Back by popular demand is Homer versus Hater, with the Homer role being played by Cyberjag and the Hater role by Jaxon. This edition looks at the Panthers offseason moves and paints the picture from both ends of the spectrum. So, who's right, Homer or Hater? Let's get it started:
Homer Cyberjag: Wow, what an offseason, huh? We've had big signings, and big drafts, and big trades, but this is the first time in memory that we had a big purge. And when you look at the results it's hard not to get excited about what happened.
You have to admit, the Panthers are playing it pretty smart. Richardson has always allowed Hurney to open the wallet as wide as he needed, and Hurney has always taken full advantage. But this year it looks like it slammed shut. Don't let that fool you, we're clearly playing the long game and positioning ourselves for dominance for years to come.
Every time I read a reporter's complaint about Fox, what I really hear is "He doesn't tell us anything that we can print." The guy is one of the winningest coaches in football for a reason--he's good. And if he leaves after this season it will be because he wants to, not because a reporter heard something from the assistant equipment manager. Oops, I mean "anonymous source." Fox will do a hell of a good job this season, and will be back in 2011 if he wants to.
Hater Jaxon: Calling the Panthers off-season veteran purge ‘pretty smart’ is (to borrow a phrase) like putting lipstick on pig. For fans that want to see the Panthers win in 2010 you have to be skeptical. The Panthers now have the youngest team in the NFL and that quality is rarely seen in Super Bowl teams. The purge is simply a case of putting business priorities over team priorities with a prayer that a lame duck coach can create some magic. The Panthers will miss the veteran depth if they should somehow squeak into a wildcard slot playing the tough NFC South division. If not for the Panthers cupcake 2010 game schedule this team would be looking at a top 10 pick in 2011.
On specific changes by position:
Homer Cyberjag: We all loved Jake's fire and leadership, but it was time. Sure it's sad, but every great QB eventually has to come to terms that he just doesn't have what it takes to win any more. And when that happens the best thing is often a new start. Look at Montana in Kansas City, or Favre in New York and Minnesota. Jake will help the Browns, and the Panthers are free to move on with Matt Moore.
And Moore is going to be fantastic! Here are just a few things to think about--wins, touchdowns, and interceptions. He was among the league leaders in all three during the span he played last year, and he's the only quarterback in his class who's thrown three touchdown passes in consecutive games. And he did it with just Smitty and an aging Moose. I know we're not supposed to talk receivers yet, but can you imagine how good he can be with the targets he's going to have?
I've heard people worry about his ability to bring the team back from a deficit, and they have a point I guess. The problem with Moore is, when he's the QB the team doesn't get in a deficit that they have to overcome. People used to say the same thing about Drew Brees, right?
Hater Jaxon: Though I can’t hate on the release of Delhomme (outside of ‘What took so long?) I also can’t believe Moore will match his ability to rally the Panthers in the 4th quarter. Moore does bring some nice qualities, such as a natural tendency to protect the ball when throwing passes. But if the Panthers are going to make a playoff run they had better get some early leads because this QB and his offense have yet to prove they can overcome a late deficit. With the tough early schedule the "Matt Moore Does No Wrong" crowd will be crying in their grits. Uh…and the reference to Brees? Pleeease…reset your expectations. The Panthers don’t need a gunslinger, they need a game manager and a guy who can hit a 3rd down pass above 50%. Moore appeared to fit the bill in his limited action but I’m sure he will have a couple ugly games early in 2010. But considering how long the Panthers stuck with Delhomme if Moore does bomb the Panthers won’t get out the hook until this season is in the tank.
Homer Cyberjag: Peppers is a loss, no one would ever argue otherwise. But he's just one guy, and we have a LOT of talent behind him in Charles Johnson and Everette Brown. In Meeks' scheme pressure is the key, and both players excel at that. Johnson has also always been good against the run, and there's no reason to doubt Brown's dedication to improving in that area. We won't have Peppers, but that doesn't mean we'll have to miss his presence once the whistle blows.
And on the inside it's all been addition by subtraction. Kemo was a big body, and he commanded a double-team and ate up a lot of space, just like he was supposed to. But Leonard does the same thing while applying pressure on the pocket. And he's younger and still improving. Lewis was great in his prime, but that was years ago. Now he's been supplanted by a rising Tank Tyler, who was stolen for a fifth round pick. Tyler didn't fit the new scheme KC installed, but he's going to be great in our 4-3.
Last year we were killed by injuries, especially on our defensive line. Lightning doesn't generally strike twice, and when it does Hurney has traditionally done a good job planning for it. Our line was hit hard, but as a result we're deeper at every position. We should be fine there, which is good news for a defense that was already one of the league's best against the pass. And given how our offense will be clicking, you can bet our opponents will need to pass...
Hater Jaxon: When the best thing you can really say about your defensive line is that ‘we’re due for an injury free season’ you have a complete disaster brewing. On paper the Panthers appear to have a number of guys ready for ‘break out years’. So why does it feel like a total crap shoot? The fact is if the Panthers get one legit starter out of the Leonard, Tyler, Hayden, Johnson and Landri quintuplet then they would be lucky. Instead they will be rotating guys in and out hoping one of them emerges by midseason. I think I’ll ride the pass line on this one as its going to get ugly early.
Homer Cyberjag: There is no positive to losing Davis, that's a bigger hit than Peppers. But what can you say about being able to plug in Jon Beason to pick up where Davis left off last year? Beason is the better linebacker, even if he doesn't have Davis' amazing speed. He anticipates better than most other linebackers, which makes him outstanding in coverage. James Anderson is a huge improvement over the aging Na'il Diggs, and Dan Connor was born to play MLB at the NFL level.
The bad news is that we lost Davis. But the good news is that we still have one of the league's elite linebacking corps.
Hater Jaxon: The Panthers do have an elite LB in John Beason but the remainder of the Davis-less LB corps is rather pedestrian. Dan Conner has yet to prove he can play coverage, Anderson has yet to prove he can stop the run and Jamar Williams has yet to prove he was worth the trade much less having ‘elite’ status. Like so many things with this Panther team, on paper they should be good at LB but until they show it on the field the odds are against them being top 10. With the less than average talent in front of these guys are going to stay busy as they are the only thing standing between the opposing running back and the goal line. If they don’t produce like the ‘elite’ squad Homer is predicting the Panthers will sport one of the worst run defenses in the league.
Homer Cyberjag: Chris Harris was a fan favorite, but Godfrey caused just as many turnovers, and he's younger, faster, and better in coverage. Anyone who saw the Panthers play late last season knows that we needed to find a way to get Martin on the field. This is an overall position upgrade, to a secondary that was already one of the best around.
Hater Jaxon: I think you’re off the reservation with this one Homer. Harris was a leader on the Panther defense not just by position but by actions on the field. Godfrey needed time to transition from CB to FS yet now were asking him to move to SS. Godfrey has shown a tendency to whiff on tackles by not wrapping up. He is now the last line of defense on running plays with an even younger guy in Sherrod Martin behind him. Also, the notion the Cover 2 defense the Panthers run essentially makes Martin and Godfrey’s position the same is over ignoring the risks of having such young players in those spots. This Panther secondary will be susceptible to the deep seam routes and will get burned on occasion by gambling too much on the big play or hit. The issue is compounded by the fact that once it goes bad there won’t be the strong voice of the ‘Hitman’in the huddle to keep the young guys focused.
Hater Jaxon: Oh please let me go first on this one! So this is the year that a Panther QB gets a target other than Steve Smith? The choices the Panthers have given themselves is an under-achieving 4th year player, a couple of young low round picks or UDFA’s and a couple rookies. Do I really have to explain why I’m doubting this is the year? The two rookies do offer some promise but how often do rookie receivers really make an impact their first year? Maybe one or two per draft at best. More than likely both LaFell and Edwards (if Edwards pans out at all) will need a season or two to adjust to the NFL level. So it really comes down to Dwayne Jarrett to make it happen and guess what, I think that ship has sailed.
Homer : …[insert your comments in the thread] Let’s hear it!