Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Sunday, January 1, 2017 7:43 pm

Panthers: We can’t wait ’til next year

Filed under: Panthers — Lex @ 7:43 pm
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The Carolina Panthers lost their last game of the season today to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 17-16, when a 2-point conversion attempt failed. Thus, they follow up their 15-2 Super Bowl campaign in 2015 with a 6-10 year in 2016.

The Panthers stunk up the field for much of today’s game, but still played well enough, particularly on defense, to win. But kicker Graham Gano, reportedly nursing an injury to the heel of his left (plant) foot, missed three field-goal attempts. One was a 58-yarder, but even one of the other two would’ve won the game.

Gano’s field-goal accuracy has been an issue since before he was a Panther; he missed 10 in two different seasons with Washington. His misses this year cost the team at least three games, including the crucial season opener at Denver. He still gets a lot of touchbacks on kickoffs, but I think the team would be nuts not to bring some other kickers into training camp.

There are a lot of other reasons why the Panthers’ season went as badly as it did, but I think it starts with general manager Dave Gettleman’s failure to sign or franchise cornerback Josh Norman, who ended up signing with Washington. With corner Charles “Peanut” Tillman’s retirement, the Panthers were left with rookies starting at both corners and only one returnee, safety Kurt Coleman, in the secondary. (Bene Benwikere got so badly burned by Atlanta Falcons WR Julio Jones after the teams’ first meeting that the Panthers cut him.) Not surprisingly, although the rookies came on toward the end of the season, the Panthers’ pass defense had become the league’s worst heading into Week 17.

The Panthers started the season with perhaps the league’s best linebacking corps, with all-pros Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis and promising sophomore Shaq Thompson. But Kuechly was lost to a concussion, and his normally capable backup, A.J. Klein, underperformed before also being hurt. The team’s run defense and blitzing capability suffered dramatically as a result; the run defense plunged into the bottom third of the league.

Gettleman also must accept blame for the collapse of the offensive line, whose weaknesses were exposed in the Panthers’ Super Bowl 50 loss to the Denver Broncos. He did nothing to strengthen the line in the off-season, and his failure to address its lack of depth was exposed when LT Michael Oher, C Ryan Kalil, and Kalil’s backup, Gino Gradkowski, all were injured. Mike Remmers, who wasn’t even adequate at RT, became a major liability when moved to plug Oher’s hole.

The line couldn’t run-block, which hampered aging RB Jonathan Stewart and exposed the shortcomings of RBs Fozzy Whittaker and Cameron Artis-Payne, and it couldn’t protect QB Cam Newton, who too often found his pocket collapsing right under his chin.

A big part of the blame also goes to Newton, the 2015 league MVP, who took several giant steps backward in 2016. He’s as physically gifted as ever, but 2016 Cam exhibited many of the mental errors of 1997-98 Kerry Collins: Locking in on receivers, appearing to forget his reads, improper footwork. He has got to get his head back into the game. Head coach Ron Rivera has said that he wants Newton to become a more traditional drop-back passer so as to be able to play another 10 or more years in the league. That transition will require Newton to become a more focused player than he was in 2016. It also will require him to spend the off-season going over video and drilling; he needs to relearn how to play his position and not rely on his instincts, which served him poorly this year.

But just as Newton’s offensive line served him poorly this year, so did his wide receivers. Kelvin Benjamin and Devon Funchess, who have size and height advantages over most of their defenders, have struggled to achieve separation. Given their physical gifts, that’s on them. And Benjamin, Funchess and Ted Ginn must reduce the drops.

What do the Panthers face in the offseason? Star DT Kawann Short, a Pro Bowl player in 2015, will be a free agent after the season, as will the team’s sack leader, DE Mario Addison; DE Charles Johnson; and WR Ginn, who hasn’t performed well anywhere but Carolina but has excelled as a Panther. Re-signing Short is critical. Johnson is aging and might be a necessary cut to create salary-cap space. And it might be time to let Ginn go in favor of WR/PR Damiere Byrd.

What are the Panthers’ greatest needs? I would argue that the O-line, particularly LT, is the top priority. I’ve watched this franchise since its inception, and its rare years of success have coincided with solid, consistent O-lines. Strength and depth at OT, I would argue, is essential.

Next? Running back. Stewart will be 30 and in his 10th year in the league in 2017, and he has been injury-prone in the past. Neither Whittaker nor Artis-Payne has shown that he can be an every-down back. And FB Mike Tolbert aside, there are no other RBs on the roster.

On defense, the team must decide if corners James Bradberry and Darryl Worley are the future. It’s a tough position to learn, and I would argue that a proven CB is essential in the near term.

I would argue that those positions must be addressed, or mostly addressed, in free agency (thus the title of this post). Doing so leaves the team free to utilize its preferred draft strategy of picking the best player available irrespective of position. Gettleman has an almost perverse appetite for defensive linemen in the draft, but if he gets Short signed and can find one more DL in free agency, he can draft for depth, if at all, at that position.

The bottom line for the 2017 Panthers, though, is that some people already on the roster — QB Newton, the WRs, and the corners — are going to have to take it on themselves to get significantly better if the team is to have a chance to get back to being a Super Bowl contender. They have the talent; the question is whether they have the desire.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014 9:39 pm

“Ice up. And mow my lawn.” — Steve Smith

Filed under: Panthers,That's gonna leave a mark — Lex @ 9:39 pm
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Well, that’s not the exact quote, but it captures the spirit. Steve Smith, a well-known trash talker when he played for the Carolina Panthers, had to have something to say when his new team played the one that cast him off, and it finally has surfaced:

youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O3BfM4etR50

For the few people who don’t follow the Panthers, Smith torched them last Sunday for 100+ yards and two TDs.

As a Panthers fan, I don’t blame him. Yeah, ex-general manager Marty Hurney created a huge salary cap problem for the Panthers, but Smith hasn’t struck me as a guy who’s completely all about the money. I think he’d have taken a below-market contract to stay in Charlotte.

The problem, as I read between the lines, is that Steve Smith was the locker-room leader that Panthers management didn’t want. They wanted the Panthers to be quarterback Cam Newton’s team, and I get that. But you need to think hard before throwing out a combination of skill and leadership, and it is becoming increasingly clear in hindsight that the Panthers, and in particular general manager Dave Gettleman, didn’t think hard enough. A quarter of the way through the season, Smith is on pace for more than 1,700 receiving yards, which would put him in about the Top 5 in single-season NFL receiving leaders … ever. And this is a guy who was thought too old to play the game at a high level again.

So, yeah, maybe Gettleman or team owner Jerry Richardson should mow Smith’s lawn. He sure mowed the Panthers down last Sunday.

 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014 7:56 am

Sweat it to get it

Filed under: Fun,Panthers — Lex @ 7:56 am
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I’m not a fan of commercials in general, but as a Panther fan, this Gatorade ad featuring Cam Newton had me chuckling.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009 10:50 pm

Odds and ends for 12/15

A way to balance the budget?: For the second straight month, the U.S. Treasury auctioned 1-month T-bills at 0.0% interest. The national budget gets significantly smaller if you whack out interest on the national debt, y’know.

All I want for Christmas is a repeal of Gramm-Leach-Bliley.

BOHICA: As part of “paying off” its multi-billion-dollar loan from the taxpayers, technically insolvent bank holding company Citigroup gets to keep $38 billion in tax credits that regulations normally would require it to give up. That figure will easily overshadow any profit the taxpayers may get from selling Citigroup shares. Merry. Freaking. Christmas.

But maybe Christmas is coming early; or, Who are you and what have you done with Sen. Jim Bunning?: Remember those 15 questions that the Cunning Realist suggested should be asked of Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke during his reconfirmation hearings? Unbelievably, a senator asked them. Even more unbelievably, the senator in question was Jim Bunning, heretofore a leading candidate for the title of Biggest Waste of Carbon in the U.S. Capitol.

You may now kiss the D.C. City Council: The District of Columbia has legalized gay marriage. Congress, per the Constitution, gets 30 legislative days to review the law once D.C.’s mayor has signed it, but the Democratic leadership will keep that puppy bottled up until the deadline has safely passed.

No room to talk: Panthers defensive backs Chris Harris and Chris Gamble need to STFU about Patriots WR Randy Moss. While they are having good years, and they did shut Moss down on Sunday, they apparently chose to ignore Wes Welker’s presence on the field. And what really matters is that yet again, the Panthers have failed to achieve consecutive winning seasons, while the Pats almost certainly are going to the playoffs.

Wardrobe police: Is Roy Williams gonna have me thrown out of North Carolina for wearing a Panthers jersey in Chapel Hill?

Shorter Janet Tavakoli: Except for Paul Volcker, the bankers don’t get it.

Brother can you spare your Visa card?: The Miami Herald, which recently laid off 199 people, is now attaching to each article a link through which people can contribute money online … to the paper, not the laid-off employees. The last time I can remember anything like this happening was when I was a kid and Ted Turner went on the air in Charlotte to ask people to send him money to keep Channel 36 on the air. (Yes, that’s Turner Broadcasting’s Ted Turner, and, yes, he repaid it.)

CBS Sports: “If any of our announcers talk about Tiger Woods, we’ll shoot this dog fire them.”

Best banking idea I’ve heard in a while: If Barney Frank has his way, only retail banks will be able to borrow from the discount window. At worst, this gets some banksters off the federal teat. It may even significantly ease the current credit crunch.

Quote of the day: “You’re either part of the solution or you’re a tool of ACORN.” — Conservative Brown, Boy Detective, by Tom Tomorrow.

Smarter Washington Post, please: The Post publishes a bunch of contextually challenged nonsense regarding the national debt. Economist Dean Baker rips them a new one. Yes, the national debt is too high and rising, but the bigger and more urgent problem is joblessness. The Post wants to scrap Social Security and Medicare but just doesn’t have the stones to say so.

Smarter Washington Post, please, cont.: Charles Lane criticizes colleague Ezra Klein’s criticism of Joe Lieberman … while also conceding that Klein’s factual claim is correct. Idiot. All you need to know about Lane is that he was Stephen Glass‘s editor. All you need to know about Klein is that Joe Lieberman finds him bothersome. (But here’s useful background on the contretemps.) Also, I posted the one-word comment “FAIL” on Lane’s blog post earlier; as of 10:30 p.m., it had been deleted, which fact I shortly thereafter commented upon. We’ll see if the 2nd comment stays up.

Smarter judges, please: U.S. District Judge William Duffey tells two Muslim defendants at a sentencing, “I’ll say this, our Gods are very different.” Uh, no, infidel; Christians and Muslims worship the same God.

If you like what Joe Lieberman is doing to health-care reform, wait’ll you see what he has planned for Social Security and Medicare.

Terminated; or, Cue the Limbaugh smears in 3 … 2… 1 …: Arnold Schwarzenegger throws Sarah Palin under the (hybrid?) bus.

Jerome “Swiftboat” Corsi asks,”Could it be that President Obama intends to bankrupt the USA in order to destroy free-enterprise capitalism itself?” Sounds like fun! Let’s play! Could it be that Jerome Corsi is a paranoid psychotic? Could it be that Jerome Corsi wouldn’t recognize the destruction of free-enterprise capitalism THAT’S NOW GOING ON, LED BY INVESTMENT BANKS, if it bit him in the ass? Could it be that Jerome Corsi has a financial motivation to misrepresent what the president is trying to do? Hey, this is fun! I could do this all day!

Paying for your wars: The Greatest Generation, so revered by conservatives, had no problem with this concept; indeed, they inculcated it in their children. So why do today’s Congressional leaders have such a problem?

Why is private health insurance such a bad idea? Let me the Main Street Alliance draw you a picture:

Back from the dead and ready to incriminate?: Some 22 million White House e-mails from the first Bush 43 administration have been “found,” four years and change after they “went missing.” In a perfect world, Karl Rove will be going to prison as a result for having 1) outed undercover CIA agent Valerie Plame and 2) obstructed a criminal investigation into the outing thereof. In the world we live in, we’ll probably find out that the missing $12 trillion in U.S. wealth, much of it sucked out of the home values and retirement savings of the middle class, is now in some Nigerian barrister’s bank account.

Math: About fifteen times as many people die in the U.S. every year as a result of lack of health insurance as died in the 9/11 terror attacks.

No methaqualone for you, says the Methaqualone Nazi!: The new Republican Party-sponsored Web-link shortener, GOP.am, includes this in its terms of use: “If you use it for spamming, illegal purposes or to promote lude content, your GOP.AM URL will be disabled.” Earlier, bloggers and commenters for Balloon Juice were using the site to provide links to bondage sites. Hee.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009 10:21 pm

Bad talk-radio host. No NFL team for you.

ROTFLMAO, I am. A certain flaccid radio gasbag’s bid to own the St. Louis Rams apparently is going nowhere:

In the wake of today’s stinging comments from respected Indianapolis Colts owner, Jim Irsay, my guess is that Limbaugh’s chances of successfully bidding to become an owner of the St. Louis Ram are close to nil. The idea that the controversy-averse NFL would go forward over the increasingly loud objections to Limbaugh’s proposed bid just doesn’t fly, especially since, at least out front, Limbaugh appears to have no powerful NFL allies in his corner pushing for the deal to happen.

And make no mistake, this story is playing out as a very public rejection of Limbaugh and what he stands for.

The only question is who the talker will blame when he ultimately is forced to withdraw his ownership bid and he commences with his full-time victimhood shtick. In truth, it looks like Limbaugh will have only himself, and his incendiary rhetoric to blame. And in terms of who’s actually driving Limbaugh off the playing field, it’s millionaire NFL players and owners.

Good luck portraying them as part of some vast left-wing conspiracy.

The NFL team owners are a cozy bunch. They’re very rich, and when, as has happened on a few occasions in the past 30 or so years, they’ve expanded their numbers, they have done so by adding to the group people very much like themselves — very rich, almost uniformly low-profile. (And before you hold Al Davis up as an exception, ask yourself what he has done in the past five years to draw attention to himself — certainly not field a decent team.)

Panthers owner Jerry Richardson got where he got– and this is an incredible simplification of a complex process that took many years — by 1) playing in the NFL himself for several years, 2) taking his bonus from the Baltimore Colts’ 1958 league championship and investing it in a business that grew into a hugely successful restaurant chain; 3) using his business success to help him cultivate personal relationships with existing owners, in addition to basically inventing the permanent seat license as a funding mechanism for stadium construction — something else that obviously would be attractive to current owners, all of whom would someday need new stadiums themselves.

Now, you can say whatever negative you want about the clubbiness and homogeneity of such a group, and in most contexts I’d probably agree. But Rodney Dangerfield in “Caddyshack” doesn’t even come close to the level of damage Rush Limbaugh as a team owner could do to the NFL, the most successful major-league sport in America. (And it ain’t just the owners who oppose him, although they’re the only ones whose opinions matter.)

This is a very public, very personal rejection of him by some of the most admired people in America, and I relish the thought that Limbaugh will take it personally and, almost certainly, try to find a way to make himself the victim.

UPDATE: Right on time.

You know, I don’t so much mind what Limbaugh says, although lies and racism do tend to tick me off, as I mind the fact that he REFUSES TO OWN what he says. He’s a coward, pure and simple.

Monday, January 19, 2009 2:17 pm

Sadly, it’s believable

Filed under: Fun,Panthers — Lex @ 2:17 pm
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From The Onion, but still:

CHARLOTTE, NC—Claiming that he felt “rushed,” Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme failed to connect on a 5-foot pass to his Capital Grille restaurant valet Sunday, instead sending his car keys into the hands of the wrong parking attendant. “It’s frustrating, because I knew as soon as I let go of the keys that the throw was off target,” said Delhomme, adding that he should not have been throwing off his back foot.

Thursday, March 13, 2008 6:25 pm

The job marketplace

Filed under: Panthers — Lex @ 6:25 pm
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The New York Giants, clearly displaying a strong reluctance to repeat as Super Bowl champions, have signed QB David Carr. (An acquaintance says it is a one-year, $1.1-million deal, although I haven’t found confirmation of that at the moment and don’t know where he heard that.)

Given the way Carr played for the Panthers this past season, I’d start “Kristen” ahead of him.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008 12:08 pm

Muhammad a Panther again?

Filed under: Panthers — Lex @ 12:08 pm
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Gerald says the Panthers have gotten WR Muhsin Muhammad back from the Bears. Interesting if true. It may yet be true, but I doubt it’s true yet: The free-agent signing period doesn’t start ’til Friday.

If true, what would it mean? Looking past the nostalgia, it’s tempting to think that Muhammad is on the down side of his career. His numbers during his past three seasons in Chicago:

2005: 64 catches, 750 yards, 11.7 ypc, 4 TDs
2006: 60 catches, 863 yards, 14.4 ypc, 5 TDs
2007: 40 catches, 570 yards, 14.3 ypc, 3 TDs

Only the yards-per-catch numbers are really respectable. That said, Chicago’s offense wasn’t exactly pass-happy.

But if his skills haven’t atrophied too much he might still be the kind of big possession receiver who could take some of the heat off Steve Smith. The team still needs another true deep threat, of course.

UPDATE: It’s a done deal, and unsurprisingly, David Carr has been cut. A good move.

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