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2010 Team Report: Carolina Panthers
QuarterbacksStarter: Matt Moore
Backup(s): Hunter Cantwell, Jimmy Clausen, Tony Pike Starting QB: Matt Moore stepped into the Panthers' starting quarterback job during week 13 of 2009, when he took over from an injured (and completely ineffective) Jake Delhomme. He fared much better in his second stint at the helm for the Panthers, posting 85/138 for 1053 yards, eight TDs and only two interceptions, most of that thrown during five late-season games (he appeared in a substantive role during four games for Carolina back in 2007 (he was active during 10) and eked out 63/111 for 730 yards, three TDs and five interceptions during his first go around as a pro quarterback). Moore is penciled in as the starter after the Panthers elected to release Jake Delhomme and then drafted two prospects during the 2010 lottery - Jimmy Clausen of Notre Dame and Tony Pike of Cincinnati. He enters training camp as the top QB on the depth chart, but Moore will need to play well if he is to hold off Clausen for 2010 (and potentially beyond). Time will tell this tale...stay tuned. In late May, Darin Gantt, from the Charlotte Observer, reported the Panthers opened the full-team portion of their OTA season Thursday (after spending the first three days on nothing but the passing game), but there are still new wrinkles aplenty. There was a segment of the session devoted to a four-wide receiver offense, something that's always been behind the "in case of emergency, break glass," section of the playbook. With all the youth at quarterback and receiver, it's going to be a continual learning process, and they're still in the very early stages of introducing what Matt Moore called some "new concepts." Backup QB: Jimmy Clausen was selected by the Panthers during the second round of the 2010 NFL draft. He was considered by some commentators as the most "NFL-ready" of the quarterback prospects, due to playing under former New England offensive coordinator Charlie Weis in college at Notre Dame. The early word out of Carolina is that Clausen enters his rookie season as the second QB on the depth chart, and given John Fox's tendency to play veterans over rookies whenever possible, we think that Clausen will get a year to learn the pro game from the sidelines (at the minimum). Pike was also a highly-regarded prospect coming out of Cincinnati but slid in the draft to the sixth round - Carolina scooped him up as a developmental prospect at virtually no price to the franchise. Obviously, the backups to Moore are very raw, so don't be surprised if the team adds a veteran to the roster and elects to place Pike on the practice squad for 2010. In mid June, Steve Reed, from CarolinaGrowl.com, reported that with each passing day, Jimmy Clausen is growing more comfortable with the Panthers offense. Clausen's stock in Carolina is clearly on the rise as he's performed well in practices since being selected this past April in the second round. He's still behind starter Matt Moore on the depth chart and it's looking like he'll have a battle on his hands with the ever-improving Hunter Cantwell for No. 2 spot on the quarterback depth chart. But make no dobut about it, Clausen will be right there in the mix. He's making all the throws. He's making good decisions. And, to no one's surprise, he's catching on to the playbook pretty fast. In mid July, Darin Gantt, from the Charlotte Observer, reported second-year quarterback Hunter Cantwell spent this entire offseason seeing reps with the second team. Even though rookie Jimmy Clausen is thought to be the backup behind Matt Moore, Cantwell is the leader in the battle of the backups. "Yeah, outside of this facility and this stadium, I probably am a dark horse, and people don't know me," Cantwell said with a grin earlier this summer. "You see these heralded, talented young guys. But I try to concentrate on what's happening inside this program. I feel like I've established myself with them, and they know what I'm capable of, how to push me in certain areas and how to make me better."
Running BacksStarter: DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart
Backup(s): Tyrell Sutton, Mike Goodson
Fullback(s): Tony Fiammetta Starting RB: DeAngelo Williams is the Panther's 1A starter, handling the ball 246 times during 2009 (216/1117/7 with 40 targets for 29/252/0 receiving over 13 games played). He finished the 2009 season in 14th among all fantasy RBs in total points (he was eighth among all fantasy RBs in points per game in the PPR scoring format last season). Williams' production declined somewhat from his stellar 2008 campaign, when he posted 274/1518/18 rushing and 22/121/2 receiving. The decline was due in part to missing three games with some nagging ankle trouble (since surgically "cleaned out" during the offseason), and also due to the emergence of the Panthers' 1B starter, Jonathan Stewart, who commanded virtually half of the touches on the ball that the Panthers' RBs enjoyed last season. However, Carolina rushes the ball a lot - 525 times last year alone, which was the second-most in the NFL - so on this squad there is room for two top-tier fantasy backs given the Panthers' run-first, run-often philosophy on offense. There is no reason to think that the 27-year-old Williams, who is in the prime of his NFL career on a team blessed with an outstanding run-blocking offensive line, shouldn't be able to challenge for a top-10 finish among all fantasy backs again this season. Jonathan Stewart is a fine starting NFL running back in his own right and teams with DeAngelo Williams to form perhaps the best 1-2 punch in the NFL right now. He actually carried the ball slightly more often than Williams last season (221 carries vs. 216), but snagged 11 less passes (18 vs. 29), ending up with 239 total touches on the football last season. All told, Stewart posted 221/1133/10 rushing and 18/139/1 receiving last year to check in at 11th among all fantasy RBs in total points generated (he was 22nd in the league in fantasy points per game). During the offseason, he had surgery to remove a bone spur that was causing problems with his Achilles tendon throughout last year, and is expected to be at 100% for training camp. Considering what he accomplished with an injured/sore heel last season, it'll be interesting to see what he does during 2010. Stewart averaged a hefty 5.1 yards per carry last year and has been above 4.5 yards per carry in each of his first two seasons playing in the NFL. He should challenge for a top-12 finish again during 2010, considering that the Panthers ran the ball 525 times last season - second most in the NFL - which provides more than enough carries for two running backs to share out between each other. Backup RBs: Tyrell Sutton and Mike Goodson are both contributors on special teams as kick returners. As they are buried behind not one but two star running backs on the Panther's depth chart, neither player has much opportunity to tote the football during regular season. Sutton posted 12/68/0 rushing and 6/62/0 last year, while Goodson managed 22/49/0 rushing with 2/15/0 receiving. The release of long-time Panther Brad Hoover may help Sutton and Goodson to pick up a few more carries here and there, but unless something catastrophic happens in the injury department ahead of these two, don't expect much production from the Panthers' reserves. Fullback: Tony Fiammetta enters his second season with the Panthers. The fullback on this team catches an occasional pass or makes a plunge for first-down yardage, but don't look for fantasy-worthy production from the position. Fiammetta had zero carries and zero receptions during his rookie season in 2009 (he was targeted with three passes).
Wide ReceiversStarters: Steve Smith
Backups: Dwayne Jarrett, Kenneth Moore, Brandon LaFell, Armanti Edwards, David Gettis, Wallace Wright Starting WRs: Steve Smith is the lone, proven weapon at wide receiver for the Panthers as of May first - the release of Muhsin Muhammad means that the team will have to wait and see which of their younger players emerges to claim the other starting spot for the team. Smith remains one of the premier talents at his position in the league, but he will be 31 when the season starts so time is beginning to be a factor for Smith. He missed the 1,000+ receiving yards benchmark last year due to miserable quarterback play by Jake Delhomme for the majority of the season, and also due to missing one game - if Smith had played 16, he would have undoubtedly eclipsed the mark. As things were, he posted 130 targets for 65/982/6 (19th-best fantasy WR in total points last season). Smith is only one season removed from his outstanding 2008 campaign (78/1421/6 on 128 targets, for a fifth-best fantasy WR finish that year), and prior to 2009 had four seasons in a row with 1,000+ receiving yards. He should get back in the hunt for a top 10 fantasy finish during 2010 as Matt Moore, the new starting QB, looked much better than Delhomme during the waning weeks of 2009. In late May, The Rock Hill Herald deemed rookie WR Brandon LaFell as "the man to watch" in the competition for the open starting receiver job opposite Steve Smith. LaFell's big size and blocking ability gives him an edge over underachieving veteran Dwayne Jarrett for the gig, according to the paper. On June 21, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that Smith broke his arm while playing defensive back in a flag football in an adult league at a Charlotte YMCA. Smith had surgery Sunday, June 20, and his agent, Derrick Fox, said Smith should be ready for the season opener. GM Marty Hurney said Smith feels terrible about it and is focusing on rehabilitation. "Obviously, I put my team and myself in a bad situation by playing," Smith said. "But that wasn't my intention and wasn't what I thought the outcome was going to be." Smith tried to break up a pass, slipped, and broke his arm when he fell. It is the same arm he broke a year ago, but in a different place. In early July, The Associated Press noted comments from Panthers head coach John Fox on a recent USO trip to Afghanistan indicate that the team expects Smith to be ready for the season opener. "Most of (the soldiers) wanted to know about Steve Smith playing flag football," Fox said, "Most of them love Steve, and they know he'll be back for the opener, so they weren't too concerned." In mid July, Jason La Canfora, of NFL Network, reported that the Panthers are hoping Smith will be able to participate in the team's final preseason game. Smith has been making good progress in his recovery from a broken arm. Backup WRs: Dwayne Jarrett, out of USC, has been a major disappointment so far in Carolina. His career-best performance came last year, with 17/196/1 (his first TD in three years with the team) - Jarrett hasn't lived up to his draft promise (2nd round selection). However, in the team's first minicamp the last weekend in April, Jarrett was lining up with the starters. He'll have to prove he's earned the spot though, with talented rookies vying for playing time. Kenneth Moore is a force in the return game, but so far hasn't done much as a receiver (6/59/0 last year). Armanti Edwards (5'11", 187) was selected in the third round of the 2010 NFL draft. He's a burner with deep-threat speed and great athleticism. During his first day of mini-camp on April 30th, he reportedly caught every pass thrown his way (Edwards last played wide receiver in high school - he was a quarterback at Appalachian State and is being converted back to WR in the pros). Brandon LaFell is a big 6'2", 211 pound target who played his college ball at LSU. He may provide the complementary #2, ball control WR presence for the Panthers now that Muhsin Muhammad is gone. David Gettis (6th round selection out of Baylor) is also a big WR, at 6'3" and 217 pounds. In late May, CBSSports.com reported that while the Panthers added Wallace Wright this offseason for his special teams ability, he has turned some heads with some nice catches this week in practice and shown good speed. That said, the best Wright can hope for is being the fourth or fifth receiver on the roster. He is currently behind Steve Smith, Dwayne Jarrett, Brandon LaFell and Armanti Edwards on the depth chart. In late June, CBSSports.com noted the Charlotte Observer reported that Kenneth Moore will step in for Steve Smith while the star receiver rehabs from a broken left arm. That suggests that rookie WRs Brandon LaFell and Armanti Edwards won't see their roles change in training camp. LaFell is in a battle for a starting role with Dwayne Jarrett while Edwards seems locked into a role as a kick-returner and potential slot receiver. If anything, both receivers will receive a few more reps with quarterback Matt Moore, which doesn't hurt. In early July, LaShana Marshburn, from PantherInsider.com, reported the Panthers added a ton of young talent to their WR corps, hoping camp competition brings out the best in everybody. One of the competitors is sixth-round pick David Gettis, who is working to impress the coaching staff during his rookie season. "I'm catching a lot of balls and making sure my endurance is up," Gettis said. "I'm also making sure I'm hydrated, because I heard horror stories about how hot it is in Spartanburg. So I'm making sure I'm hydrated and making sure I catch at least 200 balls a day. I'm running, too, so it's a combination of all that and at the same time being relaxed and knowing it's just football."
Tight EndsStarters: Gary Barnidge
Backups: Dante Rosario, Jeff King Gary Barnidge enters his third season with a tentative grip on the top job at his position. He appeared in 16 games last season, with 21 targets for 12/242/0 receiving. Among all the Panthers' tight ends during 2009, the players shared out 63 receptions. If Barnidge can solidify his hold on the top job and command more of the targets this season, he could be a solid fantasy player in TE required leagues. If you are interested in Barnidge, keep an eye on who lines up as the starter during training camp and how Barnidge performs during the preseason games. He could be one of the surprise fantasy players of 2010 if he continues to develop in his third campaign. Dante Rosario (26/313/2 receiving) and Jeff King (25/200/3) handled the ball equally last season, and as a result neither was a fantasy star. This year, the Panthers may rely on Gary Barnidge more often, which would further reduce the fantasy relevance of Rosario or King. However, either player could rise up and take the top job away from Barnidge with an outstanding training camp - in TE required leagues, it will be worth while to monitor the battle for top TE in Carolina. In the middle of the last decade Kris Mangum put up solid numbers as the #1 TE in Carolina, especially in 2004 (34/323/3). If one of the current TEs can earn the lions' share of passes that player would be a worthwhile fantasy TE.
Place KickerJohn Kasay, Todd Carter : Kasay continues to keep kicking, heading into his 20th season in the NFL and 16th with the Panthers. In 2008 he posted a career high of 90.3% (28 of 31) on field goals. His scoring has been up and down, varying with the offenses success or lack thereof. The Panthers' annual kicker scoring going back the years has been 97, 130, 99, 100, 121, 99, 125, 74, 91, and 122 points. After a stretch of injury-plagued years, Kasay has played in all 16 games the last five years. Carolina replaced kickoff specialist Rhys Lloyd, whom they let depart via free agency, with promising newcomer Todd Carter.
Kick and Punt ReturnersKick Returners: Kenneth Moore, Tyrell Sutton, Mike Goodson, Brian Witherspoon, Dexter Jackson, Armanti Edwards, Trent Guy, Jonathan Stewart, Captain Munnerlyn The Panthers tried three players on kickoff returns last year without much success: RB Mike Goodson (17 returns, 20.7 avg), RB Tyrell Sutton (14 returns, 21.6 avg), and WR Kenneth Moore (10 returns, 21.9 avg). They could again compete for the role, along with several others of limited success. CB Brian Witherspoon failed to keep the return specialist role in Jacksonville and WR Dexter Jackson failed to keep the return specialist role in Tampa Bay. As an undrafted rookie out of Stillman College in 2008, Witherspoon was a long shot to make the team. But he did, using his speed to temporarily secure the return specialist role. Dexter Jackson was drafted as and began 2008 as Tampa Bay's return specialist; however after seven games of meager results he was replaced by Clifton Smith. Third round draft pick WR (former QB) Armanti Edwards from Appalachian State never handled returns in his life prior to this offseason. Undrafted WR Trent Guy did handle kickoff returns in college, averaging 24.7 yards during his senior year at Louisville. Although RB Jonathan Stewart fared well on kickoff returns in college, the Panthers have used him sparingly in that role - 15 returns, 23.3 avg. as a rookie and only twice last year. Punt Returners: Captain Munnerlyn, Kenneth Moore, Brian Witherspoon, Dexter Jackson, Robert McClain, Armanti Edwards, Steve Smith While the Panthers continued to search for a KR last year, they settled on CB Captain Munnerlyn to handled punts (31 returns, 9.0 avg). Kenneth Moore, who had failed to seize the Lions return specialist role in 2008, averaged only 2.0 yard on his two punt returns last year. Brian Witherspoon averaged 11.3 yards on punt returns in 2008, and finished as the 11th ranked fantasy returner despite missing two games due to injury. Seventh draft pick CB Robert McClain averaged 12.6 yards on 21 punt returns for Connecticut last year and scored once. WR Steve Smith has not led the team in punt returns since 2005. He has handled limited punt returns the last several years, including one for ten yards in 2008. Carolina has ranked near the bottom of the fantasy return rankings in five of the last six years (32nd, 32nd, 28th, 32nd, 15th and 30th).
Offensive LineProjected Starters: LT Jordan Gross, LG Travelle Wharton, C Ryan Kalil, RG Mackenzy Bernadeau, RT Jeff Otah
Key Backups: G Duke Robinson, C Steve Justice, T Geoff Schwartz The Panthers offensive line is a very good one and considering the youth amongst the starting unit, capable of improving this season and into the future. Ryan Kalil has become an excellent center and in his fourth season is just starting to hit his prime. He was a Pro Bowl reserve this past season. Jordan Gross missed seven games due to injury and the team missed him while he was gone. He is an excellent left tackle. Jeff Otah missed three starts last season but continued to improve in his second season. He is a better run blocker than a pass protector but has the skills to eventually thrive in both areas. Geoff Schwartz started three games as a rookie and earned some experience. Wharton started 16 games last season and did a good job. He starts at guard but can slide outside to tackle if needed. Bernadeau started seven games last season and did pretty well when called upon although he needs to improve his run blocking. Overall this is a very good group who should continue to develop this season into a top unit.
Defensive LineStarters: DE Everette Brown, DT Louis Leonard, DT Tank Tyler, DE Tyler Brayton
Backups: DE Charles Johnson, DE Greg Hardy, DT Ed Johnson, DT Corvey Irvin Starting DL: Three-fourths of the Carolina starting front four from 2009 are gone, the most notable loss being Pro Bowl defensive end Julius Peppers, who signed with Chicago in free agency. The only returning starter is Tyler Brayton, who tested the free agent market but was unable to find a better deal elsewhere. Brayton will likely continue to rotate with Charles Johnson and his experience should provide some stability to the line. Everette Brown moves into a full time role this season with Peppers gone. He showed flashes of all-around talent in a limited role last season and has bulked up to handle his increased playing time this year. Brown may prove just as disruptive in pass rush as Peppers was in time. After struggling to find bodies last season, the Panthers hope that 2009 trade pickups Louis Leonard and Tank Tyler will fulfill expectations as active, run stuffing tackles inside. Both players ended up on injured reserve last season shortly after they were acquired. Backup DL: Charles Johnson will again see rotational time with Brayton at defensive end. He's one of the better all-around backups in the league and could handle an increased role should something happen to either starter. Greg Hardy, one of the team's four sixth round picks, was highly regarded before injuries ruined his explosive first step. If he regains his prior form, he'll be a valuable rotational player in time. Ed Johnson was signed as a free agent and brings experience in the Tampa-2 front from his time in Indianapolis. Along with last season's third round pick Corvey Irvin, who was lost with a knee injury before the season started, the Panthers hope to have a deeper and more productive tackle rotation this year.
LinebackersStarters: WLB Jamar Williams, MLB Jon Beason, SLB Dan Connor
Backups: LB James Anderson, LB Eric Norwood, WLB Thomas Davis (out for the season) Starting LBs: Jon Beason returns as the team's defensive leader and anchor at MLB. He continued to make strides as an all-around ILB and is now one of the best young backers in the league. Thomas Davis, who thrived in his new role as the team's flow-and-chase Tampa-2-like WLB last season, is expected to be back from a torn ACL in time for training camp. Davis has steadily improved in coverage and continues to be one of the better blitzing 4-3 OLBs. The SLB position will be an open competition between Dan Connor and James Anderson, with rookie Eric Norwood also in the mix. Connor is a better all-around talent than Anderson and should be considered the early favorite to win the job. In early June, Darin Gantt, of the Charlotte Observer, reported that Thomas Davis suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee Tuesday, June 8, and will have surgery soon to repair the ligament. This is a big blow to the Panthers defense. Davis tore the same ACL last November and was reportedly ahead of schedule in his recovery. Jamar Williams should take his place in the lineup. Backup LBs: Anderson has drawn spot starting duty often when one of the Panthers' starters has missed time with injury, but he's yet to have enough of an impact to force himself into the lineup full time. He'll get another opportunity to compete for a starting job this preseason, but may have a tough time beating out Connor for the SLB spot. Whichever player loses the battle will join new acquisition Jamar Williams as the Panthers' primary backup at all three linebacker positions. Williams doesn't have the size to challenge for the open SLB job, but will be a very strong backup. Norwood is a short but powerful playmaker with the ability to rush the passer and play linebacker. He might see time as a situational rusher early and grow into a larger role later.
Defensive BacksStarters: CB Richard Marshall, SS Charles Godfrey, FS Sherrod Martin, CB Chris Gamble
Backups: CB Captain Munnerlyn, CB C.J. Wilson, S Aaron Francisco, DB Jordan Pugh, DB Robert McClain, DB R.J. Stanford Starting DBs: The Panthers have a pair of solid, though at times inconsistent, cornerbacks in Richard Marshall and Chris Gamble. Both are good fits for the team's aggressive zone scheme as players who will support the run well and have the recovery speed to close within the short zones. The team dealt 2009 starting SS Chris Harris shortly after the draft, with plans to move last year's FS, Charles Godfrey to SS and promote Sherrod Martin to FS. Godfrey won't be as physical as Harris, but that won't be a major factor given the zone coverages used by Carolina and the strong linebacker unit. Backup DBs: Captain Munnerlyn proved himself a capable nickel corner last season and will return in that role this year. C.J. Wilson is the early favorite to be the team's fourth corner, but he'll be pushed by Jordan Pugh, Robert McClain and R.J. Stanford, all of whom were added late in the draft this year. Aaron Francisco replaces Quinton Teal as the team's fourth safety but will have to fight for a roster spot with the new additions. Last modified: 2010-07-15 15:03:34