In Spartanburg, SC we're starting to see a promising player emerge. He's playing football, rather than playing with the book of the dead, but our Bruce Campbell is starring in a B-movie of his own for the Carolina Panthers this training camp. This Panthers' offseason has been littered with 'throw it to a wall and see if it sticks' roster moves that were centered on the idea of bringing in promising talent on the cheap, and scouring the UDFA ranks to see if they can find another Byron Bell, a promising undrafted player in 2011 who is now Carolina's starting right tackle.
Upon hearing the Panthers finalized the trade that sent RB Mike Goodson to Oakland for Campbell it peaked my interest as one of the few straight-up player trades we see in the NFL anymore. More often than not organizations lean towards stockpiling late-round picks, before trading for under-achievers, which Campbell was up until this point. It was clear the front office had a plan in bringing him in, and saw potential. Based on what I saw this weekend in Spartanburg, and echoed by Joe Person last night, I can safely say that Bruce Campbell looks like the real deal, and is this trade works out it could be one of the best roster moves Marty Hurney has made while in Carolina.
More after the jump
If you don't know the story behind Bruce Campbell here is it is in a nutshell-- reported to have a brain issue during the combine, there were questions whether he could play left tackle in the NFL. At 6'6", 314 lbs he was one of the most physically impressive specimens we've ever seen at the position, but as most will tell you, playing on the offensive line is one of the most mentally demanding positions on the field.
The Oakland Raiders selected him with the 106th overall pick in 2010, and it was their hope that if they handled him correctly, and developed him that in time they would have one of the most gifted offensive linemen in the NFL. Their front office was in flux, there were coaching changes, and in the shuffle Campbell got moved to offensive guard, a move that played him out of position. As Josh Norris of Rotoworld told me, Campbell has "Obviously always been more athlete than player, suffered from waist bending when out of position." Couple that technical problem with asking him to play offensive guard, and you have a recipe baked for failure.
Marty Hurney intimated as much when the Panthers traded for Campbell, saying they felt he was played out of position, and that the Panthers would be moving him back to offensive tackle. Thus far it looks like this move is paying off, because he looks extremely good playing backup LT behind Jordan Gross. Perhaps it's having people like Gross and Kalil to learn from, or maybe it's that he has found a place that can afford to give the time to develop him, but over the weekend working against Greg Hardy, Antwan Applewhite, and Frank Alexander he looked like an offensive lineman who wasn't getting overwhelmed.
The work is still there to be put in, but I was stunned in seeing Campbell play just how much better he looked than expected. In my mind I'd more-or-less written him off as 'throw it to a wall, and see what sticks' territory, but I was extremely surprised. He only has one year left on his deal, but based on how he's performing thus far it's fairly likely the Panthers will find a way to extend his contract, especially at the age of just 24. If the dust settles and Marty Hurney managed to find a long-term offensive tackle in exchange for the odd man out at RB, then it will go a long way to help us all forget about Jeff Otah.