All smiles- Luke Kuechly is the first step in reshaping the Panthers defense with Ron Rivera's guys. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-US PRESSWIRE
Happy Monday Panther faithful, and welcome to the first MMO since the season ended. This post-draft edition will be focusing solely on the Carolina Panthers' draft weekend, and their plans moving forward. Here at CSR we're pressing on with an in-depth look at each draft pick, and we'll be examining the depth charts as we move first towards the rookie mini camp, which occurs next weekend, and then into training camp where we'll really get a sense for how the 2012 Panthers are coming along.
It's no surprise that I think Marty Hurney and the rest of the Panthers front office were absolute geniuses when it comes to this draft class. The plan we saw building throughout the off-season was executed to near-perfection as the organization landed no less than four players they heavily scouted and visited with pre-draft: Kuechly, Silatolu, Adams and Norman. They also addressed their needs at punter, added some pass rush and spent the offseason completely overhauling the special teams unit. We are entering the 2012 season with a much stronger team overall, with much better depth across almost all positions.
After the jump we'll be jumping into the pros, and cons of the Panthers draft class.
Trusting the Process- Extremely Optimistic
This is the first draft I can remember where Marty Hurney gave us detailed information about the process of the Carolina Panthers in choosing, and selecting players. Rather than ethereal, non-answers about 'getting a good player' we were given timelines, specific info, and a clear chain that ran from regional, to national scouting and finally to the decision makers inside the organization. In the past there has been a distinct air of haphazardness when it comes to how players were selected, but now we're seeing a team in command of their scouting, and trusting in their process.
Drafting the mind, not the body- Extremely Optimistic
Where the legendary Al Davis (RIP) got in trouble was relying far too much on the physical characteristics, and ignoring the mental ones. In the past this got him legends like Bo Jackson, but in the modern NFL where elite athletes are commonplace it's the head on one's shoulders that sets him apart. Over the last two drafts the Carolina Panthers have been quietly filling their roster with winners; players who no matter the level of competition managed to dominate their opponents. These are guys who are willing to run through brick walls for their teams, and in turn gladly play through pain, hardship and adversity to become leaders. You can teach a player how to shed a block, or run a slant route- but you can't teach someone how to put their hand in the dirt for one more stand while their muscles are pumping battery acid, and they're almost out of breath. These are the players the Panthers have now, and they aren't willing to say die.
Tenaciously sticking to the plan- Somewhat Optimistic
I'm a little reticient on this point only because there's a big chance this could backfire. As it stands the Carolina Panthers seem perfectly content to enter the 2012 season with the same collection of DTs and CBs they had in 2011. With the exception of rookie Josh Norman the names stay the same, but the Panthers are hoping the performances are very different. In this way Ron Rivera is banking on Terrell McClain and Sione Fua pushing through their rookie wall for successful 2012 campaigns, mixed with a rag-tag group of UDFA's and cast-offs to solidify the interior defensive line and hopefully free up some space for Charles Johnson to once again become a dominant pass rusher. There's sound reasoning in the Panthers approach, but there's also a good chance this could get worse before it gets better.
Getting Cam the help he needs- Extremely Pessimistic
There aren't many areas I can knock this draft, I really love what the Panthers did overall. However, they did not do much to help Newton on offense. Regardless of what you think of Legedu Naanee and Jeremy Shockey they did account for 81 receptions, 922 yards and 5 TDs last season- this isn't exactly chump change, and right now Carolina are relying on David Gettis coming off an ACL injury, and the unproven Gary Barnidge (also coming off an injury) to fill this void. In time I think Joe Adams will be a dangerous weapon, but it's unrealistic to think he'll make an immediate impact at WR. This tenuous grade can turn on a dime if free agent WR Jacoby Jones signs with the Panthers, but right now there are less weapons in the passing game for Newton, and that's a concern.
That's an awful lot of faith in the new guys, don't you think?- Somewhat Pessimistic
The only other area I'm really nervous about is at cornerback. The Panthers cannot afford to start Captain Munnerlyn across from Chris Gamble in 2012, and they will likely be relying on two players with character issues to fill that need with Brandon Hogan and Josh Norman. Both Hogan and Norman have the talent to be starting caliber NFL CBs, but they both carry significant baggage and have had trouble in the past keeping their minds on football. If either one is going to be starting for the Panthers they need to be focused completely on the task at hand, and ready to be picked on regularly by opposing QBs.
There's so much to be excited for in 2012 as we draw closer to the start of the season, some four months from now. The roster is really starting to take shape, and we have a better sense of how the defense will look with Luke Kuechly added to the mix. More importantly we are entering the season secure at the quarterback position, a luxury we haven't had in years. The work is only just beginning, and I hope the front office and getting ready to trawl the veteran cuts to bolster some key areas for the Panthers, but overall this is the start of something big and I can't wait to share it with all of you.