defense guessing on whether they will run or pass, then they won’t be able to sell out on the pass rush or they will be susceptible to the screen pass, draw, or Cam taking off on a run.  But if there are teams who feel they can stop the Panthers run game on first down, then the Panthers will have to come up with something to combat this.

 

Having Kelvin Benjamin back for this season will surely be a big help. Somehow Newton managed to throw 3,837 yards and 35 TD’s without the physically gifted deep threat last year, as he was out all season with an ACL injury suffered early in the preseason; nonetheless, having him back is surely a huge benefit.  If Cam can hit him on some big passes, this might make the Denver blueprint a little bit tougher to follow. It’s tough to load the box if you can’t cover Benjamin one on one.

 

What Denver did show the rest of the league in last year’s Super Bowl is that Cam is not Superman. He is just like every other quarterback in the game. If you put pressure on him and keep him from getting outside the pocket, he will be pretty useless.

 

The defense will also have a little bit tougher time giving Cam a short field this year without one of the NFL’s best cornerbacks in Josh Norman, who signed with the Washington Redskins as a free agent in the offseason. In his time with the Panthers Norman was able to shut down the opposition’s top wide receivers, leaving the safeties free to ball hunt. Now those safeties may have to help try to cover the number ones on the other side which means they can’t sit back and play center field, picking off passes and running them back into their territory.

 

All this adds up to the Panthers having a bit tougher time this season. Does this mean they are not a serious Super Bowl contender again? No. Does this mean they will not go 15-1 again this year. Yes, it almost certainly does.   

Joe is a co-founder of Rukkus, a web & mobile marketplace for sports tickets. As a former Division I pitcher, he has a deep love for sports and a passion for writing.

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Patriots claimed injured Tyler Gaffney off Panthers waivers

<p> The New England Patriots claimed rookie running back Tyler Gaffney off waivers from the Carolina Panthers, a somewhat surprising move considering that the sixth-round draft pick from Stanford is scheduled to undergo-season ending knee surgery.</p> <p> Gaffney has a torn lateral meniscus in his left knee.</p> <p> Gaffney was scheduled to go on injured

<p> The New England Patriots claimed rookie running back Tyler Gaffney off waivers from the Carolina Panthers, a somewhat surprising move considering that the sixth-round draft pick from Stanford is scheduled to undergo-season ending knee surgery.</p> <p> Gaffney has a torn lateral meniscus in his left knee.</p> <p> Gaffney was scheduled to go on injured reserve after being paid a $96,000 signing bonus.</p> <p> “The bottom line is Tyler’s injury is a season-ender,” Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman told the Charlotte Observer. “It’s not a little tear that could be scoped and he’d be back in three weeks. This was a legitimate, season-ending injury. We have Jonathan Stewart, who’s not practicing, and we needed the roster spot. Plain and simple.”</p> <p> This is similar to when the Patriots claimed injured New York Giants tight end Jake Ballard.</p> <p> “This is a very competitive business, and people are going to try to improve their team within the rules,” Gettleman said. “And this is within the rules.”</p> <p> When asked if he’s angry about it, Gettleman replied: “It’s a business.”</p> <p> Follow me on Twitter: <a href=”http://www.twitter.com/Ravensinsdier”>@RavensInsider</a></p> <p> Aaron Wilson covers the Ravens for The Baltimore Sun</p>

Aaron Wilson covers the NFL for National Football Post, his second stint at the Post. He has previously written for Pro Football Talk and FOX Sports-Scout. Entering his 13th year covering the Baltimore Ravens, he’s a beat writer for The Baltimore Sun. Wilson has also covered the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans.

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Just a bone bruise for Panthers’ Benjamin

<p> Carolina Panthers rookie wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin only suffered a bone bruise on his left knee, coach Ron Rivera announced today.</p> <p> Benjamin banged his knee on Sunday.</p> <p> He underwent a magnetic resonance imaging exam today.</p> <p> Benjamin is dealing with swelling, but has no structural damage.</p> <p> The first-round draft pick should

<p> Carolina Panthers rookie wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin only suffered a bone bruise on his left knee, coach Ron Rivera announced today.</p> <p> Benjamin banged his knee on Sunday.</p> <p> He underwent a magnetic resonance imaging exam today.</p> <p> Benjamin is dealing with swelling, but has no structural damage.</p> <p> The first-round draft pick should be back in a few days.</p> <p> Follow me on Twitter: <a href=”http://www.twitter.com/RavensInsider”>@RavensInsider</a></p> <p> Aaron Wilson covers the Ravens for The Baltimore Sun</p>

Aaron Wilson covers the NFL for National Football Post, his second stint at the Post. He has previously written for Pro Football Talk and FOX Sports-Scout. Entering his 13th year covering the Baltimore Ravens, he’s a beat writer for The Baltimore Sun. Wilson has also covered the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans.

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Former Panthers lineman Travelle Wharton retiring

<p> Veteran offensive lineman Travelle Wharton is retiring today.</p> <p> Wharton, 33, is scheduled to hold a press conference today at the Carolina Panthers' training camp.</p> <p> Wharton is a former Panthers third-round draft pick from South Carolina.</p> <p> Wharton is expected to begin a television career, according to the Charlotte Observer.</p> <p> Wharton started

<p> Veteran offensive lineman Travelle Wharton is retiring today.</p> <p> Wharton, 33, is scheduled to hold a press conference today at the Carolina Panthers’ training camp.</p> <p> Wharton is a former Panthers third-round draft pick from South Carolina.</p> <p> Wharton is expected to begin a television career, according to the Charlotte Observer.</p> <p> Wharton started for Carolina until 2012 when he joined the Cincinnati Bengals, but suffered a knee injury.</p> <p> Wharton started a dozen games last season for the Panthers.</p> <p> Follow me on Twitter: <a href=”http://www.twitter.com/RavensInsider”>@RavensInsider</a></p> <p> Aaron Wilson covers the Ravens for The Baltimore Sun</p>

Aaron Wilson covers the NFL for National Football Post, his second stint at the Post. He has previously written for Pro Football Talk and FOX Sports-Scout. Entering his 13th year covering the Baltimore Ravens, he’s a beat writer for The Baltimore Sun. Wilson has also covered the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans.

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