Panthers Peppered

<P>No surprise from the Panthers on draft day, as they made North Carolina defensive end Julius Peppers the second pick in the draft. It came down to a decision between Peppers and Texas cornerback Quentin Jammer, but the Panthers made what most people consider to be the safe choice in Peppers.

The Panthers have never had a defensive lineman who had double digit sacks and feel like Peppers can give them the kind of prescence on the line like they've never had before. When the club considered Peppers and Jammer, ultimately a major factor in the decision comes down to the fact that a lineman who can put pressure on the quarterback will be of great help to the defensive backs, requiring less time of coverage. That will be especially important to a defensive backfield that will be very inexperienced at the corners.

Peppers was the top choice of the Panthers all along, and they have done extensive research into his background and feel comfortable that he will be an effective player for years to come. In fact, new head coach John Fox compares Peppers favorably with Michael Strahan, whom he coached with the Giants.

Fox downplayed the accusations that Peppers has a poor work ethic after the draft, saying that a lot of that goes back to the fact that Peppers missed a couple of spring practices in Chapel Hill because he was playing basketball. That lack of practice time says to the Panthers that Peppers is still a very raw talent with room to improve.

Considering the fact that Carolina won just one game last year, you would think that they would be interested in trading down for multiple picks and the chance to address more areas in the draft. But, general manager Marty Hurney says that they were surprised at the lack of offers coming from other teams for that second pick. In the last week though, Hurney says they had pretty much decided on Peppers and didn't expect any offers.

With their second round pick, the Panthers addressed another glaring need, getting running back DeShaun Foster out of UCLA. Carolina has signed Lamar Smith and cut Tshimanga Biakabutuka in the off-season, leaving the team with little depth at the spot.

Foster, in fact, was born in Charlotte, and has family living in the area. As you can imagine, that will help with the transition from the west coast to the east for Foster.

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