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Panthers game changing offseason moves. In part one I described the release of long time Panther QB Jake Delhomme and the resulting ascension of back-up Matt Moore. The second feature looked at the departure of DE Julius Peppers and the potential impact on the Panther defense. The 3rd installment discussed the changes with special teams, the 4th edition looked at the WR position since the release of Muhsin Muhammad .
This final piece will look at the chance at the fullback position. On most teams in the NFL the FB is a forgotten position if the team even has one. Many spread offenses scrap the FB for an extra TE that they can run in motion and create an added receiving threat. The Panthers on the other hand use the FB as a vital part of their running game. For the past ten seasons that position has been manned by fan favorite Brad Hoover, a fierce blocker who on occasion can run the rock too when called upon. Yet Hoover was released earlier this offseason as part of the youth movement and many wonder whether his replacement can meet his high level of performance. I imagine that was partly due to Hoover's time on the injured list as he only played in 7 games in 2009.
Hoover's replacement at the moment looks to be 2nd year FB Tony Fiammetta. Fiammetta was drafted last season out of Syracuse and was rated the best FB in the draft. He saw action in 10 games but didn't get any carries. Since I didn't hear much about Fiammetta or his overall performance in 2009 I wonder whether he could actually be unseated. The Panthers signed UDFA Rashawn Jackson after the most recent draft, a top-rated FB from Virginia who is another victim of a very deep 2009 draft pool. Though Fiammetta appears to offer more flexibility and pass catching ability Jackson comes equally adept at blocking and catching. Given the Panthers preference for blocking I could certainly see Jackson earning a spot on the roster of Fiammetta struggles at all. The FB position is too important to the Panthers running game for the Panthers to accept any deficiencies in this part of their game.
The Panthers are a run-first team and any slippage in their ability to run the ball in 2010 will draw questions regarding the wisdom of releasing of Brad Hoover. The Panthers appear to have two viable, young options to replace Hoover but will they be ready? That question remains to be answered and there more this is certainly one of the Panthers key offseason changes.
A Side Story
I'm not required to add this additional story as part of the Sprint sponsored post series but I felt the need to share anyway. My Palm Pre and the Sprint service I use includes a GPS app called Google Maps, maybe you have it or have something similar? If not listen to this. I was making a 5 hour drive up I-95 and hit a traffic stop. Turns out it was an accident that had the highway pretty much stopped. Well I used the 'traffic info' feature to show me where the accident was, how far backed-up it was and the best route to get around it. I was able to exit the highway before getting stuck in line and get around the accident. Maybe I could have done that without the Palm Pre but it would have sheer luck. Thanks for listening.