We’re all settled in to our new home here at Cat Crave. Most of the boxes are unpacked and the books have been placed on the shelves. So, before we relax on the couch with our feet up on the coffee table, we thought we would put up our first real post.
The way we saw it there was no better place to start than breaking down the Carolina Panthers piece by piece – team strengths, weaknesses, needs, etc. Let’s start with the offensive line.
This is a unit that enters the offseason with some unanswered questions. There is some talent in this unit. However, in recent seasons there have been issues with injuries and consistency.
LT – Travelle Wharton : The Panthers must decide what to do with Wharton. He is set to become an unrestricted free agent. With other pressing team needs, do they pay him the mega-bucks to retain him or do they rely on Jeremy Bridges and/or Evan Mathis to man this spot? This could be a position to watch especially since it’s the (here comes the cliche) quaterback’s blind side. I expect the team to allow Bridges to compete in camp with someone signed from the free agency pool.
LG – Mike Wahle : The team has some money tied up in Wahle. His hit on the salary cap notwithstanding, I would expect him to still be with the team come opening day perhaps with a restructured deal in place. Consider that coach John Fox has already gone on record stating that the team will not blow up the offensive line. Plus, Wahle is one of the veteran leaders on this unit which is an intangible that the team will consider a major asset. Wahle doesn’t really have a clear-cut backup other than Jeremy Bridges who seems to be listed as a backup at nearly every position. Will there be an addition here in the draft or free agency to add depth? Probably.
C – Justin Hartwig : Here’s a guy who can almost definitely hear footsteps. Last year’s selection of Ryan Kalil in the draft wasn’t a pick made lightly. You have to believe that Hartwig will be on the move at some point this offseason – either to the bench (not so likely) or the the unemployment line (more likely). If the team feels that Kalil is ready to step in, play well and can make the line calls, Hartwig is a goner.
RG – Geoff Hangartner : Hangartner stepped in when the team benched Bridges. Maybe this bodes well for him. And, then again, maybe the team will look to upgrade at this position. But Hangartner is a serviceable player who can handle this position and will, in all likelihood, be retained and at least be allowed to battle for a starting job in training camp.
RT – Jordan Gross : Remember all the talk about Gross when he was drafted out of Utah five years ago? He was, afterall, selected with the eighth overall selection and you know that creates serious expectations. We could debate whether Gross was deserving of the selection all day but it won’t really get us anywhere. The truth is, Jordan Gross is a solid right tackle and will be a priority for the team to re-sign this offseason. I don’t expect him to go anywhere. A guy who has started every game at either right or left tackle since he’s been drafted would have to be a priority. It’s not like Evan Mathis is causing the organization to re-think playing Gross at RT.
Overall, provided this unit stays healthy, they are solid. Despite some grumblings from fans, this unit was pretty solid in pass protection. With no more than a change or two, this group could be a team strength. And we don’t expect them to blow it up – it’ll be more like a tweak here or a tweak there.
Stay tuned, sports fans! We’ll be looking at the QB’s and WR’s on Thursday!