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What's the story with Kealoha Pilares? He's been returning some punts, but that's about it... it seems to me that the Panthers have mostly been going with two WRs and could really use someone like Kealoha in the slot, but I don't know that he's even been on the field for an offensive down. After that pre-season TD, you'd think he'd have earned a shot at some time on the field (I know he had that ankle injury, but he's been healthy enough the past couple of weeks to return punts...). I'd sure love to see what the kid can do in the offense.
I think Kealoha will figure heavily into the future plans for the Carolina Panthers. I'm lead to believe the coaching staff are extremely happy with his development in practice, but that doesn't mean they're ready to throw him to the wolves yet on Sunday.
When the dust settles I think Kealoha will become the typical slot receiver we think of in the Wes Welker mold (though probably not as talented). I don't think he'll be on the field every down, but I think next season we'll see him featured more heavily.
For several weeks our defense seemed to continually get crushed outside the numbers. The DT's seemed to be in place but had nothing in the stats box. Last week (against Minnesota) I thought the DT's were getting blown off the ball towards the end of the game but altogether they had 8 tackles (5 solo), 1 sack & 1 TFL. Stats don't tell the whole story. Half way through the season what is the story?
The story is that the tackles are terrible, the linebackers are lacking lateral speed and the defensive ends are making plays in spite of all this.
There were some positive signs from the DL against Minnesota, but overall they still get manhandled way too easily, the DTs over-pursue or take bad angles and that's whats opened up the outside as much as we've seen. Part of it is rookie error, and part is just a lack of talent. Time will tell if these DTs can evolve into legitimate NFL talents, and I think it's too early to make a decision on them one way or another.
It seems that lately, if there's a position we're really hurting at right now (in part because of the general effect on defense, as well as how it's impacting special teams), it's at linebacker. Yet we seem to have little or no interest in linebackers that are available. Is that a talent issue in regards to who might still be available (I can't find a current list of what free agent linebackers are available presently), a desire by the front office to stick with what we have (since the loss of Beason and Davis are really impacting us defensively), or some other factors I'm not aware of?
This late in the season you don't have many options in terms of effectively stopping the bleeding. By now all the best guys are snatched up, and unless you're willing to lose a draft pick (re: Aaron Curry) there's really nobody who can help you.
I definitely think part of this is evaluating the talent on the roster and determining whether guys like Thomas and Jason Williams deserve long term commitments from the Carolina Panthers. 2011 isn't about serious playoff runs, it's about evaluating and nurturing talent for a run in 2012 and beyond. In this way it doesn't really behoove the team to make a short term commitment to a band-aid type player.