Scouting Memphis WR Anthony Miller


When Marty Hurney and the Panthers head into the War Room next week, most of the attention will be focused on what they do with the 24th pick. Does a premium Edge rusher or Defensive Back fall? Maybe the answer is an Interior Lineman, or Tight End? Everything really is on the table…and while the 24th selection is certainly important, the three picks they hold on the second night of the draft, become just as critical for a team with so many obvious holes. One of those holes is at the Wide Receiver position, a spot that the Panthers have been trying to find an answer at for the better part of 10 years, and two General Manager’s time with the club. While DJ Moore and Calvin Ridley are the sexy names, the Panthers may find better investment opportunities in the second round.

Enter Anthony Miller, the Memphis Tigers’ premier option in the passing game. Despite only playing 25 games (17 starts) for the Tigers, Miller  has become a dynamic Wide Receiver, who should warrant day two consideration next week. After working his way up the depth chart as a walk on, Miller found early success with the Tigers, finishing third on the team in receptions in 2015 despite only starting four games.  In 2016 the Tiger bested Issac Bruce’s single season reception yardage record, and then one upped his own the next season. Miller’s numbers are spectacular the last two years. Immediately, you notice the competition he has faced for the majority of his games and scoff, but watching Miller shows a WR who may surprise at the next level.

One of Miller’s biggest assets is his quickness on the field. Running routes, cutting back into space, starting and stopping….Anthony Miller does everything fast. He makes changing direction look effortless, and he freezes Defenders with stutters at the line of scrimmage.

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On this play, Miller lines up on the far hash, against talented Freshman Corner Darnay Holmes. Miller uses his head fake and a quick jab inside to sell the Slant. Holmes reads this, then takes the slightest of steps down inside, giving Miller the outside leverage. Miller obliges, and blows by Holmes on his outside shoulder. Holmes is a tremendous athlete, but even he can’t make up the ground created by the initial move. The result is an open window for Quarterback Riley Ferguson, and he finds his favorite target for a touchdown.

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On this play, Miller again sends a UCLA Defensive Back the wrong way, by selling the outside move. He wins the matchup, turning Denzel Fisher around. This creates the space he needs for Ferguson to find him again. Miller shows off great ability to adjust to a poorly thrown ball, and then makes two quick cuts to create lanes for extra yardage.

Along with the quick and sudden movement, comes a well-rounded route runner. Miller has a NFL ready route tree, and is technical in running them. He sets his routes up well, and uses his acceleration in, and out of routes to create added separation.

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On this Sluggo, Miller makes a quick break inside, and then accelerates instantly back out. The Defender Nevelle Clark, is unable to flip his hips and get into pursuit. Miller slaps Clark’s desperate grab attempt away, and Clark is left in the dust. Miller is all alone, and just needs to wait for the football. The Safety ultimately gets the angle, but Miller is able to absorb contact and walk into the endzone.

amill tulane curl

Miller is given a free release at the far hash on this play against Tulane, which is always a scary proposition against the Tiger. Tulane is actually playing to take away the deep ball, and Memphis has dialed up the perfect call. Miller bends the route off, and curls to the outside. If not for the poorly thrown ball that Miller is able to adjust to, the dynamic playmaker might be able to make a move for more yardage.

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Here we can see Miller use a quick move inside, as well as his upper body to create separation for another easy completion. The separation he creates through his route running, allows for large windows to throw in, that any NFL Quarterback should thrive with.

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What Miller lacks in body size, he makes up with hands that are big enough to rip the football out of the air mid-flight with ease. Miller’s hands were tied for the third largest among all WR at 10 inches, despite his physical frame that came in at the 50th percentile or lower in all other measurements.

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Maybe somewhat surprisingly, Miller is also very good at playing “bigger”. He does a good job reading Defenders, and out working them for the ball. He shows ability to get vertical at the catch point, and doesn’t let contact deter him from getting to the ball.

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On this play, Miller is covered by the physical Mike Hughes. Hughes presses him tightly off the snap, keeping his hands all over him. Miller shows his surprising strength, working through the press and making the play.

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Miller is all about effort. From his playmaking ability after the catch, his willingness to work to get open while his Quarterback scrambles, and even his “want to” in blocking situations, the former walk on rarely gets outworked on a play.

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On this play, Miller is able to seal the lane on third down, and create the space for the Running Back to convert.

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Miller actually is at the bottom of the picture here on the snap. He runs his fade, but then recognizes Ferguson having to move out of the pocket. Instead of staying in the same area, he works across the field, providing a relatively easy target for his Quarterback.

Of course no prospect is perfect, and Anthony Miller isn’t without his flaws. His size may make him best suited for the slot, though I’m not sure I agree with that assessment. He also has some ball security, and concentration issues, and lacks “game breaking” speed.

amill fumble uconn

Here we’ll see Miller drop his carry, as he looks to make a play. Despite his large hands, and upper body strength, Miller is unable to hold onto the ball through contact. His fumbles are more of a desire to make highlight plays then any physical issues in my opinion, so I’m less concerned in this area.

miller drop

Like most college Wide Receivers, Anthony Miller has the occasional concentration drop. While this isn’t anything new for WR prospects, drops on third down like the one above can be critical turning points in games.

All things considered, Anthony Miller could offer a team excellent value on day two of the NFL Draft. In a class that does not feature a standout playmaker at the position, it could be the walk on Tiger that ends up the best of the bunch. His ability as a route runner, willingness to play bigger than he should, and the bite, scratch, and claw mentality he possesses, could turn him into an NFL gem. His strength through press coverage, and speed on the field could turn him into a legitimate number one at the next level. If the Panthers choose to sit out the Wide Receiver value in the first round, they may be rewarded for their patience with the young Tiger.

Taking A Look At The Two Gems Of The Panthers Undrafted Free Agent Class

NCAA FOOTBALL: DEC 07 ACC Championship Game - Duke v Florida State

December 07 2013: Duke Blue Devils safety Jeremy Cash (16) celebrates the fumble recovery during the NCAA football game between Florida State Seminoles and Duke Blue Devils at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, NC.

The Panthers’ 2016 draft was about strengthening. David Gettleman and his staff not only managed to add a quality player to an already strong Defensive Line, but also were able to help fix the gigantic crack in the dam left by All Pro Cornerback Josh Norman’s sudden departure. Surprisingly though, it wasn’t the Defending NFC Champions’ draft class that was the buzz, but the players they signed after the fact. Partially because the draft class lacked that sexy playmaker some had hoped for, but mostly because the UDFA group included a highly thought of local prospect, in Duke’s Jeremy Cash.

Cash comes into the Panthers much like standout Linebacker Thomas Davis did 11 years ago. After playing Safety for Duke at a high level, including an ACC Defensive Player of the Year campaign in 2015, Cash will be asked to transition to Weakside Linebacker. While Cash doesn’t have the athleticism or movement skills that Thomas Davis does (look to last years 1st round draft pick, Shaq Thompson for that), he does have a potential future with the team at his new position.

Cash is a physical player in the box, and does not shy away from the violence of the game. He’ll come crashing down with little regard for his body and jar ball carriers trying to create a momentum changing play. He does a good job pursuing downhill and sideline to sideline, as well as diagnosing plays in the backfield and attacking. He also shows some ability to get to the Quarterback in the backfield, something he will surely be asked to do at the Will.

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Something Cash will also be asked to do in either Outside Linebacker position, is cover in space. That is where Cash falls short when compared to his new teammates Davis and Thompson. Unlike the two former first round picks, Cash is stiffer in coverage and has difficulty moving in space. He struggles in Man coverage and is prone to taking the bait on double moves and misdirection. He tries to overcompensate for the trouble he has in space, which will likely leave him behind the play against the NFL’s elusive playmakers. He can also get lost on the field at times, zeroing in on the ball losing awareness of the situation.

While Cash is the name most familiar with Panthers fans, Wide Receiver Keyarris Garrett, is another potential gem from David Gettleman’s 2016 rookie free agent haul. Garrett spent 2015 destroying Conference USA and during the pre-draft process, some even had the Senior as a top-100 prospect. NFL personnel departments didn’t feel this way however, and college football’s most productive WR in 2015 ended up signing with the Panthers as a UDFA.

Garrett’s biggest asset is his combination of size and vertical play making ability. Built much in the mold of the Panthers’ Devin Funchess, Garrett is 6’4 220 lbs. He shows the ability to get on top of and pass by Defensive Backs on an island, making him a legitimate vertical threat.

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Garrett also tracks the ball well in the air and shows the body control to adjust and make difficult catches. He doesn’t get a lot of opportunities to do so, but does show the explosion after the catch to be a playmaker on short and intermediate routes. Garrett has an incredibly large target zone thanks to his length, and competes well at the catch point to expand it.

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That’s not to say Garrett is without his faults though, he didn’t go undrafted for no reason. He struggles far too often against press coverage, and he has difficulty hauling in contested catches. He needs to become more consistent catching the football overall and while he has good top end speed, it takes him some time to accelerate. His route tree is also extremely shallow, running mostly 9-routes, slants quick hitches and screens. He doesn’t accelerate effectively out of his breaks, and doesn’t always fight to get back to the ball. Still, with his skill set, he’s a player that could become something for the Panthers if given the time to mature.

Despite being highly productive college players, both Cash and Garrett have a long way to go before producing in the NFL. Cash is the most likely to stick on the 53-man roster, as he can be a valuable asset on Special Teams. Projecting a bit, I could see Cash beating out a player like Ben Jacobs if he shows he can be a consistent tackler on the coverage team. Garrett’s place is a little more difficult to find. He’s shades of Kelvin Benjamin and Devin Funchess without being as refined as either. Without the Special Teams ability, he’s almost certain to lose camp battles to Ted Ginn and Philly Brown. Garrett will likely be fighting Stephen Hill, Kevin Norwood and 2015 UDFA Damiere Byrd for the final WR spot, but is a likely candidate to be placed on the Practice Squad if he doesn’t win the job.

What do you think of Cash and Garrett? Let me know

Prospect To Know: Owamagbe Odighizuwa

Nebraska v UCLA

While Defensive End isn’t on the top of the Panthers needs, it’s closer to a priority than it is a luxury. All signs point to 2013 All Pro Greg Hardy leaving, but there’s an even bigger question looming. What is Charles Johnson’s long-term future in Charlotte? With an astronomical cap hit in 2015 and gigantic cap savings in 2016 if he’s released, his status is anything but secure. While ultimately I expect his contract to be restructured in the Offseason, you still have to plan for the worst. There’s also the question of how much longer Charles Johnson will be playing at an elite level. Johnson’s game isn’t as reliant on athleticism as some other 4-3 Ends in the league, but he will still see a drop-off as the athleticism starts to go. Preparing for the future is never a bad thing, and with a division that is likely to include Drew Brees, Matt Ryan and Jameis Winston for at least the next three years….it could be critical.

There’s also the wild card of Dave Gettleman, who has shown the first two years that he’s not afraid to go against “need” drafting in favor of the best player available. He did it in 2013 by doubling up on Defensive Tackles despite play making Wide Receivers being on the board, and again in 2014 by ignoring Offensive Tackle altogether. So while “Diggy” as he’s known in Westwood isn’t the perceived need, he could be the best player on the board or dare I say, a “Blue Goose”.


Power: One of the biggest parts of Odighizuwa’s game, is his power he uses when rushing the passer. He’s not huge by any means, but he’s got a powerful punch that often jars Offensive Lineman on first contact. He uses his power to win the leverage battle early off the snap, and has also shown the ability to shed blockers with ease.

Odighizuwa jolts the Tackle off the snap with his initial punch, putting the USC Lineman on skates. He then uses a powerful move to rip inside the Tackle and burst to the QB.

On this fourth down Odighizuwa uses his power to stop a run in its tracks. Again he wins initially with a strong first contact, and this time stands the Right Tackle up straight. He’s able to push the RT back and shed with ease. He finishes the play by dropping the ball carrier at the line of scrimmage and creating a change of possession on downs.

On this play Odighizuwa again wins the snap, and easily out-muscles his opponent. He’s able to rip the blocker away with power and pursue the Quarterback. The Guard is forced to grab and hold Odighizuwa so that his Quarterback has more time. USC converts the play, but the holding call brings it back.

First Step: Another area where Odighizuwa stands out, is his initial burst off the snap. He’s often the first Defensive Lineman out of his stance on pass rush downs, and his burst allows him to get on Offensive Lineman before they’re even out of their stance at times.




These three plays illustrate this perfectly. In the frames Odighizuwa is the first man off the ball. Not only that, but he’s almost fully out of his stance and rushing before another Defensive Lineman even gets their hand out of the dirt. Those fractions of a second can make a huge difference.

The extra burst off the line gives Odighizuwa just the fraction of a second he needed to impact the throw. His pressure forces a tough throw that’s incomplete. By comparison, the other Lineman are around three yards further up field, and cannot impact the play.

Length: One trait in pass rushers that doesn’t stand out on film, but is a huge asset is length. While Odighizuwa isn’t incredibly tall, he does have good arm length. Because of this, he’s able to get to Quarterbacks from further out.

Here we’ll see Odighizuwa’s length contribute to points on the board for UCLA.

Odighizuwa gets a good rush, but the LT does a decent job making him work. When he gets close enough, he’s able to reach with his arm and hit the shoulder altering the throw. The result is an easy Interception and walk in Touchdown for Ishmael Adams.

Needs Work

Rush Moves: While Odighizuwa possesses the physical tools to be an exceptional pass rusher, he’s still a little rough around the edges. His technique can have lapses at times, resulting in poor pad level and his bag of tricks for rushing the passer is more of a fanny pack. He relies heavily on winning with power then working to either shoulder of the Lineman. He does flash some ability to bend and finish on the edges, however he needs to become more consistent in this area. He has shown a spin move on several occasions, but it seems to just waste precious time rather than help him win matchups.

Dancing At the Line of Scrimmage: Odighizuwa wins many of his matchups with a combination of initial burst and a powerful punch. However when he’s caught in a stalemate, he has a tendency to dance with the opposition. He needs to improve on consistently working throughout the play, instead of becoming an observer if he doesn’t have instant success.

Finishing Plays: One more area that Odighizuwa could improve is finishing plays when he’s in situations to make a tackle. Too often I have seen him have a 1-1 situation with an opportunity to make the stop and whiff. The result is stats that don’t match his impact on the field.

This is the same play I used to illustrate the power that Odighizuwa has, but it illustrates both the good and bad of Diggy. He does an excellent job winning off the snap and forcing the Guard to grab. He even beats the hold and has an easy sack waiting for him. But he doesn’t wrap up. Instead he makes a lazy tackle attempt and Quarterback Cody Kessler is able to evade the sack and complete the pass.

On this play Odighizuwa again does an excellent job to win inside the Tackle and set himself up with a 1-1 situation with the Quarterback. It’s a nice move by Kessler, but it’s too easy for him. Odighizuwa should be able to finish this play in the backfield.

Final Thoughts

Odighizuwa is a talented pass rusher who with a bit of refinement could turn into an exceptional three down Defensive End. His combination of athleticism and power would be an instant asset to the Panthers pass rush, and his length is something that’s coveted at the position. He still needs to round out his rush moves, as well as improve at finishing plays. He’ll also need to become more stout in the run game to play every down. Odighizuwa looks to be a top 60 selection this April, however he’s the type of player who could fly up the boards with a strong combine. Ultimately I expect him to end up as a late first round to early second round selection, and he could end up being too good to pass up for Gettleman and the Panthers.

Please  and feel free to email me at


Coaches Film Review: The Maturation of Cam Newton

One of the most heated debates in football year in and year out revolves around the Quarterback position. “This guys better than that guy”, “This young Quarterback has reached elite status but this one hasn’t”, “This guy hasn’t been dealt as good of a hand as this one”. The debates go on an on (and will continue to do so), but for some reason Panthers Quarterback Cam Newton is often overlooked. Against the Bears Newton displayed traits that should have him in the discussion as one of the great young Quarterbacks in the league. With the help of the coaches film I would like to highlight five of these. 

1. Lower Body Technique

One of the areas where Newton has made noticeable strides is his technique in the pocket, especially in regards to his lower body. When he came into the league Newton’s lower half would be sloppy and slow. He wouldn’t step into throws, didn’t adjust to his target and would often just ignore his lower body in general. Since that time though, Newton has cleaned up his technique allowing him to be more accurate as a passer.

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This is Newton’s first throw of the game. He does a good job squaring his lower half to his target, and stepping into his throw.

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His technique allows him to put touch on the ball, and throw a soft pass that Cotchery is able to make a relatively easy sideline catch on. In the past, Newton would have looked to just fire the ball in there and convert the down. He’s grown to trust his feet and technique in the pocket, which has resulted in him developing into a Quarterback who can elevate the players around him.


While this is an area where Newton has made great strides, it’s also an area where he could continue to be more consistent…

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Here we’ll see a play where the technique isn’t so strong. He’s got a clean pocket and Tight End Greg Olsen, is coming open on the in-route. Instead of planting his feet and stepping into his throw, he decides to gun the ball in there with only his upper half.

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Unsurprisingly, Newton puts the ball too far out in front of his TE, and the play is incomplete. A better technical throw and this is likely a completion that moves the chains.


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Late in the first half on a critical drive, we see the young QB with much better footwork again.

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Newton plants and steps into his throw instead of relying on his upper body. He’s able to snap his lower half to the target, which allows him to drive the ball more accurately to the intended receiver.

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The result is an easy catch for Wide Receiver Jason Avant, who finds a hole in the middle of the Bears Zone for a 20 yard gain.


2. Ball Placement

Newton has also made improvements in his ball placement. He’s become better at putting touch on the ball to make for an easier catch, as well as locating the ball where his receiver can make a safe catch. This is one of the finer points of Quarterbacking, and is another big sign in how much Newton has already developed as a passer.

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On Newton’s Touchdown to Olsen at the end of the first half, we’ll see the QB utilize excellent ball placement. Once again we’ll see it all starts with the technique in the pocket, Newton is standing tall, his hips are square to the target, and he’s transitioning off his plant as he steps into his throw.

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The Safety breaks late, but if the ball is thrown inside of Olsen he’s probably got a chance to make a play.

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Recognizing the high Safety inside of Olsen, Newton places the ball outside and trusts his TE to make the play. Olsen rewards him with a good extension catch for the TD to pull within seven of the Bears going into the half. This play would be one of the turning points of the game in which the Panthers would come back from being down 14 to win 31-24.



On this pass Newton does an excellent job leading rookie WR Kelvin Benjamin away from the Defender. He places the ball over Benjamin’s outside shoulder, meaning if Kelvin doesn’t catch it, nobody will.  Benjamin is unable to locate the ball, but it’s still a great throw by Newton.

3. Keeping Eyes Down Field While Moving the Pocket

Another area where Newton has continued to improve is maintaining his eye level down field while scrambling our of the pocket, or climbing up it. This has been vital to his success in 2014 as he’s battling an ankle injury that has limited his ability to make plays with his legs. On Sunday against the Bears, Newton demonstrated this ability during the first quarter, on a play that nearly moved the sticks. Even though the receiver ultimately dropped the pass, it’s worth pointing out Newton’s play.

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The pockets closing and the play hasn’t opened up yet. There’s a lane where Newton could get a few yards if he wants, but with third and long & a bad wheel the QB is going to look to make the play with his arm.

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He climbs up into the lane in the pocket, but continues to keep his eyes down field looking for a target.

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The Defenders close the gap, but his scrambling has bought time to  free up Jason Avant right at the sticks. Newton sees him and zeros in on his target. He loads and releases the ball under immense pressure.

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He’s able to make an incredibly difficult throw across his body. The throw is on the money, giving Avant a chance to get down and making the catch while shielding himself. Unfortunately Avant lets the ball bounce off of him and the Panthers are forced to punt.


4. Throwing the Ball Into Tight Windows

Newton has only thrown one interception this season. Without studying each game, somebody may draw the conclusion that he hasn’t taken chances as a QB. The truth couldn’t be any further from that. Newton has displayed excellent confidence in his ability, “threading the needle” on multiple occasions to give his team a chance.


On this play Newton will fire in a ball to Benjamin in traffic. Not only is the coverage on Benjamin tight, but the window at the LoS is also small as the blitzing Linebacker is filling the lane. Newton is able to place the pass right in Benjamin’s body, but the rookie drops it.



In what became a trend against the Bears, Newton once again drops a dime on the rookie and Benjamin isn’t able to finish the play. Newton is pressured from his blind side as well as up the middle, but stands tall in the pocket and fires a dart. The window is tight, but Newton is able to drop the ball right into Benjamin’s hands. Before Benjamin can fully secure the catch fellow rookie Kyle Fuller is able to slap the ball out.

A look at the still image from the broadcast shows us just how easy Newton made this for Benjamin….

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5. Looking Off Defenders

The last area I want to highlight is the improvements Newton has made with his eyes. While he can still lock onto a target at times (like all Quarterbacks), Newton has gotten much better at going through progressions on plays. More importantly, the young QB has developed the ability to fool the Defender with his eyes to open the play up.


On this play, Newton will bait the Defender with his eyes. The Safety will stay to the outside of the field, even taking a false step as he eyes Newton. By the time Olsen breaks inside the Defender is already out of the play. Newton’s able to snap back and fire a strike to his TE.

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As Newton pulls the football out on his play fake he switches his eyes to the left side of the field where Kelvin Benjamin is. Notice the Safety at the bottom right of the screen, he’s reading Newton’s eyes and shading to his right.

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As Olsen breaks inside the Safety tries to recover but his false step has taken him out of position to make the play. Newton locates his TE and loads up.

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Newton is able to snap his body back to Olsen, and fire a strike to the TE. The intermediate middle of the field has been vacated thanks in part to Newton’s eyes, and Olsen is able to secure the ball for the game winning Touchdown. Newton actually had two potential scoring options thanks to the middle being vacated, as fellow TE Brandon Williams was coming open from the other side on an identical route.



While young signal callers Russell Wilson, Andrew Luck and Colin Kaepernick are often spot lighted by the media, Newton has become the forgotten face. Quietly, Newton has turned into a top-tier Quarterback in his own right, especially in 2014 as he’s been forced to make more plays from the pocket.  As his ankle steadily heals, a critical point in Newton’s continuing maturation is approaching. Will he opt to scramble more often, or will he continue to look to make plays with his arm? The answer to that question could be the determining factor of his development into either an elite passer, or just a great one.

Please  and feel free to email me at


Coaches Film Review: Charles Johnson


Two total tackles….two. Hardly the numbers you expect out of your highest paid player on the roster, and Panthers fans have taken to social media to express their frustrations. It’s easy to look at box scores and stat pages drawing conclusions that a player isn’t performing well, but rarely is it quite that simple. After watching the coaches film for the Panthers home win against the Detroit Lions, it became clear to me that the man Panthers fans call “Big Money” thanks to his exorbitant salary, was taking some undeserved criticism. While everyone (including myself) would like to see Charles Johnson go out and have multiple sack games each week, the truth is that’s just not realistic. What fans should know though is CJ is impacting plays, and I want to show you just a few of the ways.

Edge Rush

Despite the lack of sacks, Johnson is still getting pressure on the Quarterback off the edge. Here we’ll look at a simple example of this.

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The situation is 3rd and 2 and the Panthers have dialed up a blitz. They’re going to send Linebackers Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis into the A-Gap to try and overload the interior of the Offensive Line. At the same time, Defensive Tackle Star Lotulelei is going to slant out to the LT while rookie Defensive End Kony Ealy stunts in on the Guard. Safety Roman Harper will drop back into Man Coverage on Tight End Brandon Pettigrew. DT Colin Cole will attack the Right Guard, leaving Johnson 1-1 with the Right Tackle.


Initially Stafford has a good pocket. The Lions seemed to have picked up the blitz, and it looks like Stafford will be able to sit back and wait for routes to develop. However, on the left side you can see that Johnson has gotten into the Right Tackles frame, and is starting to drive him back.


Johnson continues to drive with his legs, and ultimately is able to push the Right Tackle back into Stafford’s lap as he’s releasing the ball. The result is a hurried and poor release, that falls in the dirt. No Johnson doesn’t get the sack, but his rush does help to force a punt. On the ensuing drive, the Panthers would run 14 plays and take a second quarter lead on a field goal.

Here’s another play where Johnson impacted the game from the edge

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It’s the beginning of the fourth quarter and the Lions are trailing 13-7. They’re facing 3rd and 5 from the Panthers 49. It’s a four man rush however Thomas Davis reads Bell as staying in to block so initially blitzes. When Bell flares out, Davis adjusts and shadows him into the flats. Kuechly will drop into coverage from the start. Addison will be one on one with the Right Tackle, with Dwan Edwards occupying the Right Guard and Center. Both Short and Johnson will be man on man vs the Left Guard and Left Tackle respectively.

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Almost instantly, Johnson wins the leverage battle and is able to drive the Left Tackle backwards. He uses a powerful bull rush to dictate the Left Tackle’s position, and again collapses the edge.

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Johnson’s bull rush is so effective that he actually runs the Left Tackle into Stafford’s back. 

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Realizing the pressure he’s now under, Stafford looks to move the pocket, however what he doesn’t realize is he’s sliding right into Addison who has worked his way across the line.

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Stafford tries to evade Addison in the backfield to keep the play alive, but the more athletic Defensive End is able to close in and swallow him up with the help of Dwan Edwards. The play results in a sack for a loss of 15, and the Lions having to punt. Another play where Johnson doesn’t register in the box score, but he certainly had an impact.


As A Standing Blitzer

Johnson also disrupted plays blitzing up the middle as well. Here we’ll see Johnson lined up blitzing the A-Gap much like Luke and Thomas Davis were the previous play. While the Lions actually completed the pass this time around, it wasn’t because of anything Big Money did or didn’t do.

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The situation is 3rd and 7 with the ball on the Detroit 40 yard line. The Panthers are once again blitzing, though this time their sending only one extra man, Safety Thomas DeCoud. They load up the line of scrimmage and give the appearance that they’re sending the house. However DE Mario Addison, Linebacker Luke Kuechly and Slot Corner Bene Benwikere all drop out into Zone Coverage. DeCoud comes down and looks to get around the edge.

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The Left Guard is left in no mans land when Addison drops back, leaving Thomas Davis, Dwan Edwards and Johnson with 1-1 match ups across the line.

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The Guard eventually adjusts, but by this time Johnson has driven the Center back, and is effectively collapsing the pocket in on Stafford. Stafford actually does an excellent job to even get the pass off, being that his Center was actually ran into him by Johnson’s bull rush. That said, the ball comes out high and if not for an outstanding effort by Wide Receiver Calvin Johnson, it likely is caught harmlessly out-of-bounds.

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Interrupting Throwing Windows

Another way Johnson impacted Stafford’s performance Sunday was by getting into his throwing windows on passing plays.

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The situation is 2nd and 10 from the Lions 27 with the Panthers trailing 6-7. This time it’s a standard four man rush, with Harper, Davis and Kuechly all dropping back. The TE furthest to the right will run a drag route across the face of Stafford, leaving the inside Tight End Brandon Pettigrew, to block Mario Addison 1-1. The Lions will commit two men to both Defensive Tackles on the play. At Right End, Johnson sill split out wide as he sees the Left Guard pulling. The RB tries to chip him (marked by the black x), but Johnson does a nice job with his hands and feet to slide by undeterred for the most part.

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Here you’ll see the interaction between the RB Joique Bell and Johnson in the backfield. Again, with nimble feet and quick hands, Johnson is going to avoid Bell for the most part with relative ease.

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Johnson engages the Guard to Stafford’s left, and once again has good leverage to drive him backwards.

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He’s not able to drive him back into the QB completely this time. Realizing this, Johnson does a good job to interrupt Stafford’s throwing lane by getting his hands up at his eye level. The result is a ball that’s slightly off target for Bell in the flats, falling incomplete. Johnson’s effort helps to force a third and long, where the Panthers are able to create another incompletion. The Panthers will get the ball back, taking the lead on a long drive. It’s a lead they won’t relinquish throughout the rest of the game.

In Coverage

One of the more interesting looks throughout the game was when the Panthers dropped Johnson into coverage.

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The situation is 3rd and 4 from the Lions 42. We’re in the second quarter, and the Panthers have a slim 3-0 lead. The Panthers will show a heavy blitz to Stafford pre snap, but ultimately it’s only a three man rush. Bene Benwikere will play a shallow zone to the far side of the field, Luke Kuechly will drop into the middle, and DeCoud will drop deep. Thomas Davis, Mario Addison and Dwan Edwards will all rush the passer. The Panthers will do something very unconventional, and have both Charles Johnson and Kawaan Short drop into shallow coverage.

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Johnson actually does a decent job jamming Tight End Eric Ebron as he comes off the line, redirecting him to where he has more help in the middle of the field. Ebron ultimately gets free, but it’s hard to fault Johnson’s effort.

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Ebron will create just enough space to catch a five yard drag route and move the chains, but the versatility Johnson shows on plays like this should be mentioned.

Ultimately a player (especially a pass rusher) is judged on his numbers, so Johnson will have to start producing for everyone to realize he’s still a very good player. What shouldn’t go unsaid though, is that he’s still recovering from a nagging training camp injury that caused him to miss a good bit of practices and preseason action. Even watching him on film and comparing to last year, you can tell he’s not quite up to full speed yet. When he does get there I have no doubt that he’ll continue to impact games both on the stat sheet, as well as beyond it. The Panthers will surely hope so, as they will look for Big Money to take the reins and help shoulder the load of Greg Hardy’s recent suspension.


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Three Stars and Other Takeaways From Preseason Game Three

luke-slamLuke saw Brandon Williams’ suplex last week and said anything you can do I can do better…


Friday night the Panthers traveled to Foxboro to take on the New England Patriots in what typically is the “Dress Rehearsal” for most teams in the NFL Preseason. While most starters played into the third quarter Friday, it felt nothing like a typical third preseason game, even from the start. After just three series Luke Kuechly left the field, the Panthers opened the game with six straight passes (something that’s extremely atypical of the Carolina Offense), and the game (at least from the Panthers perspective) just seemed to lack planning all-together. Still, even with the far from normal Dress Rehearsal there are things to take away and a few things to like, and even more to dislike. So with that said, lets start with the players that flashed on Friday.


Honorable Mentions

1. Thomas Davis

Davis is a great story. Athletic Linebacker who is playing sensational then suffers three ACL injuries on the same knee. You would expect the story to end with Davis hanging the cleats up and for many it would, but TD is a rare breed. Instead of taking the easy way out Davis clawed back and fought to return from the devastating injuries. Now two years later the injuries are an afterthought (though I doubt I’ll ever stop holding my breath when he makes a tackle), and Davis is playing arguably better than he ever has. Quick, instinctive, punishing, effort, heart, passion. Any of these words would be a great way to characterize an NFL player, but TD has them all. He’s the complete package at Linebacker, and perhaps the most vocal leader on the team. Friday night he flashed several times, including this reaction to a pass in the backfield. TD, never fooled for a minute, stops the play in its tracks.


On this second play we see how easily Davis flows to the ball carrier and punishes him.


2. Jonathan Stewart

Once thought to be an albatross by Panthers fans, Stewart has flashed for two consecutive weeks now. While the stat line is much stronger against the Chiefs, Friday Stewart had several plays that once again gave fans hope for a productive year. On the first, he makes a catch on the sideline. The catch itself isn’t exactly the prettiest catch you’re ever going to see by a Running Back, but the run after reminded us of the burst that Stewart has despite his size. Stewart does a good job to absorb the contact while maintaining balance along the sideline. He then hits the gas and gets a good amount of yards after the catch.


He also had a physical run later in the game where he absorbed contact and kept his legs moving to gain extra yards. It wont amount to much in the box score, but the effort shouldn’t go unnoticed. His ability to run through first contact makes him the ideal back for a system like the Panthers, and his effort could eventually mean a lions share of the workload IF he can stay healthy.



Three Stars

1. Star Lotulelei 

The first of the three stars for week three is Star Lotulelei. Or as I like to call him, perhaps the luckiest moment in Panthers history. While Star didn’t have the flashy sack like he did against the Chiefs, he did make his presence felt in the trenches yet again. I want to mention Colin Cole too, because he ability to regularly occupy two blockers has allowed Star to play some 3-technique during the Preseason where he can exploit Guards with his combo of strength and quickness.

The play below is a good example of this.


Initially Cole playing the 1-technique is doubled off the snap by the Left Guard and Center. This leaves Star 1-1 with the Right Guard. Star almost instantly beats the Guard by ripping and shedding inside. The Center adjusts to try to help, but Star has already shot the gap and broken past the line. Without holding the Center has no shot to slow down Star. Star explodes into the backfield and pressures Brady into a poor throw. It doesn’t look like much, but this slight pressure forces Brady to throw the ball before he’s ready, and into the dirt. In the regular season, this could be the difference of getting the ball back to the offense with a chance to win the game late.


Another simple play, this time the Center bumps Star off the line in hopes to get him off balance. However Star keeps surging forward and into the Guard. With quick hands and power he’s able to get into the Guards pads where he can redirect him on the field. Star then simply overpowers him and is able to rip outside shoulder to shed the block. Star doesn’t finish the play, but his initial contact on the Running Back in the backfield is the act that allows Safety, Colin Jones to get down field and stop the Back for a loss.


This last play highlights Star’s recognition on a Screen. Star barrels ahead rushing Quarterback Ryan Mallet as usual. However, as soon as Ryan slides to the near side of the field to toss the ball to Running Back Shane Vereen Star recognizes that a screen is being set up. While Wes Horton and Kony Ealy continue to push the pocket Star instinctively bails out and pursues the Running Back. On this play Star shows he’s more than just a physical animal on the football field, he’s an intelligent one too.

2. Kelvin Benjamin

In what’s becoming less surprising by the week, the Panthers new number one Wide Receiver once again finds himself on the “star” list. Not only did Benjamin have his best outing from a statistical perspective Friday, he did it against the best opposition he’s faced thus far. In fact he even got the best of arguably the best Corner in the league with this beauty of a hands catch on third down. Not only did he move the chains, but Benjamin showed how much a luxury it can be to have an “area code” Wide Receiver.


More importantly then flashy extension catches like this though, was the chemistry Benjamin and Cam Newton showed on the field. The duo hooked up five times for a total of 47 yards, including back to back receptions on the first drive.  After being sacked on his first drop back, Newton and the Panthers Offense found themselves looking at second and long. With ease, Benjamin found space in the Defense on a dig route, and Cam confidently fired the ball into his new BFF’s awaiting arms.


On the next play Newton did a good job standing in the pocket and waiting for Benjamin to get open on the comeback. Benjamin did just that getting down field past the sticks, and aggressively coming back to the ball before making a sure catch along the sideline.


 3. Brenton Bersin

Another player made an impact Friday night and just in case you weren’t quite certain the former Terrier was making the roster (he is), he made it next to impossible to cut him with his two 21 yard catches late in the third quarter Friday night. The first was a sensational hands grab on third and very long, where Bersin plucked the ball out of the air in order to move the chains.


Another look shows us how Bersin was able to use his hands to shake the Defender on his release and give him the space to break inside. I especially liked Bersin’s awareness to signal the first down after finishing the play too.


The second was a simple seam route where Bersin gets down field, then sits down in front of the Defender to make an easy grab. Simple, nothing special at all, but highly effective.


The fact is that outside of Benjamin, Bersin has been the most consistent WR throughout camp. He’s what you need in a chain mover. A scrappy, fundamentally sound player, with good hands and nice clean routes. At this point I would say Bersin has gone from post draft long shot to virtual lock for week one.


Other Takeaways

The Panthers Defense Is Lost Without Luke Kuechly

Ok….maybe not lost, but there certainly is a sizable drop off when 59 exits the field. After three series Friday Kuechly was rested in favor for looking at other players. The results speak for themselves: In the first three series the Panthers surrendered just 46 yards and a field goal, in the remaining six drives the Carolina Defense yielded 332 yards, and three drives of 80 yards or more. Staggering to say the least, Kuechly is brains of the Carolina Defense and the player that makes the whole thing work. His ability to react to plays before they happen, cover the flats, use his athleticism blitzing, and his incredible tackling ability all add up to one player the Panthers just can’t be without in 2014. He’s a Defensive player Coordinators absolutely must account for on every play, and one that will continue to get better entering his third year in the NFL.

Chemistry Still An Issue For Newton and Receivers Not Named Benjamin

Friday night Newton was sacked several times, and looked hesitant to throw the ball at other points. While some were quick to jump on Byron Bell and the rest of the Offensive Line, that wasn’t the whole story. For whatever reason, the other Receivers weren’t getting passes thrown their way. The first reaction was that the Panthers pass catchers weren’t getting open down field, and while this could certainly be the case without coaches tape it’s hard to say for sure. Then, Jason Avant commented on Saturday that after watching the film the he and the other Wide Receivers on the roster were in fact getting open down field. This to me says chemistry and trust still hasn’t developed. This isn’t totally surprising with Newton missing time during the off season after ankle surgery, but it is something the Panthers will need to correct in a hurry. With the start of the season just two weeks away the Panthers cannot have their Quarterback hesitant to push the ball vertically, and everyone needs to be on the same page. Which is why in my opinion, Head Coach Ron Rivera has been adamant that Newton and the rest of the starting Offense will play on Thursday in the Preseason finale against the Steelers. Historically the Panthers have rested starters in this game in favor to get a look at the backups, however that doesn’t seem to be the plan for Thursday. The good thing is it should be a good test for the Offense, as the Steelers have a talented Defense with some young and explosive pass rushers. I wouldn’t expect Cam and Co. to be out there long, but it should be some more quality reps to develop the chemistry in the unit.

We Were Introduced to Byron Bell’s Dance Moves Friday, and They Are Legendary…

As Colin Hoggard host of The Call Up on WFNZ put it….#Belling

Projected 53 Man Roster

Quarterback: Cam Newton, Derek Anderson

Thought Process: Same decision as last week, it’s a numbers game and Cam has shown enough mobility that Joe Webb has become a luxury the Panthers can’t afford despite his admirable performance throughout the weeks.

Running Backs: DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart, Mike Tolbert, Fozzy Whitaker

Thought Process: With Barner’s trade to Philly the fourth Running Back spot has become Fozzy’s to lose in my opinion. It doesn’t hurt that Darrin Reaves hasn’t been able to play in two games, and Fozzy has taken advantage of the opportunity.

Wide Receivers: Kelvin Benjamin, Jerricho Cotchery, Jason Avant, Tavarres King, Brenton Bersin, Corey Brown/Free Agent

Thought Process: Earlier today Tiquan Underwood was cut due to his inability to make plays even against practice squad bound players. This opens the door for Corey “Don’t Call Me Philly” Brown to make the 53 man roster as the lone “burner”. In my opinion, the Panthers could look to the last round of cuts to bring in a more proven home run threat, but for now the spot is Brown’s.

Tight End: Greg Olsen, Ed Dickson, Brandon Williams, Richie Brockel

Thought Process: Richie Brockel makes the roster as a fourth TE, but will primarily be used as a lead blocker at FB. Brandon Williams completes a trio of athletic Tight Ends who can all stretch the Defense. I don’t forsee any changes to this group despite D.C. Jefferson’s touchdown catch Friday night.

Offensive Line: Ryan Kalil, Byron Bell, Nate Chandler, Amini Silatolu, Trai Turner, Chris Scott, Gary Williams, Brian Folkerts, Fernando Velasco/Free Agent Addition

Thought Process: Same list as last week. Depth is an obvious concern, and the Panthers could look to make upgrades in this area.

Defensive Line: Charles Johnson, Star Lotulelei, Kawann Short, Greg Hardy, Dwan Edwards, Mario Addison, Kony Ealy, Wes Horton, Colin Cole

Thought Process: I said it last week and I’ll say it again, if it’s not broke don’t fix it. The Defensive Line and Linebackers are the obvious strengths of the team. A nine man rotation allows for fresh bodies most of the game. Having Charles Johnson, Greg Hardy and Kony Ealy in the rotation allows for creative scheming up front as all three can slide inside to allow for more pass rush on the field.

Linebackers: Luke Kuechly, Thomas Davis, Chase Blackburn, AJ Klein, Jason Williams, D.J. Smith

Thought Process: See above, the Linebacker unit definitely isn’t broken. D.J. Smith has made some plays both on Special Teams and in the late stages of games so he holds onto that last LB spot.

Cornerbacks: Antoine Cason, Melvin White, Bene Benwikere, Charles Godfrey (versatility to play Safety keeps him here), Josh Norman

Thought Process: The play of Cason and White have been bright spots in the Secondary. Charles Godfrey and Bene Benwikere continue to battle for the Nickel and Dime roles, and Josh Norman could be a huge wildcard if he can keep his emotions in check and be more consistent.

Safeties: Roman Harper, Thomas DeCoud, Colin Jones, Robert Lester, Tre Boston

Thought Process: Still the weak link of the team in my opinion, I almost expect to see additions in this area after cuts. Something to watch will be Roman Harper, who has been gone an awfully long time with Turf Toe.

Special Teams: Graham Gano, Brad Nortman, J.J. Jansen

Thought Process: Not much to say here, both Nortman and Gano are two of the best at their respective positions. Jansen is a longtime Special Teamer in Charlotte who can play Linebacker in a pinch.

*Frank Alexander wouldn’t have to be included on 53 man roster till his suspension is over*


Did you really think I wasn’t going to find a way to fit Brandon Williams in here? You obviously don’t follow me on twitter…


In all seriousness, the effort to run the Defender down and force him out of bounds didn’t go unnoticed in the film room.


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Three Stars & Other Takeaways From Preseason Game Two

The Panthers took the National spotlight last night, and familiar face in the Panthers huddle the last few years made his return…


After sitting out the first Preseason game still recovering from his Offseason ankle surgery, Quarterback Cam Newton finally got back on the field and had some live bullets thrown at him. His first drives were rocky at best, with some inaccurate passes and poor decisions, but eventually Newton settled down and made a couple of pretty throws including a fireball over the middle of the field to new BFF Kelvin Benjamin. On the Defensive side of the ball, the Panthers started slow for the second straight week surrendering an opening drive Field Goal. Much like the Panthers QB though, the Defense quickly settled in and controlled Kansas City for much of the first half. All in all, it was a good night for Panthers fans, seeing flashes from several familiar faces, and a few new arrivals. As with every Preseason game, the goal is evaluation and there was plenty to evaluate last night.

Honorable Mentions

1. Brenton Bersin


Bersin had a good day with a couple of very nice catches including a back shoulder adjustment for a touchdown. The former Charlotte Latin standout did a good job setting up his Defender on a Corner route, and created just enough separation to make the grab in the end zone. Bersin’s route running could be a big asset for the Panthers in 2014. His skill set makes for a potential prototype third down chain mover, and with concentration catches like this one Bersin should definitely have a locker when the Panthers open the regular season against Tampa Bay.

2. Brandon Williams

Swole Bones makes my standouts for a second week in a row, this time falling just shy of a “star” of the game. Williams was a good presence in the passing game yet again, including a long reception where he proved difficult to bring down for the Chiefs….


He also narrowly missed a touchdown for the second straight week, however he did draw a flag in the end zone setting up an easy Fozzy Whitaker score. Williams probably should have brought down this pass, but it wasn’t the best of throws either.


Williams also showed an ability to get to the second level as a blocker. The same can’t be said for his results as a lead blocker, which almost certainly provided a few laughs during film session on Monday.


Thankfully for Williams he can refer everyone to this textbook suplex if they give him too hard of a time.


3A. Star Lotulelei

I could have easily said the entire Defensive Line again, but this week I decided to single out Star. I’m not sure if people should be surprised by Star’s play anymore, but when a 320 pound Defensive Tackle shows a great combination of speed, power and pass rush moves it’s worth mentioning.


This move demonstrates Star as a football player. He’s quick and explosive off the snap, swimming over the Guard with his right arm. Once he gets inside the Guard he bursts around him. At the same time he uses his other arm to brush the Guard aside and push them in to the turf. Star finishes the play showing a good level of explosiveness to stop the Quarterback in the backfield. Star’s versatility on the interior has also been on full display during the preseason with the former Ute playing both the 1 and 3 technique, one of the many reasons I had him as the third overall player in the 2013 Draft.

3B. Antoine Cason & Melvin White


I juggled back and forth with who to include and who to leave out, but in the end I thought both warranted a mention. Cason showed a good level of pursuit in coverage, and understanding of the Chiefs Offense. It was in the open field where Cason shined though. He closed in on Chiefs pass catchers numerous times, and made sound tackles every time, forcing the Chiefs to punt on two occasions.


Cason’s running mate, and David Gettleman gem Melvin White also had a solid game Sunday. The 2013 UDFA addition flashed numerous time in run support, sealing the edge and making perfect form tackles. He shows a willingness to stick his head in the pile, and doesn’t shy away from contact which is something you love to see out of your starting Corner. Once regarded as an afterthought, White has steadily improved week to week in the Panthers Defense to the point that Panthers fans can feel at ease for the most part with him on the outside. White had several good moments in coverage as well, including this play where he locked up the Receiver off the line and prevented him from making a catch.


Three Stars

1. Jonathan Stewart


He’s baaaaaack…..Ok, maybe it’s a bit premature, and who knows how long it will last for, but Sunday night Jonathan Stewart reminded everyone why he was regarded as one of the top Running Backs in the NFL back in 2011. J-Stew looked like his old self, bouncing off tackle attempts and bursting through holes with power and explosion. When the Panthers offense was struggling, it was Stewart who jump started them with a good run on a stretch play. He showed great patience waiting for the play to develop, before bursting through the hole and gaining extra yards after contact. Stewart also showed why he can be a factor in the passing game, picking up a Kansas City blitzer with relative ease and allowing Newton time to get the ball away.

2. Kelvin Benjamin


Benjamin makes the list for a second week in a row almost as much for the plays he didn’t have an opportunity to make as the plays he did. One of the biggest questions surrounding Benjamin entering the NFL was could he be a legitimate deep threat. At least through the first two weeks of the exhibition season, Benjamin has answered those questions with a yes. In week one Benjamin was able to run right by Bills Corner Stephonne Gillmore, and Sunday night he repeated the feat. Benjamin worked through a slight press off of his release, and then was able to beat the deep Safety. With two steps on the last defender, Benjamin was poised for another explosive gain, but Quarterback Cam Newton couldn’t put the ball on target. Still, the ability he’s shown to get vertical has to have Panthers fans optimistic. The rookie contributed in the running game as well, with some good physical blocks. He even drove a Defender off the field right before halftime blocking on a screen. Kelvin made a great grab over the middle, and flashed some stellar hands ability with a nice extension snag.


3. Fozzy Whitaker


Maybe it’s the name, maybe it’s the effort, maybe it’s the fundamentals, but I am growing very fond of Fozzy. Despite his size he’s a physical runner, refusing to shy away from contact. Fozzy is also a no nonsense back. That is to say he doesn’t do a lot of dancing in the backfield. He finds the hole and hits it hard. He keeps his legs moving, and showed an ability to fight for extra yards Sunday. Fozzy also showed that he can be a weapon in the passing game with a catch and run where he tiptoed the sideline. Finally, on the closeout drive of the game, Whitaker showed excellent fundamentals covering the ball with both hands in traffic. Fozzy is certainly a player who’s made the most of the opportunity he’s been presented with, and someone I could certainly see in the discussion for the 52nd or 53rd spot on the roster.



Other Thoughts

The Offensive Line Is Gelling

One area of concern for the Panthers leading into the season was Offensive line, specifically both Tackle positions. While all the worries haven’t haven’t gone away yet, the truth of the situation is less severe then it looked a month ago. Left Tackle Byron Bell has quietly has a solid start to the Preseason, mirroring well with pass rushers, and performing admirably in the running game. While Bell still has issues giving up too much ground in his vertical set at times, and still can have trouble targeting Defenders to block, he’s not nearly the trainwreck many have expected him to be. At the same time, the return of Left Guard Amini Silatolu and the play of third round rookie Trai Turner have helped to solidify the interior of the line. Turner has picked up the NFL game rather quickly, becoming road grading Guard for Double Trouble and crew to run behind. The biggest area of concern for the Offensive Line could be Right Tackle Nate Chandler, and it’s more a question of a nagging knee injury then a question of ability.

The Safety Position is Worrisome

One area of the Panthers roster that should have some attention paid to it is in the Defensive backfield at Safety. Free Agent addition Thomas Decoud has been underwhelming, taking poor angles at times and not providing much in run support. Fellow Free Agent Roman Harper hasn’t even seen the field since the first days of Training Camp, and it’s starting to become a big concern. Harper has been out with what is being diagnosed as “Turf Toe”, but after not seeing him for three weeks now you have to wonder if it’s not something more that could potentially end up with a trip to IR. The Panthers depth at the position doesn’t give you a warm and fuzzy feeling either. Anderson Russell started the game in place of Harper Sunday, but was far from spectacular. He took poor angles on several occasions, and had a few lapses in coverage. Perhaps the most surprising is Robert Lester who seems to have regressed from the form he finished 2013 in. Lester also took very poor angles Sunday night and fell for play action fakes on multiple occasions. If not for a dropped pass, Lester would have given up a long gain over the middle to Tight End Anthony Fasano that resulted solely from his reaction to a play fake. Colin Jones is a solid Special Teams player, but not someone you would want starting 16 games, and it remains to be seen if fourth round pick Tre Boston can even contribute this year. Safety is certainly a position I would address, and could see the Panthers addressing after the wave of Preseason cuts.


Projected 53 Man Roster

Quarterback: Cam Newton, Derek Anderson

Thought Process: Last week I had Joe Webb included. It’s nothing he did to lose the spot, but Cam showed me enough pocket mobility Sunday that I feel comfortable only going into the season with two Quarterbacks on the roster. Blanchard could be kept on the Practice Squad, but I think it’s more likely the Panthers pick up a young mobile QB for that spot.

Running Backs: DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart, Mike Tolbert, Fozzy Whitaker

Thought Process: Fozzy is outperforming Kenjon Barner right now and that’s what this decision is about. Preseason roster projections are fluid though, so he will have to bring his lunch pail these last two games to prove himself. He should see significant playing time against the Steelers to make his case.

Wide Receivers: Kelvin Benjamin, Jerricho Cotchery, Jason Avant, Tavarres King, Brenton Bersin, Tiquan Underwood/Free Agent Addition

Thought Process: Same as last week. The only reason Underwood is here still is because he’s proven he can stretch the field during the regular season, and the Panthers need at least one of those guys.

Tight End: Greg Olsen, Ed Dickson, Brandon Williams, Richie Brockel

Thought Process: Richie Brockel makes the roster as a fourth TE, but will primarily be used as a lead blocker at FB. Brandon Williams completes a trio of athletic Tight Ends who can all stretch the Defense.

Offensive Line: Ryan Kalil, Byron Bell, Nate Chandler, Amini Silatolu, Trai Turner, Chris Scott, Gary Williams, Brian Folkerts, Fernando Velasco/Free Agent Addition

Thought Process: Same list as last week. I’m getting more comfortable with the starting five, but obviously there’s a bit of a talent drop off in terms of depth. This could be an area where the Panthers look to upgrade after cuts.

Defensive Line: Charles Johnson, Star Lotulelei, Kawann Short, Greg Hardy, Dwan Edwards, Mario Addison, Kony Ealy, Wes Horton, Colin Cole

Thought Process: If it’s not broke don’t fix it. The Defensive Line and Linebackers are the obvious strengths of the team. A nine man rotation allows for fresh bodies most of the game. Having Charles Johnson, Greg Hardy and Kony Ealy in the rotation allows for creative scheming up front as all three can slide inside to allow for more pass rush on the field.

Linebackers: Luke Kuechly, Thomas Davis, Chase Blackburn, AJ Klein, Jason Williams, D.J. Smith

Thought Process: See above, the Linebacker unit definitely isn’t broken. D.J. Smith takes Joe Webb’s vacant spot to add to the Linebacker depth.

Cornerbacks: Antoine Cason, Melvin White, Bene Benwikere, Charles Godfrey (versatility to play Safety keeps him here), Josh Norman

Thought Process: The play of Cason and White have been bright spots in the Secondary. Charles Godfrey and Bene Benwikere continue to battle for the Nickel and Dime roles, and Josh Norman could be a huge wildcard if he can keep his emotions in check and be more consistent.

Safeties: Roman Harper, Thomas DeCoud, Colin Jones, Robert Lester, Tre Boston

Thought Process: The weak link of the team in my opinion, I almost expect to see additions in this area after cuts. Something to watch will be Roman Harper, who has been gone an awfully long time with Turf Toe.

Special Teams: Graham Gano, Brad Nortman, J.J. Jansen

Thought Process: Not much to say here, both Nortman and Gano are two of the best at their respective positions. Jansen is a longtime Special Teamer in Charlotte who can play Linebacker in a pinch.

*Frank Alexander wouldn’t have to be included on 53 man roster till his suspension is over*


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