Did America *really* forget about football? I did.

With the screwed up situations season-wise that ALL sports are facing as a result of COVID (ie. hockey is at semi-final stage, usually end by June) a *lot* of football prognosticators are going to be muttering in their beverage of choice regularly this year. Looking at the cuts from many teams (What do you mean “no kickers to start the year? They let WHO go?”), its going to be obvious that no preseason games to test talent (53 on roster, 16 on practice squad) will cause “why did we?” second thoughts by management and OMGs! from the public.

While it won’t be noticed if you leave early, nobody should snooze on the Panthers offense this year.

The Kansas City Chiefs (Super Bowl winners) should be relatively happy with whats coming from Mahomes after an MVP and Super Bowl last year. That massive contract for Mahomes will need fannies to buy online gear instead of hot dogs, and he’s one of the stars whose future the NFL would like to see actually work now, in the COVID era.

New Orleans still has Drew Brees for one more go-round (?), and if Panther fans feel last two years have ‘hurt’ here, consider “those two years” when the Saints were *great* and ONE play a year changed their fortunes. The ‘Whiff and the Whack’ I call them, with a non-tackle against the Vikings and an OBVIOUS pass interference/no flag deal against the Rams meaning the best team in football got beat on flukes.

Fond farewells and new Rhule’s are legitimate.

The post-Cam, Luke, Greg era has ended for the usual reasons, and fond farewells of course. I admit to liking Bridgewater as a distributor in this offense. He’s got plenty of arm, does the throws, if he’s paying extra attention to TE Manhertz, with Olsen gone, he or Ian Thomas should find catches. Anyone excited about Turner’s offense with McCaffrey, ‘Run CMC Y4’ will be leaving the station shortly. You know how valuable he’s been, congrats on the 1000-1000 deal and appropriate contract. The expectation is that Joe Brady’s O will turn Bridgewater, CMC and three sterling receivers (DJ Moore, Curtis Samuel, Robby Thompson) into fantasy stat stars.

Coach Rhule laid out his – uhhh, feelings – about how prepared starters were for last Friday’s scrimmage (think lollygaggers shower scene in ‘Bull Durham’), and without knocking Rivera’s fairly stoic persona, he wasn’t complimentary about the effort and you KNEW about it for real. Not many, including self, are predicting better than 6-10 in 2020, but 7-9 would put polish on Rhule’s rep in doing turnarounds with somewhat dinged college programs (Temple, Baylor) quickly. https://cdtalententerprises.com/2020/04/28/cam-luke-greg-are-gone-will-defense-draft-be-the-answer/ As Mr. Tepper has noted, “He’s done more with less.”

Rhule brought his defensive guy from Baylor, Phil Snow, and if all the coaches will earn their paychecks, Snow’s defense simply HAS to make a difference. The 58 sacks last year was a change from the toothless year before, and there wasn’t a lot of second-guessing when Panthers had a first-ever all defensive (7) picks in draft. If not Christmas tree lit up, the secondary is going to be under duress all year, because Tom Brady will be a twice a year deal now, with Brees and Atlanta’s Matt Ryan as well.

SCORING – “Best defense (against losing) is a great offense,” could mean a couple 34 pt. afternoons are entertaining but don’t come out as wins. Effort will be there, expectations are somewhat lowered, but this won’t be a 1-15 crater that brought Cam Newton and had people selling their PSLs.

For Panther fans who still worry about Christian McCaffrey getting worn out, only if he carries that $21.4M signing bonus around.

Everybody gets to re-do their analysis after three games (right?), and fact the NFL is having ANY games at this point amazes me, although I’m aware its not “back to normal” either. A competitive 6-10 https://cdtalententerprises.com/2019/12/30/ugly-2019-ends-with-questions-on-broken-d-head-coach-olsen-cam/, where Mr. Slye thumps a couple winners from 50+ on last play, or Moore-Samuel have snaky 60-yard runs, I’ll watch that.

I have no interest…

I’m not an expert about everybody else going into this mystery season, and truthfully, there are several I seldom care about :

Neither of the NY teams – They started regional telecasting sophomore year in college, so I got double-headers of sucko teams and have never recovered. The Washington Team (Snyder), LA Chargers (maybe with Rivers gone…), Cardinals (though hope Larry Fitzgerald has a great year, Year Two for Murray!) or Browns. (Hmmm, Fogg will bet on them…) Actively dislike the Bears, Lions (on general principles), meh on Broncos, Jaguars, Titans, even the Dolphins, although I wonder if Tua Tagovailoa will carve the NFL like he did for Alabama while becoming #2 overall pick.

Does Ben Rothliesberger have any gas left in the tank for Steelers, coming back from arm injury? How long does Tomlin want to keep grinding in the ‘Burgh? I’d sure like to see Drew Brees have a wild final (?) year with another Super Bowl, with all the records and beaucoup accolades for a Great Guy.

Yes, I will want to know how things in Tampa Bay work with future first ballot Hall of Fame QB Tom Brady at the controls, a bunch of quality receivers, and stud running back Leonard Fornette.

I was a sportswriter in Tampa during the early ’80s-Doug Williams days. Expect it will be easy to get bets with my cousin Frank at this point, and everybody likes a shootout, as long as its mutual. Putting Brady on his back makes it tougher for 43 y/old GOATs to throw, and I expect he’s okay with putting any of his considerable rep on the line with this challenge. This is like Gretsky going to LA Kings big. If I was a lineman for him or Brees, I’d *have* to play somewhat inspired.

Green Bay and Rodgers became what Dallas was for years, a rep for getting national exposure while obviously flawed, but 13-3 last year is still the standard for a really good team. Who know if its going to be another moaning about no D year, word is he wasn’t given any real help. Having seen what new Panther O-Coordinator Joe Brady did with #1 pick QB Joe Burrow (Cincinnati Bengals) at LSU, I assume he WOULD have put fannies in the seats, but generally I don’t sweat the Bengals. I used to like the Raiders, hated their bush league field.

Lamar Jackson – you DO know he’s 6’3″ with all that speed, right? That’s why Cam was such a monster, he’s all of 6’5.” All Lamar’s numbers are legit, give their organization credit for all in decision on offensive change -510 points, 31.9/per game means a lot. I don’t know what they have defensively. Always love those divisional battles with Steelers.

Cam vs. Bridgewater

One writer opined that 30 TD passes, plus 10 himself, would be an amazing year for Newton (duh!) in New England. If anyone in the Panthers org thought (although the $$$ factor was real) he could still run well enough to score that many, he’d still be a Panther. I like Bridgewater as an ideal distributor in this offense – with his touch passes, expect this offense to spread things to a talented, productive group.

Robby Anderson, Curtis Samuel, DJ Moore are high quality, and McCaffrey has always been known as an exceptional receiver. Anderson is another Rhule guy, whom he recruited to Temple, and he’s a great free agent addition from the Jets. DJ Moore already arrived in 2019: 87 catches for 1,175 yards/4 TDs, and he blossomed when Kyle Allen threw passes he could grab in stride vs. Newton’s ‘go there-turn around’ bullets. I *guarantee* you see ‘up’ passes in red zone to Anderson and Moore, with Moore getting 10+ TDs not much of a stretch.

With Curtis Samuel, he of the legendary speed and elusiveness, Panthers have a decent track team on the field, and having seen Turner’s offense run trick plays that maximized how tough they are to get on the ground – expect more, especially with Samuel. He is a beast to catch in space. Mr. Third Down, Jarius Wright, still in the house.

No more Greg Olsen, honestly, good luck in Seattle. We can only hope Thomas-Manhertz soaked up some of his disappearing ninja skills. As a community person of the highest order, a two-time finalist for the Walter Peyton ‘Man of the Year’ award, Greg repped Dad-hood, class, professionalism, caring to the max. Everyone was glad his son made it through the heart problems, and when he got “the right contract” after those three 1000 yd. seasons, especially when the foot injuries cropped up.

DEFENSE! Well…

Of 25 Panther coaches/assistants, new defensive coordinator Phil Snow is going to feel the most pressure to make a difference, and the fact is, there’s almost no place to go but up.

The Panthers weren’t the worst at anything, but the 470 (29.4 ppg) points they surrendered was ahead of only the Dolphins (494, 30.9 ppg). The 143.5 average they were gouged for on the ground beat only Cleveland (144.7), Washington, and Cincinnati’s (2-14) bottom of the list 148.9. Giving up 3,696 (231 yds. per game) by air looks better, with 19 teams – including 12-4 division winner New Orleans (3,868) – behind them.

That All-American defensive tackle Derrick Brown will play immediately is a given. Panthers were the worst (5.2 per rush) against the run in 2019. Edge rusher Yetur Gross-Matos (6’5″, 265 lbs., Penn St.), Jeremy Chinn (safety, Southern Illinois), fourth-rounder Troy Pride, Jr. (CB, Notre Dame), Kenny Robinson (safety, West Virginia) will get real opportunities.

DT Derrick Brown from Auburn needs to be a BIG deal, not just Dontari Poe big either. Brian Burns had 7.5 sacks as a rookie and got bigger, but the secondary is still a scary unknown. If the Panthers KNEW Donte Jackson could actually close down one side, that would be a relief – it often seems he uses speed to got there AFTER the catch. Looking for that bloom in Year 3. Is Corn Elder ready?

None of the defensive facts noted in my year end analysis have changed, best bet for 2020 is “Take the over.”

Glenn Shorkey – Creative eDitorial Talent Enterprises 

http://www.linkedin.com/in/glennshorkey
https://cdtalententerprises.com/about
(704) 502-9947

Panthers ugly 2019 ends with questions on broken D, head coach, Olsen, Cam

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There won’t be any pilgrimages to Wofford in 2020, but the fans will still be faithful.

Here in “The Buckle on the Bible Belt,” its quite possible that more than a couple fans put some time into praying that Christian McCaffrey didn’t get hurt, especially during the eight loss spiral that ended in a soggy 42-10 whipping by the Saints at BOA Stadium.

Color commentators often opine that defensive backs best assets are speed and having a short memory about negative plays, and if a belated Christmas or Hanukkah gift could be given out to end the year, may Charlotte be so blessed memory-wise.

There was a whole lot of ugly going on after Kyle Allen started throwing INTs and the defense showed they couldn’t stop anyone, and not replaying it all is legitimate. Yes, it was smile-worthy that McCaffrey became only the third player in NFL history to post 1,000 yards-plus rushing and receiving, and Moore seems to have arrived as a premier receiver in only his second year ranked 9th, with 87 catches, 1,175 yards and four TDs.

As a two-time Coach of the Year, Ron Rivera will probably find another job in the NFL (Redskins?), although except for the 15-1 regular season the Panthers posted in their 2015 Super Bowl season, he wouldn’t be the franchise’s career leader in victories at 76-63-1.

Rivera arrived the same year as Cam Newton, and defensive bulwark Luke Kuechly became an instant star at middle linebacker the next year, but good luck to him working any instant magic for the 3-13 ‘Skins owner Daniel Snyder.

Do NOT expect many of the Panthers coaching staff to remain in Charlotte. While owner David Tepper gave Rivera an above average amount of rope during a second straight year of defensive under-achieving, he’s not going to let that become the sort of malaise that infects Detroit, Cleveland, or Cincinnati. How Cam Newton’s status looks after a bad shoulder (2018) and foot (missed all but first two games of 2019) injuries is an especially big question for fans this winter, and Allen’s turnover woes (16 INTs, 13 fumbles) don’t come across as the answer in the QB arena.

Is it really the thought that counts this time of year?

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Having given a brother several bags of mulch and some pea gravel – along with a promise to render his front garden area more presentable – and the roof of his house being done just before Christmas, the analogy of the back yard being a mess *right now* is a legitimate one for the Panthers.

The Carolina Panthers weren’t the worst at anything, although the 470 (29.4 ppg) points they surrendered was ahead of only the Dolphins (494, 30.9 ppg). The 143.5 average they were gouged for on the ground beat only Cleveland (144.7), Washington, and Cincinnati’s (2-14) bottom of the list 148.9. That made their 3,696 (231 yds. per game) by air look comparatively lofty, with 19 teams – including 12-4 division winner New Orleans (3,868) – behind them.

While that only proves numbers aren’t always the whole story, especially in a pass-happy league, the Panthers were pushed around plenty, with runners consistently picking up necessary first down yardage. McCaffrey was third in rushing with 1,387 yards and 15 TDs (287 carries) plus 1,005 receiving (4 TDs); Derrick Henry (TN) won the rushing title with 1,540 (16 TDs, 303 carries).

Although many fans, especially in the Carolinas, would consider C-MC’s efforts worthy of MVP consideration, his exploits the second half of the year were almost a curiosity to the rest of the country, though his 116 receptions and productivity were crucial to fantasy owners. Nobody doubted he gave his best effort every week, even when defenses were often stacked to stop his contributions along the way.

Mr. Tepper isn’t Yoda, but fix things he must

The Panthers boss man not only put his considerable $$$ where his mouth is while buying the Panthers at the beginning of 2018, he’s also added an indoor practice facility and a major league soccer franchise ($325 million), while targeting a rejuvenation of the former Eastland Mall area off Central Avenue with a practice facility and team offices for the soccer franchise. That goes beyond good thoughts, but fixing a great many lagging factors before their 26th season is uppermost on Panthers fans minds.

Recently released lesser performers like Gruden (Redskins), Kitchens (Browns), Shurmer (NYG) and the like will probably not be of interest to Tepper as a head coach, but former Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy’s success makes him a possibility, along with a list of high profile college coaches. McCarthy apparently also wanted the GM role when he was considered for the Browns job, but Marty Hurney has done a good job on that front.

While the Panthers have always had a reputation for promoting from within, two years of negatives will probably call for new, pedigreed blood.

Whether a “defensive minded” head coach will get the call – based on the last two years of getting undressed regularly – as a deciding factor is iffy, although a strong defensive coordinator to replace Eric Washington is a 99% certainty. Sticking with the 3-4 or going back to the 4-3 is not the #1 question right now, with a small thanks for not being as pitiful on the pass rush as last year.

College coaches don’t have a great track record in the pros, Pete Carroll of the Seahawks being an obvious exception, and Chip Kelly, who nearly wrecked the Eagles before Doug Pederson took the reins and led them to a Super Bowl win, being the more normal result.

 2020 will be turn the page time

Charlotte was thrilled when its first professional sports franchise, the Hornets, came to town because it proved the city was major league. They bought PSLs (personal seating licenses) to build the football stadium when they gained an NFL franchise in 1993, the first time that route was utilized in the sports world, and gladly (??) chipped in major tax dollars to help refurbish it a couple years ago.

Charlotte now has about every pro sport covered, with the Knights (baseball), Checkers (AHL champs in 2018 season), Hornets, and Panthers. There’s also the historic enthusiasm for the college programs, which now includes the UNCC 49ers (7-6) after the first trip to a bowl game and taking their lumps as a newbie D-1 entrant for five years. The Tobacco Road hoops schools, Wake Forest, South Carolina’s Gamecocks, and of course, Clemson football, all have a dedicated following.

Keep wearing your Olsen, Newton, Kuechly, and McCaffrey jerseys proudly, even if Olsen decides he’s had enough after 2019. Cleveland (6-10) made only marginal progress in two years with Baker Mayfield despite a lot of talking, but count on Mr. Tepper not taking a back seat to anyone on getting results. He’s not Santa Claus, but he’ll deliver sooner than that merry old gent.

And if you want to keep working the beads for McCaffrey’s good health, that’s not a problem either.

 

 

 

 

Christmas Thoughts for Panthers 2019 are a mixed bag for ‘fruitcake’ 5-9

Would Christian McCaffrey tell you, “Honestly, this ugly sweater is going right to the bottom of any drawer I can find space,” if you’d gifted him so? Doubtful, but there’s no reason to believe he’s doing anything less than giving each game his best effort. As a team, there’s also no reason to believe otherwise, even if the defense was sliced and diced by Seattle, dropping the Panthers to 5-9.

Fruitcake season? Just because you hear someone say “It’s not that bad” doesn’t mean you want any more of it. (Gonna have to use that one again…)

Everyone will point to McCaffrey as a bright point in a sub-par season, but holy moley! DJ Moore has 86 catches for 1,174 (4 TD) in his second year. Nobody is “happy” with six straight losses, and yes, eyes goes naturally to Kyle Allen’s 15 INTs (and 3,027) yards as a replacement for Cam Newton after two games .

It wouldn’t be any glaring sign of giving up if 3rd round pick Will Grier got a chance at QB the last two games.

Its pretty certain the Panthers have had a look at Allen after twelve games. Rookie name of Gardner Minshaw II did fine in Jax’ville, its not like they’re clearing the bench to give everyone a couple plays to consider over the winter, but a time when Panther fans will hear about LOTS of changes.

KEY PLAYERS

Doesn’t everyone have a favorite nephew, whose exploits you like to remind others about? McCaffrey is obviously as productive as anyone you can think of, and if he gets 186 yards receiving the next two games, “The Legend-Weapon that is Cee Mac” will be firmly anchored.

Like the kid who demands Santa’s “sled” in the commercial, Dad saying, “He was pretty good this year,” is very legitimate. C-Mac needs those 186 yards to hit 1,000/1,000 level, so I hope that item gets wrapped up real nice and arrives, FedEx or whatever. You’ve heard only two guys have done that, so expect some serious effort to deny him.

Speaking of favorites, congratulations to Drew Brees, a GOAT of GOATS. *That* is a team needing one LESS maximum negative a play in the clutch at some point, but they’ll play an extra inspirational bit harder for that/Drew’s championship this year. Topper on the tree stuff.

Most would agree the O-line has done its bit. Despite constant churn at positions with injuries, McCaffrey doesn’t get all those yards himself. Allen does hold onto the ball at times, so while the line has given up quite a few sacks, eliminating throwing errors (one hopes), although his mistakes, including fumbles, have clearly hurt offensive production.

Curtis Samuel got some different looks in the Seattle game, and using him as a runner like they do with Moore is always intriguing, because he’s a bolt coming at defenders. If he continues to learn how to evade, he could become a devastating slot receiver. Whether Ian Thomas is able to take the tight end job after an Olsen retirement is open to question.

Joey Slye has made seven 50-yard plus field goals this year, but he also missed some kicks that cost games. Overall, do you return cheap gifts and maybe stick with a higher priced version, like a $17 million kicker? Ahhhh! Something has gotten into the egg nog…

The Newton question is the big package hidden in the closet. He may have everyone’s good thoughts for recovery, the question is whether his injury and style – as a passer, all he has is a fastball – and price tag work for 2020.

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Panther fans won’t be sure what they’re getting for 2020, but ‘D’ will need to look less undressed.

The Turner offense certainly put certain players (Moore, McCaffrey) on a very strong path, just like it was designed to, and with a relative newbie at the controls to boot. Newton was +10 pts. over his career passing percentage last year before the shoulder really crimped his production, is he really-really going to be “okay” (you know the commercial) when games count again?

If someone doesn’t pay for Allen to attend some serious camp committed to cutting down his turnovers (13 fumbles), its because he’s getting that proverbial hunk of coal on the way out.

Yes, there needs to be something small but appreciable in the “Running back, besides Christian M.” under the tree for Panther fans to rest assured he won’t be toast in two more years.

DEFENSE WAS LIT UP LIKE CHRISTMAS TREE

If Mr. Tepper keeps Eric Washington as Defensive Coordinator after the way the front was repeatedly gouged for yardage all year, it would be a massive surprise. While the sack total is back up to historical levels, and Kuechly is #3 in the league with 131 tackles (17 against Seattle), Chris Carson went for 133 yards and 2 TDs last week.

Stats: The Panthers have given up 386 points (27.6 ppg) thus far, ahead of only Miami20181223_220242 (29.6 ppg). Pitiful Cincinnati (325, 23.2) was #22: Cleveland and Indy were middle of the pack (311 pts/22.2 ppg); New England (157, 11.2 ppg leads the league).

In 2018, the Panthers started giving up 100 yard rushers regularly, and it hasn’t stopped. It was suggested that opposing QBs didn’t mind throwing against their secondary either, and an improved rush didn’t lessen effectiveness going long. Whether the 3-4 alignment or standard 4-3 is better will require examining the potential of 2nd, 3rd year players like Brian Burns and Marquis Haynes.

Eric Reed was every bit the hitter they wanted at safety and run support, but a lot of people (not just Falcons, Saints; Jax had a receiver get 2-60 yard gains out of 383 total v. Panthers) seemed to be running free far too often. Give Dante Jackson credit for “make up speed” and no lack of confidence, but even when he gets there, people are still making catches. With expectations that he will blossom into the A-1 cover guy Panthers obviously need in 2020, lets hope the Big Boy pants under the tree fit right, or he acquires ‘sticky’ vs. anything figgy by next season.

Shaq Thompson is the speed linebacker many expected him to be with more playing time, but Dontari Poe doesn’t appear to  be a run stopper by any $9 million definition, and I didn’t hear Butler’s name often, that probably can’t stand either. Mario Addison might be trade bait after another decline in sacks.

While Fewell got the nod for interim coach, as the coach of secondary, he might not be around for New Years either.

If some Panther stockings are still hung by the chimney with care after New Year’s, look for when “Bonus $$ for on roster – (X date)” about decision time. James Bradbury’s stocking has something in it, hopefully a situation he can share with Ross Cockrell, who had a quietly good year after a broken leg kept him out all of 2018. Most probably its just a thank you for keeping things respectable with most receivers.

Nobody wants to see Greg Olsen ride off into the sunset (with or without a Man of Year award), it will be up to him and family to decide whether 2019 was enough.

Philosophically and realistically speaking, its going to be an uncomfortable winter for Panther fans. Mr. Tepper has big plans for his soccer franchise, but his NFL franchise will need considerable tending too.