clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Willie Smith Signing Puts Tackles on Notice

New, comments

The Panthers acquired a new swing tackle in free agency yesterday, and that should be very concerning to all the current ones.

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

You don't get a lot of chances in the NFL. You're expected to learn quickly, respond to coaching, and put in the extra effort necessary to make yourself relevant year in and out, regardless of how long you've been around. The Panthers made a big statement yesterday by signing veteran OT Willie Smith, one that should ring clearly in the ears of David Foucalt and Donald Hawkins.

Let's not get things twisted. Willie Smith is no guarantee to make the 53-man roster. Though he does possess NFL starting experience, there is a reason he has been without a regular season team since 2014. What that does mean, however, is that he probably has a leg up on a few guys that the team expected to show some promise during this camp, that have not in fact done so.

David Foucalt will be entering his third NFL season this year, all with the Panthers. He has spent the majority of his time on the practice squad, though he did see some really poor action in 2014 due to a spurt of injuries and ineffectiveness on the left side. Foucalt was admittedly not ready for action then, and no one expected him to be. However, everyone expects him to have taken several steps forward by now with two nearly full seasons behind him. There has been no indication of that from any of the camp reports, and his performance in the first preseason game was dismal. He provides no push in the run game, and is easily beaten by the speed rush in pass protection. I full expect that he will have seen his last days in the NFL come September.

Donald Hawkins is a guy that not many people expect to succeed here in Carolina. He has played in one NFL game for the Dallas Cowboys in 2014, his first season in the league. Since then he has bounced around to a bevy of practice squads, finally ending up here in the weeks before the Super Bowl. Hawkins has the size you like in an NFL left tackle, but came out of college raw, and remains so having never really caught on to a consistent coaching staff. His play is far more forgivable that Foucalt's, considering he is a newcomer, but it is still bad. I expect he will be gone with the first round of cuts.

The notable exceptions from my list here are Jordan Rigsbee and Daryl Williams. In the NFL, practice squads are perfectly designed for the devil you don't know, rather than the one you do. To this point, Rigsbee has been our most reliable depth swing tackle, even as a 1st year UDFA. While I can't imagine he'll make the 53, I would think he will clear waivers and be placed on our practice squad. Better to give a promising rookie time to develop than guys that you already know aren't going to "get it".

Daryl Williams on the other hand may simply just not be an NFL left tackle. The staff are going to keep giving him work there, but he may just not be fast enough. That doesn't change his usefulness as a right tackle. I do believe with time Remmers is going to feel the heat at that spot, but if you're going to keep Daryl on the 53 (and you are), you're going to need to feel better about your depth at LT... and that is where Willie Smith comes in. If the coaching staff doesn't see enough from Daryl to call him a depth swing tackle, they may be forced to keep 4 tackles on the roster.