Cornering the Market
Ron Rivera knows how to build a solid pass defense, as his San Diego Chargers led the NFL in that category in 2010. He also knows he will have to reshape his secondary in Carolina, where starting CB Richard Marshall is a free agent who will not return. Backup CB C.J. Wilson is also a free agent.
The Panthers went about identifying possible replacements at the Senior Bowl, where the team met with Virginia Tech's Rashad Carmichael, Colorado's Jalil Brown and Clemson's Marcus Gilchrist. Carolina also witnessed the Kendric Burney show, which is significant given the team's preference for local prospects. Carmichael and Burney were the best of the bunch, combining to pick over a half-dozen passes.
Never Enough Depth
Shortly after taking over the head-coaching job, Rivera spoke about how happy he was with the Panthers' offensive line depth, especially once Jeff Otah and Travelle Wharton come back from injury. However, that does not mean the Panthers will not look for some young depth via the draft.
Carolina met with at least two offensive tackles in Mobile: Auburn's Lee Ziemba (6-foot-8, 319 pounds) and Pittsburgh's Jason Pinkston (6-foot-4, 305 pounds). Both started at left tackle at their respective colleges but spent ample time on the right side this week. Prior to the Senior Bowl, Carolina met with Clemson OT Chris Hairston at the East-West Shrine Game, so it looks as though Rivera wants to be better prepared if one of his tackles goes out again in 2011.
Getting Even Younger?
One of the many reasons Carolina's offense struggled last season was the youth at receiver.
Rookies Brandon LaFell and David Gettis combined for 75 catches despite the fact receiver is one of the hardest positions for rookies to smoothly transition into the NFL. That is why it is surprising to some that Carolina could draft at least one more receiver, even with 2010 draftee Armanti Edwards also waiting in the wings.
Carolina met with at least two receivers at the Senior Bowl: East Carolina's Dwayne Harris and SDSU's Vincent Brown. Harris and Brown both finished their careers with at least 3,000 receiving yards and 20 TDs. Clearly, after what Carolina struggled through in 2010, Rivera is interested in any skill players who can be that productive.
Talk all about the Panthers and their draft needs in the Insiders Draft Talk Forum.
Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and also a long-time contributor to the Scout.com network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. You can see more of his updates by following him on Twitter.
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