Scouting the Panthers: Positional Analysis

UNIT-BY-UNIT ANALYSIS OF THE JAGUARS NEXT OPPONENT: CAROLINA PANTHERS

QUARTERBACKS: Starter -- Vinny Testaverde. Backups -- David Carr, Matt Moore.
    The Panthers have flip-flopped between 44-year old Vinny Testaverde at quarterback, signed prior to week six, and former number one overall pick David Carr. Jake Delhomme started the season, and then went out early with a season ending injury. Carr has been mostly ineffective as a starter, and the Panthers have turned to the veteran of all veterans. Carr may get the start against Jacksonville this week due to his fine play against the Jaguars in past seasons when he was in Houston.


RUNNING BACKS: Starters -- RB DeShaun Foster, FB Brad Hoover. Backups -- RB DeAngelo Williams, RB Alex Haynes.
    Foster has shown a lot of promise through the years, but he's never run for 1,000 yards in his career. This season, Foster needs to step it up a bit to get to the 1000 yard mark DeAngelo Williams, a small, shifty back with great speed was a first round pick in 2006, and hasn't been able to take the starting job away from Foster. Hoover enters his eighth year as Carolina's blocking back and the only concern here is whether his body is beginning to wear down. Still, he's very good at his craft.


TIGHT END/H-BACK: Starter -- Jeff King. Backups -- Dante Rosario, Christian Fauria.
    The Panthers are inexperienced at tight end after losing Kris Mangum to retirement. King, who caught only one pass last season, is this season's starter, and has caught 41 passes already. Rosario, a rookie out of Oregon, impressed coaches with his speed in training camp and has won the number two spot.


WIDE RECEIVERS: Starters -- Steve Smith, Keary Colbert. Backups -- Drew Carter, Dwayne Jarrett, Ryne Robinson.
    Smith is coming off another Pro Bowl season in which he caught 83 passes for 1,166 yards and scored nine total touchdowns despite playing in only 14 games. Smith is a little off last season's pace, mainly due to the inconsistencies at quarterback. Colbert had a strong rookie season in 2004, but has been invisible the last two years. This year, he's caught 31 passes for 324 yards and no touchdowns. Carter has great straight-ahead track speed, but he doesn't have great hands and still needs to work on his route running. Jarrett hasn't come along as quickly as the team hoped, and has fallen to the bottom of the depth chart with just six catches on the season. Robinson is a small, fast guy like Smith. He sees limited action in the slot.


OFFENSIVE LINE: Starters -- LT Travelle Wharton, LG Mike Wahle, C Justin Hartwig, RG Jeremy Bridges , RT Jordan Gross. Backups -- G/T Ryan Kalil, C/G Geoff Hangartner, G Evan Mathis, T Frank Omiyale.
    Following last season, where the Panthers lost Wharton (knee) and Hartwig (groin) to season ending injuries in Week 1, the offensive line is healthy. Wahle, a Pro Bowl lineman in 2006, is coming off shoulder surgery but looks as strong as ever. With Wharton healthy, Gross has moved back to his more comfortable position at right tackle, where he hopes to stay. Gross has never missed a start in four seasons. The one spot up for grabs is right guard. Bridges, who started 14 games at right tackle in 2006, was slated to be the starter. However, he was suspended two games by the team after being arrested for pointing a gun at a woman outside of a strip club. Kalil, a rookie from USC, started the season there, although when Bridges returned, he got his job back. Carolina has good depth for the first time in quite awhile. Hangartner started 15 games last season at center and Mathis started 15 at guard. Bridges can always slide out to tackle again if needed, but he is suspended for the first two games. The entire line is working hard to learn a new zone-blocking scheme installed by coordinator Jeff Davidson.


DEFENSIVE LINE: Starters -- LDE Julius Peppers, LDT Kris Jenkins, RDT Ma'ake Kemoeatu, RDE Mike Rucker. Backups -- DE Stanley McClover, DT Damione Lewis, DT Kindal Moorehead, DE Charles Johnson, DT, Gary Gibson.
    This defensive line isn't as dominant as it once was, and that is one of the main reasons for the Panthers struggles. Peppers has always been a great player, but he's having a poor year by his standards. The big problem for Peppers might be getting help on the other end. Rucker is coming off knee surgery and at 32 might not have the burst he once did. That means McClover, a second-year pro with only two games under his belt, will have to pick up the slack. He replaces veteran Al Wallace. Inside, Jenkins is one of the best in the game when he stays motivated. He had many lapses last year, but still made the Pro Bowl on reputation. Kemoeatu is basically a two-down player whose primary job is to take up blockers and free everyone else up. Lewis, a former high first-round draft pick by the Rams, and Moorehead are pass rushing defensive tackles who mainly see action on third downs. Lewis was tied for third in sacks (4.5) last year, but his play tailed off as the season progressed.


LINEBACKER: Starters -- WLB Na'il Diggs, MLB Jon Beason, SLB Thomas Davis. Backups -- OLB James Anderson, ILB Adam Seward, LB Tim Shaw, OLB Donte Curry, OLB Brandon Jamison.
    The Panthers added Beason in the first round, and he's been forced into the starting lineup with the season ending injury to Dan Morgan. Davis is a former first-round pick that has incredible athletic ability, but has trouble applying that to the field. He's capable of making big plays on defense and really needs to step up this season. Carolina's best bet here might be to simplify things for him. Anderson sees some action on passing downs and continues to improve as a player. Shaw, a fifth-round pick earlier this year, is a contributor on special teams.


DEFENSIVE BACKS: LCB Ken Lucas, RCB Chris Gamble, SS Chris Harris, FS Deke Cooper. Backups -- CB Richard Marshall,, SS Quinton Teal, FS C.J. Wilson, CB Patrick Dendy.
    The Panthers have three decent corners in Lucas, Gamble and Marshall. Marshall is coming off a solid rookie season in which he started several games and finished tied for the team lead in interceptions with three. If one of the starters goes down, there isn't any drop-off with Marshall. However, with Lucas healthy again Marshall returns to the No. 3 spot. Gamble has put up some solid numbers in the past, but too often gets beat deep. He has the athleticism to be a top corner in the league and now it's time to take that next step. When the Panthers go to three corners, Gamble plays the nickel spot. Safety is the biggest area of concern for the Panthers. They lost Mike Minter to retirement and didn't re-sign either Shaun Williams or Colin Branch. Carolina acquired Harris is a trade with Chicago, and he's been an average strong safety. Cooper, the former Jaguar, is currently a starter, but he could be picked on by opposing quarterbacks.


SPECIAL TEAMS: PK John Kasay, P Jason Baker, LS Jason Kyle, KR/PR Ryne Robinson.
    Kasay is coming off a strong season in which he was 20-for-20 on field goals inside the 50-yard line. He's having another solid year as he's 17/20 with a long of 52 yards. Baker has developed into one of the top punters in the league (and was paid like it earlier this off-season). He averages 43.6 yards per punt. Kyle remains arguably the most consistent long-snapper in the game. Carolina's return game was atrocious last season, finishing dead last in kickoff return average (19.4) and punt return average (4.6). The Panthers attempted to address both areas when they drafted Robinson in the fourth round.



Charlie Bernstein is the Editor-in-Chief of JagNation.com, and a regular syndicated contributor to FoxSports.com, Sirius NFL Radio, MySpace Sports and Sportsillustated.com. Charlie is also a member of the Pro Football Writers Association, and is a columnist for the New Smyrna Observer. Feel free to contact him -HERE- with questions or comments.




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