Posts Tagged ‘ nfl ’

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.

Cash Blitzcash blitz 2

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.

garrett bomb 2.gif

garret td 1

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.

garrett hail mary

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

Advertisements

Thoughts on the Dolphins Free Spending

Maybe it’s just the bitter Panthers fan in me that wishes we could sign even reasonably priced free agents, maybe not, but I can’t help but be amused by some of the reactions to the first day of Free Agent frenzy.  Whether it be on my favorite message board carolinahuddle.com, twitter, or Sportscenter, I see people going gaga over what’s going down in South Beach.

In the last week the Fish have given out $95 million to two Wide Receivers, and another $61 million to two Linebackers, neither of which look to be superstars at the position.  All this, and they still haven’t addressed the position that is arguably their biggest need.  Then just a little while ago I saw a tweet from the Dolphins twitter account proclaiming that it’s been an “exciting day”, and promising “there’s more to come”.  This makes me wonder, is all this free spending by Miami today really about building a contender?  Or is it more important to a franchise to sell tickets?

Now by no means am I trying to single the Dolphins out, and in no way am I naive enough to think these four players will get the entire amount of their contracts.  But still, is spending for the sake of spending really the way to build a contender?  Plenty of teams have certainly tried.  Just two years ago, the Eagles were the talk of a shortened off-season.  In 2011 they traded backup Quarterback Kevin Kolb to the Arizona Cardinals for a package that included Pro Bowl Cornerback Dominique Rogers-Cromartie.  Feeling pairing DRC with fellow Pro Bowler Asante Samuel wasn’t enough they went out and spent big bucks less than 24 hours later on shutdown Corner Nnamdi Asomugha.  They also added Defensive Tackle Cullen Jenkins, and Jason Babin on long-term deals during the same Free Agency period.  Fast forward less than three years (and one poorly timed “Dream Team” comment) later, and not one of the above mentioned players are on the Eagles Roster.  Not only that, but their Head Coach was sent packing to Kansas City because the team didn’t live up to the lofty expectations.

A similar scenario occurred in Charlotte, where the Carolina Panthers paid big money to keep the core of a 2-14 team before the new Head Coach even got a chance to work with them.  Now the General Manager that handed out those contracts is in the unemployment line, and the Panthers are in Cap Hell forced to pick at the scrap heap.

The problem is for many organizations there is no middle ground.  Too many teams try to build contenders through Free Agency, when Super Bowls are won through the Draft.  Take the Baltimore Ravens for example.  Outside of Anquan Boldin who was acquired through a trade, the core of the team is built around smart drafting.  Joe Flacco, Ray Rice, Dennis Pitta, Ed Dickson, Torrey Smith, Paul Kruger, Ed Reed and Ray Lewis all were drafted by the Ravens.  What the Ravens did however, was to pick and choose moderately priced Free Agents to fill out their roster.  But the star talent on the team outside of Boldin were all Raven Draft picks.  That’s the way it should be, at least in my opinion.  Build your core through the draft, and fill holes with reasonably priced Free Agents.

The Dolphins (like many before them) have tried to challenge the system that seems to work.  Buying up some of the best Free Agents in this class instead of building from within.  It doesn’t matter if the Dolphins are trying to build a contender or not.  If it works out for them, and they end up as a contender people like me have egg on their face and their organization looks like solid gold.  If not…..well I hope Jeff Ireland and Joe Philbin have good references.

Daniel Guy

follow me on twitter @danny_g13