Hurney Hints at Panther Draft Focus

Panthers GM Marty Hurney is a master at not saying anything in post season interviews. He may give you a long winded answer but in the end its like one of those fluffy french pastries. It looks great on the surface but once you dig into it you realize there really isn't anything worthwhile in there. His post-season interview with Joe Person that was posted yesterday is exactly that...for the most part. Yet there was one area that I thought he came back too and hit on again that I think might actually have some truth to it.

In response to a question as to the defense being the biggest priority, Hurney first addresses the need for a strong front 7 on the defense and then he says this:

Hurney: On offense, I think you try to keep your strength strong. And when you have a quarterback like Cam and a running game like we do and the offensive line, I think you have to always look to make sure you keep that area strong because this is a league where you have to score points to win.

So which part of the offense do you think Hurney felt like didn't remain strong all season? Certainly wasn't Cam and Double Trouble. All three played 16 games. Now check this next question and Hurney's answer:

Q. With Jeff Otah coming back, could you see Byron Bell moving to guard if Otah’s healthy?

Hurney: Those are all things that play out as you go in training camp. But the one thing you always want to do is make sure you have very good depth on the offensive line. Because that’s one spot if you get hit by injuries or whatever the case, if your offensive line’s not good then you’re going to struggle. I think our guys played extremely well this year up front. We’ve got some very good players up front and you’ve got to continuously try to add to that group and make it strong.

This in my view says " Lord we hated to play a UDFA at RT all season", at least in Hurney-speak it does for me. Certainly his offseason plan wasn't for a UDFA to get so many starts. I'm not taking anything away from Byron Bell, the kid has been fantastic given his rise from the post draft ashes. But he is limited as we saw when fellow rookie Cameron Jordan seemed to be harassing Cam all day this past Sunday, a rookie who just got his first sack of the season.

My first choice is for Jeff Otah to return and man that RT spot for 16 games next season. Rivera reports his rehab is essentially complete and he is merely awaiting the start of OTAs. Yet given his injury history I don't think Hurney wants to get caught with his pants down again, so to speak. So don't be surprised if the Panthers us one of their two first picks on an offensive linemen as there should be some good ones available in both the 1st and 2nd round.

Its not like the Panthers have much of choice if that is an area they want to improve. the word is the Panthers will be tight on salary cap space without cutting a couple significant players. I doubt we can expect the Panthers to make a big FA slash, at least in the area of the offensive line. That's why I really like the CB/OL or reverse OL/CB combo for their first two picks this draft. I think Hurney has given as solid a hint as you will get that he covets added talent to the o-line.

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