Panthers Just Made the WTF Roster Move of the Season

Who ever said Mondays were boring???

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, my Monday was still boring as shit up until about 7:00pm EST tonight. That’s about the time that I was scrolling through my Twitter feed and found this little gem from Max Henson:

Let’s keep this 100 real quick. This is a nothing football move and the fact that this all of a sudden made my boring Monday “less boring” should show you exactly how boring my Monday was. That being said, when you look at the reasoning behind why Marty Hurney made this move for Carolina, there are a ton of interesting layers behind it.

First let’s add some context. QB Gilbert in the tweet is referring to Garrett Gilbert, a quarterback that Dave Gettleman signed in the offseason to add some depth to the position for camp and OTA’s while Cam’s shoulder was recovering from surgery. Gilbert showed enough during camp and his preseason appearances that the coaching staff decided to keep him around with one of the team’s 10 practice squad spots. Dez Southward is a safety that was brought in (under similar circumstances to Gilbert) to compete for a spot and provide depth to his position. Southward initially was on the practice squad, but was called up to the active roster a couple of weeks ago to fill in for some injured guys at his position. DL Purcell is some guy I’ve never heard of and wasn’t aware he existed until this tweet so he is irrelevant.

Another thing to remember with this, is that the positions the players play matter more than the players themselves. Both guys are either backend roster guys or technically not even on the roster to begin with. The NFL is cruel SOB for players in that position and turnover happens regularly with those types of players.

OK, let’s take a deep dive here.

The big picture of the move is that the result leaves the Panthers with FOUR quarterbacks on the active roster. Not one, not two…..four. Historically, most teams break camp/preseason with two quarterbacks on the active roster. It’s ironic in a sense that that’s the case since the position is the most valuable one in sports, but given how little you rotate in quarterbacks mid game and the fact the only one plays at a time, coaches find that two QB’s is sufficient and keeping more depth at skill positions or lineman is more valuable than stashing more guys at QB that won’t sniff the field.

The Panthers have been routinely keeping three QB’s on the roster over the past couple of years which isn’t as common. Sure, multiple teams do it every season, but it’s a very small percentage. Joe Webb stuck around Carolina a couple of seasons, because while he was solid depth at QB, he was also a stand out special teams player and could fill in at wideout in a pinch. His flexibility made him too valuable to drop. Another scenario as to why a team like Carolina would keep three QB’s is what they are doing currently. During roster cut day, Carolina claimed Brad Kaaya off of waivers from Detroit because he felt like there was value in having a young QB in the pipeline. Derek Anderson is in the last year of his deal and Carolina hasn’t drafted a QB in some time. Kaaya was a late round pick in the most recent draft which shows that he has value and potential. Teams that don’t have immediate use for guys like that typically use a roster spot on them in order to protect them from other teams.

When Carolina promoted Gilbert up to the roster, instead of cutting Kaaya, they cut Southward, a safety. So now, the Panthers are currently holding four QB’s on the active roster. No one keeps four QB’s on the active roster.

My immediate reaction is that a trade is potentially forthcoming. Teams like Green Bay and Tampa saw their starting QB’s get injured over the weekend meaning there could be a need for one of them (or some other team) to add depth to that position while they wait for the injury to heal.

Would one of these teams (or another team) be interested in acquiring one of Carolina’s quarterbacks perhaps? Let’s look at the likelihood of this.

Derek Anderson — We obviously won’t include Cam in this scenario because that’s our guy and in no sane universe would there be a scenario that we trade him. That leaves Anderson as the highest guy on the depth chart. The only conceivable reason that DA could get traded is because he’s a free agent at the end of the season and the Panthers aren’t looking to resign him. I’m not sure if that last part is true or not, but either way it’s a long shot. Given that Cam isn’t fully healthy still from his shoulder surgery, having a “reliable” backup like DA around isn’t something you can trade away. Likelihood: 1/10

Brad Kaaya — This is the most intriguing side of a potential deal because Kaaya is still fresh enough out of college and the draft that some team that liked him a lot during the vetting process, but passed on him in the draft to address greater needs, etc may really be tempted to give up a pick to get him away from Carolina. If Kaaya were to get traded, he’d still be the backup, but his “ceiling” could be enough to convince teams that he’s worth having around as insurance for this year with the potential to grow into much more going forward. Likelihood: 5.5/10

Garret Gilbert — If you’re comparing Gilbert to Kaaya at face value, Kaaya is the more attractive player. Gilbert had a nice preseason, but he stuck around on the Panther practice squad for a reason. Teams can sign guys off other team’s practice squads at any time so there is definite vulnerability for a team to have a guy that they like on a practice squad with no formal protection of his rights. Gilbert was never signed away from Carolina. Possibly because teams didn’t have a need for him, or possibly because teams felt like he didn’t present enough of an upgrade to what they already had. That’s why this move is so interesting because he was promoted to the active roster without taking another QB’s spot. Perhaps the Panthers got wind of another team’s interest of him and protected him enough so that they could get a draft pick back? There isn’t much of another explanation out there. Likelihood: 7/10

The other scenario is that Hurney promoted Gilbert up without cutting another QB purely to protect him until teams like Green Bay and Tampa address their QB needs. Once those teams do, he will turn right around and release him back down to the practice squad and replace him with a player from another position. That would be the ultimate troll job and a total move the Panthers WOULD execute. For my sake, I hope that’s not the case. I’m craving a trade!

*Update*

Marty Hurney is officially a troll.

 

Sunday’s Game is Crucial for the Offense

After Sunday’s game against the Patriots, Carolina will have successfully completed a quarter of their season. Logic says that a trip up to Foxboro to take on Tom Brady will result in a loss and a subsequent 2-2 record. Being .500 after four games in the NFL certainly isn’t a death sentence, but with the way other teams in the division (namely the Falcons) are playing, the margin for error is pretty thin going forward.

If there is anything that Panther fans can lean on for optimism going into this week’s game, it’s that the New England defense is absolutely awful. New England’s defense ranks at the bottom of the league in most major statistical categories and are on pace for a historically bad season. They lack the personnel to get good push up front and there simply aren’t enough to playmakers on the backend to compensate for the difference. The Pats have been especially vulnerable when it comes to defending backs like McCaffrey who can dice you up with receiving yards out of the backfield or in the slot. Carolina and Shula have proved to be unafraid to feed CMC the rock early and often so I expect he will be pretty involved throughout the day.

The problem though for Carolina has been their inability to capitalize on scoring opportunities regardless of whether they’ve played a bad defense or not. Cam Newton is clearly not 100% coming off his shoulder surgery. Even if the shoulder itself is healthy, his timing and reads that he’s making are behind, off or completely nonexistent. As much as we can pass some blame around to Shula for lackluster play calling, the offensive line for lack of protection, etc. Cam has and deserves a decent amount of criticism. He has missed multiple plays that, as a starting QB in the NFL, you should never miss and more often than not, those misses would have either been scores or a big gain down the field.

As good as the defense is, they’re not invincible. Drew Brees proved that last Sunday as he picked them apart for four quarters. Rivera has often relied on the defense to win games for him during his tenure, but frankly, if Cam and the offense can’t get points, then the pressure on the defense to perform every time out is too much.

I’m as concerned as anyone about Cam’s performance this season. I’m still firmly on his bandwagon because the guy is simply too talented to not rebound at some point. However, if Rivera is insistent on limiting Cam’s running opportunities to protect him, but his shoulder isn’t fully back from rehab then it’s going to be hard for Carolina to outscore their opponents on a weekly basis.

Losses in the NFL typically spark overreaction so the Saints game may end up being an anomaly, but fans will definitely need to see strides from the offense against an absolutely awful defense. Even if the team loses, but the offense proves they can score, then we should feel better going into the second quarter of the season. If Carolina continues their trend, then there will be some hard questions to answer on Monday.

Roster Move Friday

Welcome to “Roster Move Friday”! The segment where we recap all of the roster moves that the Panthers make over the course of the week. Doesn’t matter if it’s a trade, a practice squad signing or someone going on IR, if it’s a roster move, we don’t discriminate.

9/11/17 — Panthers reach injury settlements with Brenton Bersin, Gino Gradkowski, Chris Scott & L.J. McCray. All players released/waived.

The Panthers filled that IR list up in the preseason. Pretty much anyone that was injured, but wasn’t a true threat to make the team was put on IR for the season. I guess that’s pretty common practice, but either way, that run for these four was short lived. Shouts to Chris Scott and Brenton Bersin real quick for their service. They did enough to be memorable, but not enough for us to be that sad about them leaving. Best of luck to them in their future endeavors.

9/13/17 — Panthers claim Ladarius Gunter from the Packers, waive Harrison Butker.

A big point of contention among the fan base was that the Panthers broke training camp with two kickers on the final 53 man roster. Certainly that’s not common practice in today’s NFL, but Hurney tried to get get a trade return for one of Butker or Gano during a time where a couple teams had some dicey kicking situations. It didn’t work out, no harm no foul.

Gunter is a solid acquisition when you consider the quality of player usually available on the waiver wire. Gunter has some legit game tape unlike most guys floating out there making him much more of a known commodity and it’s a bonus that he plays a position the Panthers could use quality depth at. Gunter should also be an instant contributor to special teams and teams can always use guys that can execute there.

9/14/17 — Harrison Butker added to practice squad. Eric Crume waived.

Plenty of fans were concerned that the rookie kicker would get claimed by someone if he were to get waived, which is why most wanted the Panthers to part with Gano instead. I think Hurney played this one perfectly though and passed Butker through waivers after a couple kicker needy teams claimed other players to fill that void. Butker was always destined to return to the practice squad if he cleared waivers. The hope will be for him to assume full time kicking duties next season once Gano becomes a free agent.

9/14/17 — Panthers claim John Theus from the 49ers, place Cole Luke on IR.

Hurney making moves! I don’t know anything about Theus other than he was a 5th round pick for San Francisco back in 2016 and he plays offensive tackle. To be honest, that’s fine with me. You can NEVER have enough depth a tackle and I like grabbing guys that were recent draft picks and stashing them on the roster. Our coaching staff is proven and has had success developing reclamation projects. Hoping Theus can fill in as productive depth behind Kalil, Williams, etc.

Cole Luke going to IR definitely helps validate the Gunter claim. Luke was the only UDFA to crack the Carolina 53, but nursed an ankle injury ever since the final preseason game. I guess Luke could theoretically be designated for return, but it’s unlikely as he isn’t as talented as the guy they replaced him with. The NFL is tough.

9/15/17 — Bucky Hodges added to practice squad, Keyarris Garrett waived.

This is a move that has me excited! I have been calling for the Panthers to draft a young developmental tight end for a couple of years now and I know I’m not the only one. It’s no secret that beyond Greg Olsen, Carolina doesn’t have an adequate receiving threat at tight end. Not sure Bucky will be that guy, but he’s definitely got the skill set to develop into a productive second or third option. He’s not on the active roster so I don’t expect to see Hodges anytime soon, but I like that there is at least a young piece hanging around.

Keyarris Garrett came in with some hype, but ultimately, he didn’t amount to much.

1-0 Party! 3 Takeways From Carolina’s Blowout Win

Football is baaaaaccckkkk! You know what? Shouts to football and the NFL for finally being back. We literally spend every single day of the offseason wishing it was on and to have it finally back and actually count is a good feeling.

As good as it is for football to be back, there aren’t many worse feelings for a fan base than to watch your team catch a L in week one. That’s perilous shit right there. Very few teams in the league can recover from a 0-2 hole in the NFL and recover in time to make the playoffs. To my math, there have only been 14 teams since 1991 that have accomplished such a feat. So when you go 0-1 after the first game, your season is pretty much on the line that next Sunday. Scary stuff.

Fortunately for Panthers fans, we don’t have to worry about that! Carolina took care of business out west and blew the 49ers out in a game that was never close. There were some fans that remained cautiously optimistic heading into the game, but we can just chalk that up to the unknown and first game paranoia as a fan. Any sane person new how big of a difference there was in talent and it showed.

Here are my five biggest takeways from the game yesterday:

The Defense is stout — This has been a pretty common occurrence for Carolina for the past several years. The talent on this side of the ball is undeniable. Luke Kuechly is easily the best linebacker in football and a top 3 defensive player in general, KK short and Star are monsters on the interior line and there is a stable of ageless talented vets (Thomas Davis, Julius Peppers, Charles Johnson, etc) and a crop of young up and coming stars (Shaq Thompson, Vernon Butler, James Bradberry, etc) that round out the unit. When healthy, this unit has the ability to be the top defense in football.

Cam Newton was rusty — This was to be expected somewhat. The guy only threw two passes during the preseason, but there were definitely throws he missed in that first half that he should have made. Fortunately for him, he got into more of a rhythm in the second half completing all six of his passes. The schedule early in the season is forgiving so it’s a best case scenario when trying to get back into your groove. Cam will be fine. Perhaps the most encouraging Cam story line that came from the game though was…..

The O-Line didn’t allow a sack — This is HUGE. Cam was absolutely demolished by opposing defenses at times last season and the wear and tear certainly caught up to him by the end of it. Given how long it took for him to rehab and recover, it would benefit both him and the Panthers to keep him as clean as possible going forward. The line did a great job of containing and the staff called a game that allowed Cam to utilize those short throws all game. More of this going forward please. Definitely need Cam healthy to contend.

 

Carolina will take on the Buffalo Bills on Sunday at 1:00pm EST

My One and Only Panthers Roster Projection

The Panthers wrap up their preseason on Thursday night against Pittsburgh in what should be a spectating event for most of the roster locks and regular contributors. For those that will play, it will be their final chance to state their case to be on the roster for the coaching staff and front office. Cut day is Saturday and just like Winter, it’s coming/here.

Here’s my take on what the 53 man roster will be after cuts have been made:

Quarterbacks (3): Cam Newton, Derek Anderson and Joe Webb

Business as usual here. A lot of fans want DA out or would like Webb promoted up to the backup slot. It won’t happen. Webb is the perfect #3 QB and is a great contributor on special teams and at wide receiver when he’s called upon. Given DA is a UFA after this season, this will likely be his last ride with Carolina.

Running Backs (4): Jonathan Stewart, Christian McCaffrey, Fozzy Whitaker and Cameron Artis-Payne

After Carolina drafted McCaffrey in April, my initial thought was that CAP’s spot on the roster was in jeopardy, but he has played well enough to deserve a spot on the roster. He also serves as the best replacement for Stewart in case of injury. Whitaker has been a staple for a couple of seasons, but in my opinion, he is the most at risk of getting cut due to personnel at his position and on special teams.

Fullbacks (1): Darrell Young

I went back and fourth on this one. Panthers are one of the few teams in the league that use a fullback so it would make sense that they retain one at the position. Other option would be to have a fourth tight end Richie Brockel type, but that is unlikely. Alex Armah has flashed in camp as a rookie, but given that he’s still so raw, practice squad seems likely for him leaving Young. Young’s experience in the league makes him serviceable.

Wide Receivers (5): Kelvin Benjamin, Devin Funchess, Curtis Samuel, Russell Shepard and Damiere Byrd

Rivera has enough receiving versatility with McCaffrey and Joe Webb on the roster to get away with only keeping five wideouts on the 53. Curtis Samuel being healthy again also helps justify Ron building up depth elsewhere. Byrd makes the team as a vertical threat and special teams threat. Brenton Bersin and Kaelin Clay would be vying for the 6th spot if there was one available.

Tight Ends (3): Greg Olsen, Ed Dickson and Chris Manhertz

Olsen is an elite tight end and Dickson is a solid backup / best blocking tight end on the roster. Those two are solid. The third tight end spot is shaky at best. Manhertz beats out Scott Simonsen primarily because the latter has been injured, but this could be a group that sees a new addition added after cuts are made.

Offensive Line (9): Ryan Kalil, Trai Turner, Andrew Norwell, Matt Kalil, Daryl Williams, Taylor Moton, Tyler Larsen, Gino Gradkowski and Chris Scott

Extremely solid group. Matt Kalil has looked solid at left tackle this preseason and Taylor Moton has a really bright future. Larsen will be Ryan Kalil’s primary backup at center while Scott and Gradkowski will fill in as interior depth.

Defensive Line (9): Charles Johnson, Julius Peppers, Mario Addison, Wes Horton, Daeshon Hall, Kawann Short, Star Lotulelei, Vernon Butler, Eric Crume

Again, this is an extremely solid group with a great mix of veteran leadership and young talent. Short and Star are arguably the best interior tackle duo in the league and once Vernon Butler gets healthy, he will only make that group stronger. Daeshon Hall will most likely take the back seat to Horton on game days initially, but I like his potential. Kyle Love gets cut due to health reasons, but Eric Crume has been a nice surprise in games so far.

Linebackers (6): Luke Kuechly, Thomas Davis, Shaq Thompson, David Mayo, Jeremy Cash and Ben Jacobs.

Best group in the league and it’s not close. David Mayo looks to be an even better version of AJ Klein as the primary backup. Ben Jacobs edges out Jared Norris for the final spot due to special teams ability, but it’s close.

Cornerbacks (6): James Bradberry, Darryl Worley, Captain Munnerlyn, Teddy Williams, Zack Sanchez and Corn Elder

Zack Sanchez’s game against Jacksonville showed me enough improvement to warrant a roster spot. That being said, a big reason why he makes the team is due to Corn Elder’s injury. Elder looks to be on the mend so it’ll be interesting to see how things shake down once he makes his return to the field, but given that he’s a rookie it will take time to integrate him into the rotation. Teddy Williams will continue to lead the charge on special teams.

Safeties (4): Kurt Coleman, Mike Adams, Colin Jones and Dezmond Southward

This is another group that could see a new addition once cuts have been made. Jones is a “special teams ace” so his spot seems safe. Southward has had a nice preseason so I think he makes the team Saturday, but he will be the first to go if the front office finds an upgrade on the market Saturday night.

Specialists (3): Graham Gano, Andy Lee and JJ Jansen

According to media reports, Jansen is the only lock here at long snapper. I do think that Rivera will ride with Gano for one more season over Butker, but if he misses a few to start the season, the leash will be extremely short. The punter battle between Lee and Palardy has been widely publicized, but given Lee’s skill, experience and contract situation, it just makes sense to keep him.

Reliving Cam Newton’s Preseason Debut

One of the bigger media stories out of Charlotte in the past week was the fact that Cam Newton was finally green lit for live game action for the first time since his offseason shoulder surgery. Obviously, for us as fans, this is pretty relieving news. Cam’s camp action was such a roller coaster ride being that one day he was full go, the next day he was sore and prohibited from throwing, the next day he threw individual drills and not team, and so on, etc. Cam barely threw in the 10 plays that he was on the field Thursday night against Jacksonville, but just seeing him out there leading the offense certainly helped ease any nausea fans would feel imagining Derek Anderson having to start a regular season game to buy Cam more recovery time. Even though it was a brief sample, Cam looked great to me.

Things to note of the drive:

  • Of Cam’s 10 snaps, only two were passes. The other eight were hand offs to either Jonathan Stewart or Christian McCaffrey.
  • Cam’s passes totaled for 21 yards including a touchdown

The drive started on the 25 yard line after the opening kick was downed as a touch back. Typically, when you’re on offense in a football game, the coordinator can call either a run or a pass play. That’s basic football 101. Normally, you have a 50% chance of guessing it correctly every time, but in the instance of Cam Newton’s preseason debut after recovering from shoulder surgery, you could have bet the house that the first play would be Cam handing the ball off. Not only did Cam hand the ball of on the first play, he handed the ball off to his backs the next five plays after that.

It was pretty evident that if Cam didn’t have to throw, then Ron Rivera and Mike Shula weren’t going to force the issue. Fortunately for them, Stewart and McCaffrey were both able to progress the ball down the field with relative ease. Aside from Stewart’s 31 yard rumble on the game’s second play from scrimmage, the Panthers didn’t gouge the Jaguars defense in huge chunks, but even though the odds of each play were overwhelmingly in favor of keeping the ball on the ground, the backs made positive gains every time.

There were two plays that Shula and Rivera did dial up for Cam to throw the ball, but the first one didn’t come until the Panthers were already sitting on Jacksonville’s 25 yard line. So much of Cam’s career as a passer has been defined on deep passes down the field. The arm strength he possesses is clearly an elite trait among the league’s other quarterbacks and the Carolina offense has utilized it to the fullest extent possible. It’s interesting that even though the scheme has dictated deep throws, the front office has made it a point to draft bigger receivers like Kelvin Benjamin and Devin Funchess to serve as Cam’s weapon foundation instead of going with Ted Ginn-esque receivers that can really stretch the field. The personnel would suggest that you’d use those bigger receivers to body up smaller defensive backs near the sticks, but it just hasn’t been the case.

The entire offseason was built and adjusted to help give Cam relief in the passing game. Former GM Dave Gettleman, drafted dynamic and speedy playmakers in Christian McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel to give Cam an out if the play was taking too long to develop. The main question was, can Cam adjust? Can a guy who has only thrown deep, or run for yards, his entire career successfully stay in the pocket and check down to receivers and backs on a regular basis? Well the two passes we saw from him last Thursday proved that it’s possible.

The first pass Cam made was a simple check down to McCaffrey who stood in the backfield and floated through the line when the blitz didn’t come and took Cam’s dump pass for 12 yards up the field. Three plays later, Cam threw a simple slant pass 4 yards across the middle to Kelvin Benjamin who took it the rest of the way for a nine yard score. For me as a fan, it was poetry in motion.

Cam’s night was done after the KB score. Frankly, there was really no need to play him any longer as easing him into week one is the smart play, but it was great to see him out there on the field again. It will be interesting to see if Rivera will run him out on the field against the Steelers for the preseason finale this upcoming Thursday night. Typically, for the fourth preseason game, Cam will have been shut down to prepare and rest for the season opener, but given the fact that his work load has been lighter this summer, we may see him for another drive.

 

 

Stock Watch: Panthers vs Titans

Due to some previously scheduled obligations, I was unable to catch the Panthers second preseason game against the Titans in its entirety, but I have seen enough of the game to this point to draw some conclusions. The end result of the game was disappointing and you’d obviously like a better performance from your starters, but ultimately, there isn’t anything to panic about.

Stock Up

Christian McCaffrey – It’s obvious that this kid is special. That doesn’t really bear much repeating, but even just glimpses of McCaffrey on the field show you just how capable he is of taking this offense to another level. We saw him run between the tackles for a score and we saw a one yard screen pass from Derek Anderson go for 39 yards. He makes the simple play look incredible and we haven’t even seen the depth of play calling options he gives to the offense yet.

First string O-Line – Shouts to the offensive line for not allowing a sack. Also, someone needs to pay Andrew Norwell.

Taylor Moton – He’s not technically a starter, but this kid is a beast. For such a young player he’s displayed an excellent amount of potential through the first two games. We know how smart he is, but physically. he’s shown he belongs.

David Mayo – Luke Kuechly was given the day off to rest some sore ribs so David Mayo was given an opportunity to start in his place. Mayo isn’t Luke, but he flew around the field and logged 10 tackles in condensed playing time. Losing AJ Klein was an underrated departure for this team, but Mayo has potential to be just as good of a backup which is huge.

Tyler Larsen – He has been rock solid filling in for the injured Ryan Kalil.

Cameron Artis-Payne – With Carolina taking CMC at pick eight, most people wrote him off before camp started. Well CAP is making his case to stick to this roster. Carolina has been known to keep five running backs/fullbacks on the 53 before and his fit as a bruising between the tackles back makes sense should Stew or CMC miss a game here or there.

Julius Peppers – Because he’s Julius Peppers! It was nice to see him on the field in Panther blue again.

Stock Down

Devin Funchess – He’s had a great camp, but he’s got to be that consistent in the game. His fumble put the defense in a bad spot and they gave up a touchdown.

Derek Anderson – As sharp as he looked against Houston he was that bad against Tennessee. Fans are calling for Joe Webb to take his backup spot. That’s a little much, but with Cam nursing that shoulder, we need DA to be better.

Damiere Byrd – Did literally nothing on Saturday. Not endanger of losing a roster spot I don’t think, but the hype has cooled.

Colin Jones – Special teams wizard, but not a good defender. Gets burned on coverage and misses tackles. Safety depth in general is a big issue.

Mike Adams – Like DA, he was solid in his time against Houston, but had a rough day on Saturday. He’s a two time pro bowler so he will get back on track, but with zero safety depth, we need Adams to be good every week.

Next up: Panthers travel down to Jacksonville for their Thursday night dress rehearsal. Kickoff at 7:30 PM.