Rhule could have successful 6-10 season, solid Panthers ‘D’ spoils WFT’s NFC East drive

Absolutely nothing about the stats from this next to last game of the season will cause NFL scoreboard watchers to change their minds about either the Panthers losing record, or that *someone* has to win the NFC East. The Panthers received enough good pieces offensively, and victimized the Washington Football Team’s Dwayne Haskins (two INTs, 1 fumble, 154 yds. passing) defensively in a 20-13 victory, although Washington still controls their playoff destiny.

For those who worried about Christian McCaffrey getting “used up” after last year, and being offensively awesome the last two years, you sort of got your wish in 2020.

While RB Mike Davis (14/28 yds, TD) has played effectively, and Teddy Bridgewater (19/28, 197 yds, 1/1 TD-INT; 3,557 yards for season) has been a terrific distributor to all of Joe Brady’s offensive options, operationally the team protected its asset for the lion’s share of the 2020 season. If CMC was on a Rams team with playoff hopes, he’d have been back weeks ago – but at what risk of injury was a primary consideration for the Panther organization.

There’s not a specific right or wrong to the decision, and surprisingly, there wasn’t any hue or cry to saddle CMC back up along the way, ankle or not. Mr. Tepper is a businessman of the highest order, and putting Matt Rhule at the coaching helm involved as serious an investment contract-wise as McCaffrey. He’s a billionaire who handed his new coach a six year contract, and adding a proven, exceptional, 100% right weapon to the mix they’ve developed, there’s plenty to think about over the winter.

If you heard Rhule’s done some remarkable turnarounds with a couple college programs – Tepper noted “He’s done plenty with a lot less” – that attitude is still on track. Like COVID-19 and current travel negatives, letting the offense grow through the strain may pay dividends when actual fannies are in the seats in 2021.

Betting with house money: Give an A+ Achiever-type like McCaffrey a season to think about how he’s going to prove he deserves the cha-ching! from extension, he’ll be back strong. He’s literally not broke – I saw the shoulder injury; that ankle, always tricky to figure – but he won’t need to be on the field 90% of the snaps if the Panthers take care of Davis and free-agent-to-be Curtis Samuel.

This was a strange year for everything, playing in almost empty stadiums. Sunday night, in the snow at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, less than 1,000 front line health workers and families got to be in the stands, as Aaron Rodgers polished his MVP cred. Quite a few more were willing to take their chances with the Chiefs to see Mahommes.

METRICS of Improvement

Having predicted 6-10, seeing a Panthers defense that’s done WAY better than last year is gratifying. In 2019, the floodgates opened wide, the long adored, QB-sacking, unblockable D of Kuechly and Davis demonstrably gone, giving up 470 points and 29.4/game.

New defensive coordinator Phil Snow arrived from Baylor with Rhule, and while the offense is barely a point better this year without McCaffrey (22.9 ppg, 23rd), the defense is ranked 18th of 32, giving up almost five less points (24.6/game) in 2020, when only the lowly Dolphins were worse.

Quick question: The Browns are 10-5, the Panthers 5-10. Who’s going to feel worse if they fail to make the playoffs because FOUR receivers were benched with COVID protocol, after they hot-tubbed together?

That’s a gratitutous question – how about Jeremy Chinn (110 tackles) for Defensive Rookie of the Year? While playing on the same field as Washington’s DE Chase Young, the #2 overall pick last year, he notched eight tackles to Young’s four, and while Young caused and recoverd a fumble, Chinn’s hybrid safety-linebacker role had THE defensive series of the year several weeks ago, scoring touchdowns on consecutive plays.

2020 offense effective, not ‘magic’

What’s not to like about Bridgewater, Robby Anderson, DJ Moore, and the leap in market value Curtis Samuel has taken this year, where four catches for 109 yards, and 7/52 rushing sounds like he’s gotten the sort of exposure that might otherwise have been directed at the treasured standard, McCaffrey? Does he NEED to be on the field 90% of snaps?

Bridgewater has even shown the willingness to leave the pocket and get yardage with his legs, a very different perspective after former Panther star QB Cam Newton’s last two years, when his size and speed advantages seem to have disintegrated. While Newton staggered to his 12th rushing TD of the season for the Patriots, https://patriotswire.usatoday.com/2020/12/29/cam-newton-wowed-with-this-rushing-touchdown-vs-the-bills/ he has 5 TDs and 10 INTs passing on the year, and based on the Bills secondary KNOWING he couldn’t get it down the field – the same situation as Cam’s last two years in Charlotte – he is probably done in the NFL.

Mike Davis impressed early, and his running with a chip on shoulder toughness also set a standard for the team. He’s racked up over 1,000 offensive yards, 652 keeping defenses honest on the run, and was a fine free agent signing, as was Robby Anderson (from Jets) by (again) departing General Manager, Marty Hurney. Whether Hurney is being moved out after giving McCaffrey a bonus-heavy contract extension before a season of small production is less likely than how Cam Newton’s payout with Patriots worked.

Hurney previously left after it seemed he’d overpaid on contracts for some fan favorites, but CMC’s value is unquestioned – and Hurney didn’t make that decision by himself.

Watching the offense move the ball consistently and with such variety at times became the essence of home town cheering, and expectations were they’d keep things interesting even though the defense might cost them games. Since the common draft started in 1967, the Panthers became the first team to use all seven selections for defensive players this spring, including #1 pick DT Derrick Brown, then traded up to make Chinn their second, 2nd round pick. The results weren’t questioned at the time, and a replenished secondary seems more capable.

The 33-31 loss to the Chiefs and Mahomes did nothing to disappoint the idea Panthers could score, even during a five-game losing streak. They held the Cards Kyler Murray in check, blew opportunities against the Broncos with dumb penalties, and let the Vikings game get away from them 28-27. https://www.espn.com/nfl/recap?gameId=401220302 Optimism isn’t gauche, there’s a sense Charlotte has perhaps seen the worst of times, that “The Buckle on the Bible Belt” won’t become like Detroit, where Lion’s GM Matt Millen’s reign was, well, almost legendary lousy compared to Hurney.

A home finale against the Saints for that important sixth win for Panthers will be worth watching , but sorry, I’m a fan of #9 as GOAT, with due respect to Mr. Brady and all his rings. I really like the home team, but Drew is about out of chances to get another ring, and while he might stay on the sidelines if there’s no possible change in seeding, HE sure isn’t taking anything for granted in 2020.

Interesting stat: The Panthers have used their #1 pick on QBs twice – Kerry Collins early, and of course, Cam Newton in 2011 – since landing the franchise in 1994. If you’re concerned that Teddy Bridgewater isn’t ‘the guy,’ Washington has used twelve #1 picks on quarterbacks (over 75 years), and the last one that really worked out was Sammy Baugh, their leader for 16 years – until 1953. https://www.profootballhof.com/players/sammy-baugh/ Chicago and Detroit have been unblessed with major talent there in a lot longer than 20 years Tom Brady ruled in New England. Five or six wins will put the Panthers past a time to get another franchise quarterback in the draft

If you can’t remember how last season looked at the end, https://cdtalententerprises.com/2020/04/28/cam-luke-greg-are-gone-will-defense-draft-be-the-answer/

Glenn Shorkey – Creative eDitorial Talent Enterprises

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

Panthers, NFL (almost) puts ‘normal’ back on the U.S. mental menu

While its uncertain about when the crowds will be allowed to return to BOA Stadium, good football is back in Charlotte.

In a week where a presidential “debate” caused alarm and general cringing for so many things wrong, and my personal production on a book and being a WFH long-form informational blogger dragged, catching the Carolina Panthers 31-21 victory over the Arizona Cardinals was a definite goodness.

The Panthers (2-2) now have as many wins as the combined NFC East, RB Mike Davis has shown he can do more than just give Christian McCaffrey an occasional breather, and well, on a sunshiney fine Monday, that’s three facts to go forward with, smiling.

After stopping a 10-game Panther losing streak with a 21-16 win over the Los Angeles Chargers last week, QB Teddy Bridgewater continues to be exceptional as a distributor, hitting eight different receivers in a 26/37, 276 yd./2 TD-1 INT effort. Of those eight receivers, free agent Robby Anderson (from Jets) just missed a third straight 100 yd. game (8/99), Samuel (3/51), Moore (4/49), Bonafon (2/18 with a TD, 10/53 rushing), and Davis 5/27) means Teddy B. is doing well.

He also added 32 yards rushing, one an 18 yd. TD run, and the Panthers controlled the ball for 37 minutes of the game. Without casting too much shade on the departed Cam Newton, for a guy who has come back from a devastating knee injury, Bridgewater runs better than the version of Newton Charlotte saw the last two years, when it looked like he couldn’t decide to get down or punish a tackler.

Most experts picked the Panthers for no better than a 6-10 record, and McCaffrey’s high ankle sprain (out 4-6 weeks) probably had most of them ready to take a win or two off that idea.

In what most of America will recognize as a continuing slow, closely watched reopening of stadiums at the college (Alabama-Texas A&M had 19,424 in Bryant-Denny Stadium, apparently that constitutes ‘social distancing’ in a 101k seat stadium) and pro levels, 5,200 fans got to watch a total team effort under optimal Carolina blue skies.

In putting the metrics up for examination, the Panthers were 4/5 on trips to the red zone, scoring four TDs (1/6 last week, 5 FGs by Joey Slye), and 7/11 converting 3rd downs (3/12 v. Chargers), and they only punted ONCE. As announcers noted, Cards QB Kyle Murray gouges many teams that fail to maintain ‘rush discipline,’ so with a defense that held the elusive Murray to 133 yds. (3 TDs) on 24 ‘dink & dunk’ completions, plus 48 of his 78 yards rushing on one of his six carries, results on both side of the ball were encouraging.

Put a check mark next to Jeremy Chinn, listed as a safety, but very flexible in the Panthers defensive scheme, for your All-Rookie team. He leads his class with 34 tackles. and smile again, because new defensive coordinator Phil Snow has earned his paycheck and Panther pride is on the rise.

Really, in a 2020 world thats been truly scary since COVID appeared, last years 5-11 seems like just a bad dream, definitely worth forgetting. Unfortunately for the Texans, Washington, Giants, Jets, and Atlanta (0-4), they are probably headed into really undesirable territory. That the Falcons haven’t been able to shake their unreal Super Bowl collapse to Tom Brady’s Patriots two years ago is a fact. A recent re-do of disasterous endings – that onside kick fiasco that saved the Cowboys was a gobsmack.

Whether Falcons get healthy receiving bodies back or not bothers nobody I know – this is man-up divisional, at all times genuinely hostile time for Panthers. I’ll watch that almost any weekend.

That’s kind of where I’m going on ‘normal,’ knowing I haven’t wiped down the kitchen in two weeks, but kind of penciling in my fall Saturday afternoon: leftovers for lunch, clearing out and washing the car, grocery shopping, a walk, blocking out another blog through four-ish, and no long gun carrying dudes like in Michigan? Normal’s cool on a rainy weekend.

Sunday football makes a real weekend

Most of the sports world is settling its champions in a strange mix of seasons, and scrambled though it was, its easy to admit that getting sports as an option while most of the country was staying hunkered down helped greatly. In shorthand mode:

  • The Tampa Bay Lightening beat the Dallas Stars for the NHL title in six games, and while there was no lack of effort from teams that lived in protective “bubbles” in Edmonton and Toronto while playing before empty arenas for two months, the TV ratings, probably due to the late starts in Edmonton, were less than great. Still, they were 33% better than last year, when it usually goes against the NBA and baseball in April, May, June.
  • The Portland Timber took the “MSL is Back” tournament (July 8 – August 11) and immediately began the 18 games remaining on the regular 2020 schedule. Stay tuned…
  • The Los Angeles Lakers lead the Miami Heat 3-1 in the NBA Finals, and LeBron was ticked off enough about 20 turnovers in the Game 3 loss to walk off the court before the end of the game. Even though the Lakers weren’t in great sync Game 4, their 3-pt. shooting was significant. Of concern to most is how things go Friday – it could be the Lakers 17th championship, LeBron’s something in a row, probably another MVP and he’s done great with his ‘More Than a Vote’ https://bleacherreport.com/articles/2898497-lebron-james-more-than-a-vote-pushing-nba-arenas-as-mega-polling-sites campaign , getting the Lakers to offer their arena (as have many other teams, including Panthers, with unused stadiums) as a polling station.
  • The Triple Crown of horse-racing was won by three different horses, with the Kentucky Derby – usually the first Saturday in May, not going off until September 5th, Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert’s Authentic taking charge at the top of the stretch to give him a record 6th win. Swiss Skydiver became the 6th filly in 145 years to win the Preakness, and the Belmont Stakes (first, but usually last) cutting the distance from 1 1/2 miles to 1 1/8, won by Tiz the Law  against a small field. Even if you’re a real horse fan, that’s still barely six minutes of action over three months though.
  • Baseball has begun its second round of playoffs at about the usual time, the LA Dodgers had the best regular season record (43-17) in NL, and the Tampa Bay Rays topped the AL (40-20). The Rays-Yanks Game 5 is Friday, no days off in the bubble.
“Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jacks…”

Oh, Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) won the Tour de France’s maillot jaune (yellow jersey) in dominant fashion, also taking the King of the Mountains polka dot jersey and white (best young rider under 25). Going into the time trial final stage, he was 57 seconds back of leader Primož Roglič, but made that up and beat him by 59 seconds.

In the cycling world (actually, most places) that’s getting crushed.

FOOTBALL – A traditional hold on Fall sports

But FOOTBALL! with its traditional hold on the Fall sports schedule, has brought back American weekends. Yes, there are Monday and Thursday games along the way, but a brewskie or twoskie and some salty snacks, that’s the deal to chill with, COVID to the rear of the bus. Having watched nine hours, from the 1:00 Panther game till the end of the 49ers-Eagles Sunday night game, the ‘Normal’ aspect of sports watching has returned with a flourish, although commercials during timeouts are LOADED with (frequently brutal) political ads.

OH BOY! Monday Night Football is a double header! “Hunkered down”

is just a little bit better with a 60″ screen and Tony Romo.

Sports are definitive

Sports are definitive – cool, even regular compared to everything else involved in this grinding Red-Blue struggle wrapped around a panemic absolute clarity delivered with instant replays. No chicanery, no long term battles over information, or who did what on which side of any philosophical line. In or out, catch/no catch, breaking the plane, the quarterback won’t play because of a knee injury, next guy up, period.

Its not a voting situation, and personal effort counts – their defensive end strip-sacks your QB (Brian Burns of Panthers has done it two weeks in a row, Grosse-Matos got one) and when everyone unpiles, guy with the ball at bottom is the only thing that counts. Dak Prescott (Dallas) throws for 502 yards and 4 TDs but Cowboys get taken to the shed 49-38 by the Cleveland Browns, all he gets is a quick “nice try, see you next week.”

Op-Ed – Off my chest

Debate-wise, there was nothing good to say about the embarassing level of negativity that the president pumped into the event for the entire 90 minutes on Tuesday. Having gotten my fill of athletic achievement the last two months, one experience I won’t repeat is watching even as much as the four brief snips of that debate I checked out. There was no honor or triumph to be had there, and trump’s ‘tactics’ certainly aren’t any ‘normal’ I believe befits the leader of this country. (Okay, a little editorializing)

The Panthers won because Coach Rhule seems to use almost everyone on the roster. Teddy Bridgewater has a steady hand on the wheel – more 13-play, 66 yard drives please! – and the coaches he brought to Charlotte, Snow and Joe Brady, who won the Broyles Award as the top assistant in college football last year, have made a difference quickly.

Tadej Pogačar won the Tour de France because he combined superb mountain climbing with the strength of will to triumph over 2,165 miles (21 stages, 23 days). America, unfortunately, will have to wait considerably longer to gain any real victory over COVID-19, but the potential dictator thing – thats over on November 3rd (or so).

And yessir, its true, “hunkered down” is just a little bit better with a 60″ screen and Tony Romo. (OH BOY! Monday Night Football is a double header!)

Glenn Shorkey – Creative eDitorial Talent Enterprises 

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

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

“In my heart, I know it’s the right thing to do” a sentiment Senators could learn from

Image result for free kuechly pictures

It may seem simplistic to juxtapose the essence of what retiring Carolina Panthers linebacker legend Luke Kuechly said, and what will probably be an even less satisfying or happy result in the impeachment trial of Donald Trump in the US Senate, starting Tuesday.

Kuechly was known for extensive film-watching, which made his always being in the right place a source of awe. By most accounts, Republican Senators barely feel the need to review the evidence provided with the House of Representatives impeachment charges. They’ve opined, in the most partisan way, that a trial is a waste of time when they could just as easily vote to acquit now as later, without worrying about clear, voluminous evidence of abuse of power or malfeasance.

In football terms, they will seemingly wander around like they’ve been concussed, even when the ball is snapped to resume play.

Never a doubt they played their honorable best

After suffering several concussions the last couple years that curtailed his time patrolling the middle of the Panthers defense, yes, Luuuuuuke! is taking a route that’s best for his long term health. Whether his numbers – 1,092 tackles, 5-times 1st team All Pro, Defensive Player of the Year (2013) – make him Hall of Fame material will be a matter of debate for others, his place in the hearts of fans is definitely assured.

Long time Panther fans don’t have to look far to see the shadow of Dan Morgan, the U-Miami hitting machine who couldn’t stay on the field during his time with the Panthers.

The 11th overall pick in the 2001 draft, Morgan helped move the Panther ‘D’ from worst in the league to second. Although he was an essential part of their first Super Bowl team in 2003 – Morgan was credited with 18 tackles in the 32-29 loss that became the New England Patriots first Super Bowl win – he was essentially out of football after a fifth concussion in the 2006 opener.

“I mean, I go back to high school, and I remember hitting people and seeing shades of green. You know, that was probably one there.”

That was a 2010 quote in ProCanes.com magazine, and Morgan admits he sometimes faked his way to staying on the field at a time before concussion protocols prevailed.

While Kuechly may not get a statue outside the stadium beside team icon Sam “Keep on Poundin'” Mills, who died from intestinal cancer in 2005, only the best of long life wishes from all who witnessed his ability to search out and stop runners that made him almost unblockable, is legitimate.

Given owner David Tepper and new head coach Matt Ruhle’s attitudes, if “It’s the right thing to do” becomes part of Panthers lore, that will work fine.

The U.S. Senate has the ball now

While it seems almost a foregone conclusion that their oaths to be a jury willing to reach a verdict after careful deliberation – are worthless, our country is seeing this ultimate extra-judicial step for only the third time in its history.

It won’t be of any more use to flay the situation regarding GOP enabling than it was to continuously say how badly the Panthers defense was whipped all year, “but that McCaffrey guy has been outstanding!”

If owner David Tepper ruled the Senate instead of “Moscow Mitch” McConnell, well, Charlotte and the rest of the NFL have already witnessed how decisively bad news can be redirected.

(Me, after just a week of watching and listening to the Senate’s approach to witnesses and  impeachment during a genuine crisis.)

Tepper went after a new head coach – Matt Ruhle, whose 11-3 record in his third season at Baylor was more winning than Trump has produced in a similar period – and offensive ‘genius’ Joe Brady (only 30!) of national champion LSU, winner of the Broyles Award as the #1 assistant coach in the country, as offensive coordinator.

Okay, the problem of being next to last in scoring defense (470 points/29.4 ppg, ahead of only the Miami Dolphins 30.9 ppg) and performing more like a matador (an ole! 143.5 ypg. against the run) can’t actually be fixed until next season, but the spirits of everyone who cares about this particular team have clearly been soothed and uplifted.

Like the NATO leaders who cattily talked about Trump’s politically light-weight status as being up to previous world-class/US standards, we must rely on a change in management and leadership going forward to regain real respect.

If that doesn’t happen over the next few weeks, the country might have to wait until November to make the sort of change the “Vote ’em ALL out!” cry of previous generations was, although 2018 saw some extraordinary progress on that front.

Hey, even the Tampa Bay Buccaneers went from worst to first in 1979, winning the NFC Central and advancing to the NFC Championship in their fourth year (the Panthers did it in their 2nd, with a legendary expansion team 12-4 record). Up until that point, the attitude of Bucs coach John McKay might have been echoed by many thinking outside the impeachment box.

When asked what he thought of his team’s execution in a post-game interview, the colorful McKay quipped:

“I’d be in favor of it.”

 Many would settle for Kuechly’s parting words, “In my heart I know its the right thing to do.” Pay attention U.S. Senate – the world is watching. We’ve got plenty of fond memories of Luuuuuke! here in Charlotte, but we need action from you.

And “Vote ’em ALL out!” is still legit.

 

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The best of thoughts for whatever comes next, Luke Kuechly.

 

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.