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A few (albeit late) Panthers updates

22 January 2010 Leave a comment

I’ve been busy as of late, but I wanted to get these few tidbits of news out there in the blogosphere (as if they’re not out there in other places).

I know this is old news, but J-Stew announced on his Twitter account that he was having surgery on his injured left foot on Wednesday. Hopefully this will help him finally get over the nagging foot injury that kept him out of practice most of the season. Even though he missed practice at least once a week during the regular season, he never missed a single game, and managed to lead the team in rushing with 1133 yards.*

Also, the Panthers have found a replacement for recently retired WR coach Richard Williamson. Williamson had been with the Panthers for the entire 15 years of the team’s existence, but decided to retire at the end of this season. He will be replaced by former Bills WR coach Tyke Tolbert. Tolbert is, at least according to John Fox, a well respected position coach around the league and should be a good fit in Charlotte.

Fox, on the hiring of Tolbert:

“Tyke’s experience both as a player and coach provide him with a sound knowledge of the wide receiver position … He is a highly regarded coach and we think he will make strong contribution to our offense.”

Can Tolbert be the guy who finally brings Dwayne Jarrett to the promised land? Tolbert is known for being the man who coached Cardinals WR Anquan Boldin during his monstrous rookie season, so I have a positive outlook on the impact he can have on the Panthers’ receiving corps.**

Perhaps Tolbert’s influence on the Panthers’ receivers can convince Boldin that he should play in Carolina as well? Wouldn’t that be sweet to have Smitty on one side and Boldin on the other? Add in the domination of the run game and a decent quarterback (cough, Matt Moore, cough) and you have an offense that would be almost unstoppable.

* * * *

* – Keep in mind that D-Will missed the last two games of the season with an injured ankle, which helped Stewart lead the team in rushing.

** – Maybe he can turn Dwayne Jarrett and Kenny Moore into the next Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin — you never know.

Putting the "special" in Special Teams

15 January 2010 Leave a comment

Here’s an interesting article from Panthers.com’s Andrew Mason about the poor performance from the ST unit since Danny Crossman took over in 2004.

Mason: [comment in bold-italics mine ]

Five seasons as ST coach = 5 seasons without a return for a TD

“Crossman had been the team’s special-teams coach for five seasons since replacing Scott O’Brien, who moved on to the Miami Dolphins after the 2004 campaign. The 2009 campaign was Crossman’s seventh on the Panthers staff; he worked under O’Brien as a special-teams assistant in 2003 and 2004.

Under Crossman’s watch, the Panthers enjoyed stability among their kickers; John Kasay and Jason Baker handled full-time placekicking and punting duties, respectively, while Rhys Lloyd became the kickoff specialist in Week 17 of the 2007 season and remained there the following two seasons, leading the NFL in touchbacks with 51 over the last two seasons.

But in spite of Lloyd’s kickoff proficiency, the Panthers struggled on kickoff coverage. Lloyd’s 30-percent touchback ratio ranked fifth in the league last season, but when opponents returned his kickoffs, their average drive start was at their 29.6, the fourth-worst in the league.

Kickoff returns were also a point of frustration for the Panthers in recent seasons. Their collective average of 20.3 yards per kickoff return in the last five years ranked 32nd [dead last] in that span, was 2.3 yards below the league average (22.6) and four yards behind the league’s best (New England, 24.3).

During the last five years, 13 teams had single-season kickoff-return averages below 20 yards. Three of those 13 — the most in the league — were by the Panthers, including a 19.9-yard average in 2009 that ranked 31st.

Carolina fared better on punt returns the last five years; the team’s 8.4-yard average ranked 20th in the league in that span.

Return touchdowns were also difficult to find. The Panthers are the only team without a kickoff- or punt-return touchdown in the last five seasons; they’ve allowed five to opponents in that span, including two in 2009: an 85-yard DeSean Jackson punt return in Week 1 and a 97-yard Sammie Stroughter kickoff return for Tampa Bay in Week 6.

The Panthers’ regular-season special-teams touchdown return drought goes back to Dec. 28, 2003, when Steve Smith scored on a 58-yard punt runback against the New York Giants.

Carolina also had some difficulties with punt protection, allowing a league-worst five punts to be blocked in the last five years, including three in 2008. The Panthers were also one of six teams to not block an opponent’s punt in the last five years. Their last punt block was by Karl Hankton on Dec. 26, 2004 at Tampa Bay in the penultimate game of O’Brien’s tenure.

Based on this information, it looks like my assessment of “it’s about freaking time” is pretty accurate. I’m just glad that the decision to improve one of the two glaring weaknesses has been made.

Now, if we can only get that quarterback situation straightened out…

Categories: Offseason, Team Stats

Panthers will not retain ST coach Crossman

14 January 2010 Leave a comment

Danny Crossman, the Panthers’ [incompetent] Special Teams coach will not be retained for the 2010 season, Panthers’ beat writer Darin Gantt reports.

Gantt:

In part because of the money committed to DE Julius Peppers, Crossman had another difficult year, with the Panthers ranking 31st in kickoff return average, 30th in kickoff return average allowed and 29th in punt return average allowed.

Crossman has been the ST coach of the Panthers since 2004, and the Panthers coincidentally [or not] have had one of the worst ST units in the league since his hiring. [They averaged 19 yards per kickoff return in 2009, which is one of the worst ST performances in franchise history. You know something is wrong when your team’s kickoff returns would have had better results if they never returned a kick and just took a knee every time — it was that horrible.]

All I can say is: it’s about freaking time. Crossman definitely put the “special” in special teams (and I don’t mean that in a good way). Hopefully they will hire someone who has an idea of how special teams is supposed to work, because it was definitely one of the major weaknesses of the 2004-2009 teams.

John Fox has the option to leave town

11 January 2010 1 comment
According to a report from ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter, the Panthers have given John Fox permission to opt out of his contract should he be enticed with a better coaching situation than the 1 year remaining on his contract with the team.

The only head coaching jobs that are available at the time are with the Seahawks (who appear to have Pete Carroll waiting to sign a contract) and the Bills — neither of which would be an upgrade from Carolina, unless they threw insane amounts of money and years in Fox’s direction.

If a job comes available that Fox would be interested in, he now has permission to leave. I don’t think he will, because he seems like the type of guy who finishes what he starts.

I hope he decides to stick around for one more year, because a shake-up at the top is the last thing this team needs if it wants to make a Super Bowl run in 2010.

Categories: Offseason Tags:

Beason motivated by Pro Bowl snub

9 January 2010 Leave a comment
Carolina Panthers MLB Jon Beason has all the motivation he needs going into 2010. Sure, he is the defensive captain of a team that missed the playoffs and had to adjust to a new defensive scheme1 this season, and he plays in a market that is notorious for getting little to no recognition in the national media, but Beason is motivated by something more.

Beason is motivated because he was left off the NFC Pro Bowl roster2.

It’s shocking to say the least that he was left off the roster. I mean, sure there were other guys who had good years, but can it really be argued that Beason wasn’t deserving?

Let’s examine the stats and see where he ranks against the guys who made the roster over him: 49ers MLB Patrick Willis, Saints MLB Jonathan Vilma and Redskins MLB London Fletcher. These stats are courtesy of Pro-Football Reference3.

Patrick Willis:

G
Sk Int
Yds TD Lng PD FF Fmb FR Yds TD Tkl Ast Sfty
16 4.0 3 33 1 23 8 3 0 0 0 0 113 38 0

Jonathan Vilma:

G
Sk Int
Yds TD Lng PD FF Fmb FR Yds TD Tkl Ast Sfty
15 2.0 3 25 0 11 8 0 0 0 0 0 86 23 0

London Fletcher:

G
Sk Int
Yds TD Lng PD FF Fmb FR Yds TD Tkl Ast Sfty
15 2.0 1 2 0 2 6 1 0 0 0 0 95 47 0

Jon Beason:

G
Sk Int
Yds TD Lng PD FF Fmb FR Yds TD Tkl Ast Sfty
16 3.0 3 46 0 18 7 1 0 2 0 0 112 30 0

Based on these statistics, can someone please explain to me how Beason was snubbed in favor of Vilma? I understand that Willis deserved to make the roster, but seriously: how in the hell does Vilma make the Pro Bowl (other than the fact that he played for a team that went 13-3, and since Hurricane Katrina has become “America’s Team”?)4 Beason should be the 2nd MLB on the roster, not the 2nd alternate. It’s bad enough that he didn’t even make the roster, but he’s the 2nd alternate? Behind London Fletcher? WTF?!?5

One positive thing that came out of it was Beason’s attitude about the situation. On his blog, Beason discussed the snub and said that even though he was upset at first, he is just using it as motivation for next year.

Beason, on being left off the Pro Bowl roster:

Initially, I had a lot on my mind, a lot to say. I had a lot of anger as well as disappointment. But I’ve had some time to step back from it and think hard about my words before I said anything, simply based on the fact that Jon Vilma is one of my friends, like me a University of Miami linebacker standout and a guy I admired and looked up to in college.

So even though I felt like I was shafted from the Pro Bowl, I wouldn’t want it to come out publicly in any fashion that I’m downplaying the year he had or the type of player he is.

As far as London Fletcher being the first alternate, I can live with that. He’s had a long and underappreciated career. And in my eyes, I’ve always seen him as a very consistent, very good player.

To me, it’s not so much about breaking records. It reminds me about the Colts having the opportunity to go undefeated and break that record. It’s not about breaking records, it’s about finishing first. To me, that’s all I want to do. Year in and year out, as long as I’m wearing a helmet, as long as my play represents my family and my name, I want to strive to finish first.

When you do that, and it’s overlooked, it is a very demoralizing feeling.

Things like being named NFC Player of the Week and team MVP, as well as the highest praise from the likes of Bill Belichick, Sean Payton and Brian Billick, coaches that are widely respected and renowned, to go out of their way and mention my name as a guy who deserves to go to the Pro Bowl, or make reference to me being one of the best linebackers they’d ever seen, almost makes it hurt worse.

I’m glad that Beason can keep a positive attitude about this situation, even though he got robbed because he plays in a small market. But, I can’t wait to see how he puts this motivation into action next season — hopefully it will lead to a Lombardi Trophy.

So, look out NFL: you’ve got a beast who’s motivated and ready to unleash his fury on anything in his path next season, and it won’t be pretty.

———————————————————————————————————

1 – Ron Meeks’ “Tampa 2” scheme.

2 – He’s the 2nd alternate at MLB, behind London Fletcher, so he wasn’t “completely” left off the roster, but still — it’s a shame that he wasn’t recognized for his awesome season.

3 – If you’ve never been there, they have a lot of information. Check it out here.

4 – No disrespect intended, but it’s true: everyone (read: the media) loves the Saints since Katrina devastated the New Orleans area. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with it, but that shouldn’t be the sole reason for all the attention they’ve gotten since it happened.

5 – Again, no disrespect intended towards London Fletcher, but come on.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags: , ,

Smitty explains the rules and regulations of the game

8 January 2010 Leave a comment
This is a few weeks old, but it’s still funny as hell and will probably go down in Panthers lore as one of the greatest post-game moments of all time.

For those who have no idea what I’m talking about: Steve Smith was interviewed by Andrea Kramer after the Panthers defeated the Vikings on 12/20/09, and in the interview Smitty explained that “#22 [Vikings DB Benny Sapp] … a little youngster” needed to understand the “rules and regulations of the game”, and it is hilarious.

The Rules and Regulations of the Game, according to Steve Smith:

[My favorite part: “89 … bottom line” — that gets me every time I see it.]

Categories: Uncategorized Tags: ,

Fox plans to return next season

5 January 2010 Leave a comment
Looks like John Fox is going to come back in 2010 after all. According to a report by The Charlotte Observer’s Inside the Panthers blogger Charles Chandler, John Fox all but confirmed his intent to return to the Panthers sidelines next season as head coach.

Chandler:

Panthers coach John Fox indicated he will return to the team next season in an interview aired last night on the weekly “Panther Talk” radio show on WBT (1110 AM) … “Going in front of the press group yesterday, you’re fresh off a win,” Fox said. “I don’t have a lot of answers at this point other than I have a year remaining on my contract. I see myself being back here a year from now. That’s just the way it is. It starts there and we’ll move forward from that.”

“That’s just the way it is” … some things just never get old.

Categories: Offseason Tags: ,