Panthers Paw Prints: Countdown to Training Camp

Panthers Paw Prints

Good Monday afteroon, Carolina Panthers fans. Sorry for the weekend disappearance. I drove out to Wilmington to visit family, and I did a 22 mile hike on Saturday. I won't give a whole bunch of details on that here, we'll just chalk it up to very hot and very grueling. So it's Monday... back to reality, back to Charlotte, back to work. Training camp is only two days away and I'm so excited. I've got (possibly) a record number of links for you today. I challenge your Panthersliness to read or view them all. If you're in a rush and don't have time right this second to continue after the jump, here are two articles covering most of the top Panthers story lines heading into training camp. Here are your links for Monday July 26, 2010:

Here are two good one-size-fits-all Panthers training camp preview articles:

Countdown to camp -- seven days. (HeraldOnline.com)
In DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, the Panthers have arguably two of the NFL's top 10 backs. In fact, there's a legitimate argument as to which is better here. Remember, it was Stewart who led the Panthers in rushing last year (1,133 yards), when Williams (1,117) finished the season hurt. And while Stewart gets dinged for rarely practicing, he hasn't missed an NFL game yet.

ANALYSIS: Breaking down the Panthers roster with training camp a week away. (CarolinaGrowl.com)
So we thought we'd trot out an early position-by-position breakdown of this year’s team a little early. Listed below is each position with likely starters and potential backups, which doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll make the team but certainly have a chance. Those listed as "others" basically indicate those players who, how do we say this politely, face an uphill battle to make the 53-man roster.

More after the jump.

 

 Darin Gantt's been doing daily posts leading up to camp. They're great reads if you have the time:

Countdown to camp -- Six days. (HeraldOnline.com)
Honestly, there's a reasonable chicken-egg discussion as to whether the Carolina Panthers success running the ball is more a function of their backs or offensive line. The Panthers have two Pro Bowlers up front already, another guy who might be better than the both of them, and a fourth who has been criminally underrated. That's not a bad place to start, for a team with so many questions elsewhere.

Countdown to camp -- five days. (HeraldOnline.com)
Like most positions on the roster this year, the defensive backfield was thinned significantly by the offseason purge. Here, it was the post-draft trade of SS Chris Harris to Chicago in what could be fairly termed a salary dump. On the other hand, the move also positions the Panthers for the future, and if you stretch just enough, could be justified from a football standpoint.

Countdown to camp -- four days. (HeraldOnline.com)
This was so close to being one of the strengths of the Carolina Panthers, a set of linebackers tailor-made for the defense they want to run, fast and smart and with sufficient depth. Not any more. When Thomas Davis blew his right ACL in June (for the second straight year), it threatened to disrupt the entire vision of the defense.

Countdown to camp -- three days. (HeraldOnline.com)
In a sense, there's a small sense of relief that Smith will miss camp with his flag-football broken arm (a joke in and of itself). Now they don't have to hold their breath for a month waiting for something worse to happen, and he doesn't have to over-dramatize every slip and fall (like last year's fatal-looking shoulder sprain that cost him about a week). This way, the Panthers can spend the month sifting through the parts old and new, and trying to figure out what they have. They don't lack for candidates, but they do lack for experience.

The Panthers catch some love on Monday Morning Quarterback:

Philip Rivers optimistic about Chargers chances in 2010. (SI.com)
4. My surprise teams, and people. I like Carolina... to surprise. I think Matt Moore (last three starts last year: 3-0, 69.7 percent passing, 7-0 TD-to-interception ratio) will hold off Jimmy Clausen and be a good NFL starter.

Two articles re: the lack of a Clausen signing thus far:

Panthers QB Clausen might blow his chance to start if unsigned before camp. (CharlotteObserver.com)
The Panthers report to Wofford College in Spartanburg, Wednesday and begin practice the following day. Clausen’s agent, Gary Wichard, said Thursday that he’s exchanged proposals with the Panthers, but didn’t want to comment on the particulars or speculate on when a deal might get done. Likewise, Panthers general manager Marty Hurney won’t comment on negotiations.

Jimmy Clausen Unsigned as Panthers Camp Nears. (Yahoo.com)
As a second-round pick—the Panthers didn’t have a first-round selection—Clausen won’t come close to getting a big-money deal. He’s likely to get the going rate, which is a four-year deal with incentives. It appears Clausen wants the max, with terms that pay him like a starter once he assumes the role.

ESPN did an NFC South piece analyzying teams' salary cap status (it's an insider article, so I only quoted the bit about the Panthers):

NFL salary-cap analysis: Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, New Orleans Saints, Tampa Bay Buccaneers. (ESPN.com)
Carolina Panthers 2010 team salary: $112,784,928 2010 dead money: $29,172,794

Player with highest team salary number: Jake Delhomme, QB, Cleveland Browns ($15,175,000);

Current player: Steve Smith, WR ($8,713,111)

Non-tendered player in a contract year: DeAngelo Williams, RB Chris Johnson and Darrelle Revis have made headlines out of their discontent with their contracts, but Williams hasn't received a lot of attention. During the past two seasons, Williams managed more than 2,600 rushing yards and averaged 5.4 yards per carry while playing in tandem with running back Jonathan Stewart. The San Francisco 49ers' extension of Pro Bowl linebacker Patrick Willis proved that the 30 percent rule (which governs contracts in an uncapped year) isn't a hindrance to extending young players, and Williams' 30 percent rule numbers are very similar to Willis'. Unlike other player markets, the running back compensation market has not increased significantly in the past few years, and that's because teams rarely rely on one running back to shoulder the burden. That said, Williams could be looking at an extension worth roughly $15 million guaranteed -- it's just a matter of when he receives the deal. Get Ready For September FBO Book The "Football Outsiders Almanac 2010," which Bill Simmons calls "a book that any self-respecting NFL fan needs to purchase," can be ordered online here.

Player who has to live up to team salary number: Chris Gamble, CB ($8,050,000) Gamble has the third-highest team salary number on the team and is one of the top 10 highest-paid starting cornerbacks in the league. He hasn't been a bad player in the secondary, but he's not one of the top cornerbacks in the league. In 2008, Gamble's contract year, he had a tremendous season in which he totaled 93 tackles, three interceptions and 18 passes defensed and looked like he was coming into his own as an elite cornerback. His numbers tailed off a little bit in 2009, possibly because he had already been paid. The challenge for Gamble in 2010 is to validate the significant investment the Panthers made in him.

Another ESPN article, this one about running back time-shares:

Breaking down running back playing time. (ESPN.com)
Carolina: The Panthers have one of the league’s most dynamic combination in DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. The playing time numbers pretty much back up coach John Fox’s view that these two guys are equal. Williams was on the field for 46.5 percent of Carolina’s 1,053 plays and Stewart participated in 40.3 percent. That breakdown should be pretty similar in 2010, barring injury. The Panthers let veteran fullback Brad Hoover go in the offseason and that’s significant because he took part in 31.2 percent of the plays. Tony Fiammetta took only 10.3 percent of the snaps as a rookie last year and he’s going to have to step into Hoover’s role.

A lot of this was covered in Homers vs. Haters:

Dayton Fliers: Tunnel vision. (Panthers.com)
It is hard to remember a training camp opening with the combination of curiosity, hope and uncertainty in such partnership. The optimists point to a strong finish last year, an elite wide receiver, one of the best offensive lines in the NFL, possibly the best running back tandem in football, and a defense that finished in the top 10 last season. The pessimists will say that is true, but the number one quarterback on the depth chart has only eight starts and the defense has lost some of its star power and could have one of its best players playing a different spot at linebacker.

I admit, I just saw this link on my lunch break and I haven't watched it yet, but it's a 10 minute video guide to training camp:

Video Gallery: Camp Fan Guide. (Panthers.com)
Go camping with the Panthers.

Pat Y's been pretty busy the past few days. (Why can't we get someone like Samuel L to do a Panthers ad?):

NFC South mailbag. (ESPN.com)
Jeremy in Minneapolis writes: Pat PLEASE tell me something uplifting about this upcoming season for the Panthers that only the NFC South blogger would be able to say!

Pat Yasinskas: I know a lot of people are down on the Panthers because of their offseason purge and youth movement. I agree they’ve got some question marks, but I still think they can be a playoff contender. I know how Carolina general manager Marty Hurney thinks, and he’s of the school that you need somewhere around seven or eight blue-chip players on a roster. I’m looking at Carolina’s roster and seeing Steve Smith, Jordan Gross, DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart, Ryan Kalil, Jeff Otah, Jon Beason and Chris Gamble. In my eyes, that’s a pretty good start. If a couple of young guys can step up, the Panthers will be fine. You want something else positive about the Panthers? They've got the best equipment manager in the history of the world. That's Jackie Miles, who already has taken over as the unofficial mayor of Spartanburg, S.C., as he gets everything set up for training camp.

NFC South training camp preview. (ESPN.com)
Panthers: What must Matt Moore do to win the starting quarterback job? A lot of people believe this training camp will be highlighted by a battle between Moore and rookie Jimmy Clausen. That’s not really the case -- or at least not how Carolina’s brass views the situation. The truth is the Panthers are going to camp with every intention of Moore being the starter. He earned that much by playing well at the end of last season. Coach John Fox isn’t about to open the season with a rookie starting at quarterback. He could turn to Clausen later in the season if things aren’t going well. But the immediate starting job is Moore’s, and the only way he can lose it is to have a disastrous training camp and preseason.

Chat with Pat Yasinskas. (ESPN.com)
matt (greensboro, n.c) Just saw the money that Colt Mccoy got, how much money and how many years do you think the panthers will give Jimmy Clausen? Will he be able to demand a lot more then most second rounders because of his position and the fact that he was projected to go so high?

Pat Yasinskas (2:52 PM) Think it will be a creative contract with lots of incentives that he can reach if he becomes the starter. It'll be somewhat like the deal Panthers gave Chris Weinke when they drafted him.

Samuel L. Jackson stars in Falcons' ad. (ESPN.com)
Very shortly, television viewers in the Atlanta market are going to be seeing a new face of the Falcons. It’s actor Samuel L. Jackson. He has deep ties to the Atlanta area and he has filmed a commercial to go with the team’s "Rise Up’’ advertising campaign.

NFC South Saturday mailbag. (ESPN.com)
John in Charlotte writes: A lot of people have named their top 5 running backs lately. The Panther's duo has consistently been absent. Is it too hard to imagine that if Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams were the feature back on separate teams that they would each be on those lists?

Pat Yasinskas: Not hard at all to imagine that. Williams and Stewart both are top-notch backs. So what if they don’t get the individual hype? I don’t think that bothers either one of them. They get along well and they realize they complement one another. There are enough carries to keep both happy. At a time where it’s tough for one running back to carry the load for an entire season, I think the Panthers have a great luxury –- a backfield duo that’s as good as any in the league.

This theme (and the phrase "step up") seem to have been covered ad nauseam:

New cast must step up for Carolina Panthers. (CharlotteObserver.com)
After jettisoning popular and productive veterans in favor of young (i.e. cheap) players, the Panthers will be relying on folks they've never had to before. Here's a look at the five guys under the most scrutiny when they report to Wofford next week:

More Panthers.com positional preview videos (that's a lot of alliteration):

Video Gallery: Camp Preview: Defensive Line. (Panthers.com)

Video Gallery: Camp Preview: Linebackers. (Panthers.com) 

Video Gallery: Camp Preview: Special Teams. (Panthers.com) 

Video Gallery: Camp Preview: Defensive Backs. (Panthers.com)

A couple new preseason power rankings (although Sando is the NFC West writer at ESPN, he's still super knowledgeable):

NFL Power Rankings Preseason. (ESPN)
22 Panthers 8-8-0 Carolina has the NFL's youngest roster and a head coach entering the final year of his deal. (Sando)

NFL pre-camp power rankings. (FoxSports.com)
23. Panthers (8-8) – PRE-CAMP OUTLOOK: The Panthers can run the ball all day long with the duo of DeAngelo Williams and Johnathan Stewart. But that may be all they can do well. Steve Smith is still stranded on "Double-Coverage Island" and Julius Peppers is counting his dead Presidents in Chicago. While I love teams that like to run the rock, Carolina seems a few playmakers shy of contending.

Here are a couple interviews of the Panthers O-Line on the Mac Attack:

Ryan Kalil Interview. (WFNZ.com)

Jordan Gross Interview. (WFNZ.com)

Fantasy football link of the day:

Not "news" to regular CSR readers, but:

Panthers to start QB Matt Moore in Week One. (FFToolbox.com)
Fantasy Analysis: I expect the learning curve to be quick and fairly simple for Jimmy Clausen, thus he becomes the number two Panther, sooner or later. This is the least experienced quarterback unit in the league, with only eight career starts between them, of which all those belong to Moore. Moore has been impressive when in action. The Panthers are comfortable giving the 6-2 starter a longer look. Currently, Moore is under a one year contract.

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