Panthers to Target a DE in 2015 Draft

 

Kony Ealy is still a work in progress, but can the Panthers afford to wait for him–when it is clear they need another dominant pass rusher to fill the void of Hardy?

Ealy not ready

Ealy is still not where the Panthers want him to be. It was clear that when Ealy was drafted last year in the second round that he was a work in progress and needed to develop his fundamentals.

The Panthers have prided themselves on having a staple defense–it is one area that they emphasize and were hoping to rest easy. The Panthers re-signed DT’s Cole and Edwards who helped stabilize the group last year. Coach Ron Rivera also indicated that Star Lotulelei is coming along nicely with his rehab, according to NFL insider, David Newton.

It is clear that a piece is still missing with the departure of Greg Hardy and if Ealy has not clearly shown that he has taken the next step, then the Panthers may look at taking a strong DE early in the draft. Rumors have been circulating of a possible trade down by Carolina who would look to re-solidify the pass rush. The Panthers are doubtful to make such a strong move; it would be an uncharacteristic approach to their draft philosophy, no matter the need to find a replacement. The Panthers do find themselves in a good position with this years draft, having gained two Compensatory draft picks, both in the 5th round.

randy gregory

randy gregory workout

The Panthers have a decision to make and the draft is one where all the cards on are on the table. Randy Gregory certainly hasn’t helped the Panthers problems with acquiring a ready-to-go, dominant pass rusher. Gregory is showing off-the-field issues, which the Panthers aim to stay clear of, having shown a zero-tolerance for “character” issues. Gregory recently failed a drug test which may hurt his chances to be a top-10 pick in the draft. An aggressive pass rusher would be a hot commodity for a lot of teams and there is reported interest by the Atlanta Falcons that they would look to take Gregory in the draft.

Here’s the top-18 DE’s in this years draft, which is deep at the DE position:

top 18 DE

Kony Ealy –Replacing Greg Hardy

ealy 1ealy 3

Last year in Spartanburg, at the Panthers training camp, Ealy was still figuring things out. In fact, QB Cam Newton was giving the new DE an earful–challenging the rookie to play to all of his potential. At the end of last season, Ealy grew into his role, and since then hasn’t looked back. He now  looks to his upcoming year, increasing his performance and tackling new ground-breaking numbers. Ealy, along with other DE’s like Frank Alexander, will take the healm, gripping the ropes, where Greg Hardy, known as the ‘Kraken,’ left off. They had to to do it early on out of necessity last year, with Hardy only being allowed to play in one game. Ealy gained valuable on-the-field reps and experience, vital to kick-starting the 2015 season.

Ealy at Missouri, logged in 9.5 sacks, and the Panthers are looking for him to do the same, to play a big-time role in the NFL. The Panthers saw enough in Ealy to spend a 2nd round draft pick. Now with the Panthers loosing Hardy because of “off-the-field” issues, they need another premiere pass rusher to play alongside of their other threat of Charles Johnson.

Ealy will undergo yet again, another competitive training camp, and will have to be ready to build upon his attained success that he established at the end of last season. He will know most of his competition, yet there may be some new fresh faces that will bring the best out of the ex-Mizzou who shows a lot of flashes and potential to be a top-premiere pass rusher in the league, in time.

ealy 2

Ealy accumulated a total of 4 career sacks in 2014 and increased his performance towards the end of the season. He found himself swarming to the ball and assisting in numerous tackles. Staff looks for overall player improvement, which Ealy did, and they were excited to see him develop. It appears the team has high hopes for him and the success that he’s capable of. GM Dave Gettlemen was impressed with Ealy’s performance and his advancement late in the season. Any time a player shows his capabilities and growth draws excitement to a developing team. Gettlemen seeks to put the pieces together and build. Gettlemen is a firm believer that the “answer may already be on the roster.” It appears the Panthers philosophy has paid off again, when many were scratching their heads, when the Panthers picked up Ealy in the 2nd round of last years draft.

Unfortunate circumstances brought the early dismissal of the ‘Kraken.’ Panthers need an early Ealy to bring back the attack and compliment the destroyer, Johnson. Ealy is the guy to prove his abilites along with the rotation of the other powerhouses that take on the role as DE in the Carolina Panthers.

Former Georgia RB Todd Gurley to Visit Panthers

2015 NFL Scouting Combine

Former Georgia tailback Todd Gurley will visit the Panthers on Thursday, Gurley told reporters Wednesday at the Bulldogs’ pro day in Athens, Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer reports.

Gurley, who is from Tarboro, was among the leading Heisman Trophy candidates last season before the NCAA suspended him four games for taking $3,000 in exchange for autographed memorabilia.

Gurley’s visit comes a week after the Panthers cut DeAngelo Williams in a move that saved them $2 million against the salary cap. Jonathan Stewart and Fozzy Whitaker are the Panthers’ top returning running backs.

Carolina has the 25th overall pick in the draft.

“The Panthers are a great organization,’’ Gurley told reporters in Athens. “I’m a North Carolina guy, so that’s a team that I’ve known about my whole life, really. They’ve had some great running backs. But I don’t favor any team right now. I don’t want to make any other teams mad.”

Gurley did not participate in Georgia’s pro day activities as he continues to recover from knee surgery. Gurley tore the ACL in his left knee against Auburn in November in his first game back from suspension.

An Inside Look On Newly-Signed Players

gettlemen

Some fans are questioning GM Dave Gettlemen’s moves, or lack thereof, so far in the Free Agency signings. However, the GM is doing exactly what he said he would do, and he also has the team to credit for the return of some players–players like WR Ted Ginn Jr. and TE Ed Dickson.

Both Ginn and Dickson attribute their return to the team’s ability to build and to create an atmosphere that players feel like they are valued and appreciated, an environment where they know their role and everyone feels like they belong–like a family. Both players were approached by several teams but they felt like the Panthers were where they belonged.  Ginn will give the Special Teams unit the boost that it sorely missed last year and he will also be a welcome addition to the WR unit. Gettlemen addressed the return of Ginn as a positive for the team and also likes Ginn’s ability to blow the top off of coverages, stating that it was nice to see Philly Brown help out in that area last season “but there’s nothing wrong with having two guys who can give you that as well.”

dickson

Dickson will help in the TE group as he has familiarity working with that unit and with Cam as well. He recently signed a contract for 3 years  worth 6.8 million with a 2 million signing bonus. Gettlemen talks about valuing “substance over splash” and this move makes a lot of sense moving forward for the Panthers. The other TE receivers are also leading the way. Via Jonathon Jones, “Dickson said he was walking through the building..and saw Olsen and Brandon Williams working out.” The team is on the right track.

Not only is the TE unit getting to work, so is the new exciting addition to the up-and-coming Offensive line, that so many are concerned about. The “Blindside”, Micheal Oher, has been getting to work re-developing his techniques. Oher signed with the Panthers for a two-year deal worth 7 million and a 2.5 signing bonus, another “value” signing by GM Gettlemen. Oher stated that he is completely healthy and is expected to compete for the left tackle spot. If Oher can return to his Super Bowl caliber performance, which could be possible with his former Offensive line coach, John Matsko, the Panthers have a lot of potential moving forward and looking ahead into the draft.

oher

Gettlemen on Oher: “We did our homework…we feel very strongly that he can be an answer for us. He’ll be inserted at left tackle, and we’ll go from there… Michael gives us a chance to solidify (the Offensive line) group.”

The Panthers also liked what they saw out of DT’s Dwan Edwards and Colin Cole, who add their veteran presence to an impressive defensive line front. The Panthers also made the move to keep the versatile QB Joe Webb.

The Panthers also retained four of their five exclusive rights free agents: LB Ben Jacobs, OL Brian Folkerts, RB Fozzy Whittaker, WR Brenton “Sunshine” Bersin.

Some of these moves might not make the huge headlines, or the “splash” that talks up SportsCenter, but the Panthers are getting it done. The sentiment is, like Gettlemen stated, its “one way to show the rest of the locker room, if you get it done, we’re going to come to you.”

Gettlemen: “..the number one thing..in evaluating is this:..know your team.”

Gettlemen will continue to build the roster. Which is what they brought him in to do. To build depth, which in turn builds future, which builds dynasty. Can it be done? Can it be brought to Carolina? Time will tell. But it appears the Panthers are on the right track.

 

A Ginn, Again?

Improving Special Teams

Going into the off-season, one of the major issues at-hand was for the improvement of the Special Teams for the Carolina Panthers–who were ranked 20th in Kick/Punt returns, according to PFR. The Panthers have some key concerns and issues to address moving forward to prepare for the up-coming season. The Panthers had a sub-par Special Teams last year, even though there was improvement later on in the season. Coach Ron Rivera admitted the need to upgrade the Special Teams unit.

Bruce DeHaven

 

The Panthers have made the necessary changes this offseason addressing personnel by moving around the staff. Ron Rivera will be working with his third special teams coordinator in four years after reassigning Richard Rodgers to the defensive staff and promoting his assistantBruce DeHaven. Ron Rivera thinks that the move makes a lot of sense and that the new position suits both coaches assets and allows the coaches to better use their strengths. DeHaven seems to be excited about his new role and looks to revamp the Special Teams unit.

Ginn, Again?

 

ginn

It is reported that the Panthers have an interest in the former Panther, ex-Arizona Cardinal, Ted Ginn Jr. It is also reported that the native Cleveland-er has sought interest from his hometown, Cleveland. Would Ted Ginn Jr., look forward to a reunion with the Panthers over his hometown? It is clear that Ted Ginn had one of his better seasons while he was in a Panthers uniform. Would Ginn return to see if he could duplicate that success?

The Panthers are looking for a dynamic punt-returner and another wide-receiver who could blow the tops off of defenses. Ted Ginn gives the Panthers, Cam Newton, that down-hill threat and Ginn put up some decent numbers with the Panthers–catching 36 passes for 556 yards and 5 TD’s also picking up good numbers at Punt Return and kickoff.

The Panthers will address some of their needs in Free Agency spending the necessary money to upgrade the team. This move would make a lot of sense. Once free agency needs are met, then the focus and direction of the draft can be set in motion.

Unleash the Kraken

 

hardy mad

Sources say that DE Greg Hardy will seek immediate reinstatement based on Thursday’s decision regarding Adrian Peterson.

NFLPA STATEMENT ON OVERTURNING OF ADRIAN PETERSON’S SUSPENSION

“This is a victory for the rule of law, due process and fairness. Our collective bargaining agreement has rules for implementation of the personal conduct policy and when those rules are violated, our union always stands up to protect our players’ rights. This is yet another example why neutral arbitration is good for our players, good for the owners and good for our game.”

–DeMaurice Smith
NFLPA Executive Director

 

The Panther’s to Weigh Decisions–In the Balance

The Panthers were waiting to decide what the outcome of one of their premiere pass rushers would be, allowing the NFL to work through their own process.  Missing the presence of their franchise-tagged player for most of the season last year, who looked to receive 13.1 million for the season and who in turn, received the amount by only playing one game and recording one sack–one of the most expensive sacks in the franchise and arguably in the league’s history, seriously impacted the Panther’s defense. Now the Panthers were forced to play the waiting game, allowing the league to come back with results and development.

With the results in and decisions made on the Adrian Peterson case, the dynamic Pass Rusher known as ‘The Kraken’ will look to be reinstated instead of being suspended for 6 weeks as was previously discussed by the league, by being on the Commissioner’s exempt list.

With the verdict in the balance and the public scrutiny by the public and by the league, the Panther’s will have to make a decision with what to do about Greg Hardy. They had backed Greg Hardy it seemed all year long but being silent about most of the player’s where about’s and activities. However, the team wanted to keep focused and distractions at a minimum.

The choice will be up to Jerry Richardson and the Panthers on what to do about Greg Hardy. No team’s like player’s who bring unnecessary problems and baggage on or off the field. The NFL was looking to find out more about the files and case work regarding Greg Hardy’s trial–and were at a stand still.  With the outcome of Adrian Peterson, one can’t help but think that Greg Hardy will most likely be reinstated. Now the decision remains–Do the Panthers stick with the dynamic pass rusher who adds to the explosiveness of the defense, paired along side with the other threat of DE Charles Johnson? Or do they let him try Free-Agency hoping for the other potentials on the team to step-up their game and look to find another pass rusher in the draft?

A Review of Panthers 2014-15 Season and the Transition Moving Forward

Every year there are changes made to the team. Last year fans felt betrayed by the letting go of the long-time Panther and veteran Steve Smith. This year, DeAngelo Williams. Transitions happen. Change happens. Fans may disagree with some of the decisions, but trust is necessary if you are to back the management of the team and allow them to work through the process. For those players released there may be some built up animosity but most of them seemed to enjoy being part of the team before their number was called to leave. Staff and management have a job to do as well and their job is to improve the team going forward, with the goal of attaining the Lombardy trophy.

Keeping the players you build around.

Who are they? When asked about the QB’s in this year’s draft class and whether or not Coach Ron Rivera would stick around and watch, his answer was that the Panthers “already had their franchise QB.” Cam Newton is the Panthers franchise QB going forward. The goal is to improve his play and put the necessary players around him to succeed. Has Cam taken the steps forward that the Panthers want to see?

Let’s take a look: Cam finished with an 82.1 QBR–falling to the 26th position. Cam NewtonQuarterback Rating is comprised of four components – QBR (Comp), QBR (PassYards), QBR (TDs) and QBR (INT), which when combined give you the total Quarterback Rating. In comparison, Newton was 16th in 2013, with a QBR of 88.8.

Offense is of main concern moving forward in the draft. If Gettlemen can sure up the offensive line and draft a few “Hogmollies” at the Tackle position–this would allow for Cam to continue to develop into the QB the Panthers need him to be.

Cam has improved, though the numbers may not show it in his QBR, he continued to find ways to win. Cam loves to win. And he has the abilities and skill to do it–he finds a way. He was second in Rushing for the Panthers, Rushing a total of 103 Attempts for 539 yds. averaging 5.2 yds/att. If this doesn’t make other teams defensive coordinators stay awake at night, then looking at the tape and seeing that he also has the ability to connect with his TE Greg Olsen and new-comer WR Kelvin Benjamin for big yards, both tied for 1,088 this past season, certainly will. And the Panthers are looking to find more weapons for Cam.

Panthers will look to sure up the Offense in this years draft. And if they can have the same success in the draft as they did before, as they improved upon the defense, we can expect to see tremendous growth for the Carolina Panthers moving forward.

A Look At the 2015 Panthers unrestricted free agents

b bell

Before approaching the draft, teams make moves in order to advance the team’s vision and philosophy for the upcoming year and the years to come. When looking at the team and the team’s needs it is important to learn what the team’s vision is and the dynamics that make-up the team.

LB Thomas Davis, in his recent interview on ‘Move the Sticks’, describes what it means to be a Carolina Panther. What does “playing like a Carolina Panther mean?” Davis: “You have to give us your all. You’ve got to come in and be willing to sell out for the team. That’s how we play on defense. We try and play like that on all three phases (Offense, Defense, Special Teams.) On defense, specifically, Davis states that “we play for eachother. We look at no one like they’re bigger than the team. We play the game at a high level.”

What type of player would fit what the Carolina Panthers look for? GM David Gettlemen, before he looks at any of the college tape on the draft class, sits down with the players and finds out about their football IQ. Gettlemen looks for players who can have an immediate impact on the field for the team.

Another part of Gettlemen’s philosophy is building depth and he believes you can never have too many quality players at any position.  Gettlemen, when using draft picks, will go with the best player on the board. His philosophy has worked well, all but for the 6th pick, which maybe this time around can have better success.

 

Here’s a look at the Panthers 2015 unrestricted free agents:

QB —Joe Webb

RB– DeAngelo Williams

TE– Ed Dickson

OT–Byron Bell ; Garry Williams

DE–Greg Hardy (on Commissioner’s Exempt List)

 

DT–Colin Cole ;Dwan Edwards

OLB–Chase Blackburn

 

Free Agency begins March 10 at 4 p.m.

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