If you kept kept as many TEs as CBs while penciling in mock depth charts last week prior to the cut to 53, congratulations, you're a smarter person than I. One of the decisions that came furthest from left-field was that which kept two H-backs on the roster, with both Ben Hartsock and Richie Brockel making the grade, along with Mike Tolbert– who in many ways is an h-back himself, albeit a far more unconventional one.
Richie Brockel is one of those players I hated cutting whenever I went through a 53 man roster. I hated it because I have a natural affinity for football players. What I mean by this are those hard-nosed, gritty players who often lack a true position, but who every team needs– the ubiquitous 'glue guys'. It's a moniker that's far too often bandied about in relation to Tim Tebow, but when you encounter a true 'football player' they oftentimes become fan favorites.
Brockel arrived in Carolina with the great Charger exodus of 2011– a time where Ron Rivera and Rob Chudzinski raided the coffers of San Diego and brought over every player they could find with familiarity. A year later the likes of Legedu Naanee, Seyi Ajirotutu, and Ogemdi Nwagbuo have all fallen by the wayside, yet Richie survived the cut, and once again will suit up for Carolina this fall.
The big question is: What do the Panthers have planned for Brockel? We'll look into this...
After the jump
Last season supplied fans with plenty of highlight reel moments, but perhaps the most welcome to see was 'The Annexation of Puerto Rico'. It was a play that so perfectly juxtaposed Ron Rivera's style with John Fox's that while Cam Newton ushered in a new era of QB play, the trick play that resulted in Brockel's only TD of the season typified the Panthers' new offensive philosophy– unconventional is okay, as long as it gets the job done.
Along with Mike Tolbert the Panthers get versatility, and mismatch opportunities when Brockel is added to the offense. At 6'1", 255 lbs, paired with good ball skills make him an effective short-yardage runner, and a decent pass catching option in a pinch. He can play fullback, tight end, and is an excellent special teams player; in many ways he's the offense's version of Jordan Senn, another skilled player who is used in multiple roles.
This preseason we didn't see much of him featured, which led to the widespread assumption that he wasn't long for the Carolina Panthers. Running the ball just once against Miami, and catching one pass against the Jets didn't inspire a great deal of confidence from the fans, yet it was enough for the front office to save a spot on the 53 for him.
Immediately the Panthers now have one of the biggest jumbo packages in the NFL. A 2-TE set featuring Ben Hartsock (6'4", 260 lbs) and Richie Brockel (6'1", 255 lbs), blocking for Mike Tolbert (5'9", 245 lbs) creates a goal line scenario that will take a lot of pressure off Cam Newton to make awe inspiring (yet heart-in-throat) dives over the pile. It also adds a package with three big, able handed pass catchers. Pair this with the triple option plays we know will be utilized, and you have a situation where the Panthers will have more looks to give defenses, and more importantly less of the burden for Cam Newton to shoulder.
By nature of him remaining on the roster, it appears Rob Chudzinkski has more plans for Richie Brockel; and if 'the annexation of Puerto Rico' is any indication, it should be a fun season.