Today’s NFL is quite different from years past, the game has several fundamental changes, even in recent years. With the Saints’ bounty scandal, Junior Seau’s death, and Kurt Warner’s recent comments indicating he does not consider football safe anymore, it is safe to say that the league is undergoing some bad public relations. The physicality and violence of the game has been under scrutiny for the past few seasons, and this has resulted in rule changes and an omnipresent eye deeming hits on the field legal or not. Some people have even begun to question the league’s viability as a whole, as the game continues to change.
An immediate result of placing a higher degree of importance on caution is the operation of the defense on the field. It is essentially inherently harder now for a defense to do their job, and it opens the field for offenses to run rampant. Subsequently, field position has become remarkably critical. Retaining a good Punter is an absolute requirement for competitive teams to aid the struggle of their defenses. The Panthers demonstrated this fundamental shift when Punter Brand Nortman was selected in the sixth round of this year’s NFL Draft. Today, the team made another move to increase depth at newly valuable position, signing veteran Punter, Nick Harris, who spent most of last season with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Additionally, Harris has not had a punt blocked since 2004, and has a career average of 42.5 yards per kick.
To some, this move seems boring and mundane, but it is this attention to detail that builds championship caliber teams. Improving even in the marginal, unexciting aspects of the game will transcend success all over the field for the Panthers, and it is this authors hope that Harris, along with Nortman will have an immediate tangible impact on the team when Week 1 rolls around.
The draft is now behind us, and as the Panthers prepare for training camp, it seems that they are still fishing for talent in the free agent pool.
According to The Houston Chronicle, WR Jacoby Jones visited Charlotte Thursday, after being released by the Texans on Tuesday. He hopes of finding a new place for his services, Jones, a 6′ 2″, 210 pound WR was drafted in the 3rd round in 2007 by the Texans, has seen good playing time since his arrival at both receiver and return specialist. In 2011, Jones recorded 31 catches for 512 yards and 2 TDs, and also added a punt return for a score. His on-the-field production unfortunately continues to be overshadowed by his muffed punt in the playoff game against the Ravens last season, that set Baltimore up for a score, the lead, and eventually the win.
Watching Junior Seau’s mother today was one of the more intense things I’ve seen in quite some time. For those who haven’t already heard, Junior Seau was found dead in his California home at the age of 43. The incident is being investigaed as a suicide. It’s a horrible situation. His mother’s speech was hard to watch.
I wanted to write a dedication post to one of my favorite all-time Panthers. Happy Birthday, DeAngelo Williams. Who doesn’t like DeAngelo? He was drafted to be that special player he was at Memphis, and he hasn’t disappointed. DeAngelo walks the walk in the community as well. Three of his close family members lost their battles to breast cancer. His mother, Sandra Hill also fought cancer and eventually persevered. Today, they have a breast cancer organization. Good people, deserve to be recognized and it’s great DeAngelo Williams is in Charlotte.
My friends, Legadu Naanee has packed his bags, hopefully never to return to Charlotte. Ok, that was a little harsh after he had a career highs in his first year with the Panthers posting 44 catches 467 receiving yards. Unfortunately this is close to the average 6’2″ 220 pounder’s ceiling. As many times as he was thrown to last season he should have been a lot closer to 1,000 yards. In NFL terms he is average. I’m glad Rivera and Hurney viewed him as a “David Gettis gap-filler” solution. It was very frustrating to see Cam and Offensive Coordinator Rob Chudzinksi trust him down the stretch in so many games, only for Naanee to fail to make the big play. Naanee’s replacement is David Gettis, which is a huge upgrade to an already potent offense. Not retaining Naanee also means an opportunity for Kealoha Pilares and maybe even Armanti Edwards to break into the lineup, presumably in the slot position. Pilares is an exciting young prospect, and made a strong impact in the return game during 2011. If Edwards is on our roster, and not listed as a backup quarterback, then he should be given an opportunity.
As Panther Nation awaits the results of this month’s impending draft, eyes have turned to the teams OTA’s, which begun this week in Charlotte. I am happy to report that out of the 71 players on the team’s roster this year, there were 71 players present the first day of Organized Team Activities. During OTA’s quarterbacks can only throw to receivers without coverage, and no helmets are worn, among a myriad of other seemingly peculiar stipulations. The team can however, start to form a solid base upon which to build and improve throughout this season. In many cases team cohesiveness can go overlooked because of the spectacular plays on the field that capture the highlight reels. It is however this team togetherness that ultimately allows for success on the grid iron, and contributes to the team’s will to win. In my own modest opinion; the closer and better the relationships are amongst players and coaches alike, the better the results in the wins and loss column. That is what excites me about this week in Charlotte.