How can things get worse than they did in 2007? The Carolina Panthers started four, count them, FOUR quarterbacks during the season. Everything started downhill after Jake Delhomme’s elbow injury. Enter David Carr. Bust! Enter Vinny Testaverde. Decent, just not the guy for the job and…not so young. Enter Matt Moore. The kid looked okay and showed some promise.
The wide receivers gave us more of the same – Steve Smith still looked like an All-Pro when one of the guys playing musical quarterbacks could get him the ball but no one else looked like the man to play opposite him.
The tight ends? Well, who doesn’t long for the days of Wesley Walls? Don’t we all? Jeff King, Dante Rosario and Christian Fauria are far from striking fear into the hearts of defenders but there is a glimmer of hope here.
So, let’s break it down…
QB – Jake Delhomme : Reports tell us that he’s been in Charlotte working on his rehab program and that he’s on track. His elbow will be fine. However, there is a low rumbling among fans that there was less zip on Delhomme’s passes prior to the injury and that this injury might make it even worse. I don’t think Jake is done, just yet. Ask Steve Smith how he feels about him and he’ll tell you he’s happy his guy is back there. And certainly don’t get any ideas that the starting job won’t belong to Delhomme come opening day provided he has healed from the injury and surgery.
QB – Matt Moore : What can be said for a guy who was cut by the hated Cowboys and claimed off waivers when he eventually starts three games and wins two? Sure, his passer rating of 67.0 is nothing to write home about but he showed some leadership and an ability to spark the team. Going into the ’08 season, expect fans and media alike to be making some noise for Moore. The questions will persist about who should be the starter. The answer is that Moore will be holding a clipboard if Delhomme is healthy.
QB – David Carr : Can we make it official now? Can we now refer to David Carr as a bust? Why not? Six years in the league and the lights just don’t seem to have come on. Speaking of passer ratings, Carr posted a paultry 58.3, while producing 3 TD’s and 5 int’s in six games. There is little chance that he’s still wearing a Panthers’ uniform in ’08.
QB – Brett Basanez : He ended the season on injured reserve but may have a shot in training camp at the backup spot. Had Basanez not gotten hurt in the preseason he would have almost definitely gotten some game action with the injuries suffered at the position. His chance will come during training camp provided he’s healthy enough to mount a charge at Moore for the backup position.
Vinny is gone – retired. The position is not without talent. Delhomme will be back and will be the starter if you believe all the reports and everything Jake is saying. If not, it’ll mean that the fans will get what they seem to be wishing for – more of Moore. Bottom line: don’t expect the team to make a move in free agency for a QB since there are no starting-quality free agents available to speak of. And if a QB is taken in the draft, it probably won’t be on day one.
WR – Steve Smith : We should just start calling it “The Play.” It’s possible to know just about everything you need to know about this guy by seeing the incredible play he made this past September in week two versus the Texans. So, why doesn’t the team get him the ball more? Simple. He’s always drawing at the very least the opponent’s best CB or double coverage. He’s capable of making a game changing play at any time. The problem is he needs help on the other side…and a healthy QB to get him the ball.
WR – Dwayne Jarrett : Let me get this straight. You draft a highly touted guy like Jarrett and he only sees action in 7 games, catches only 6 passes and is only thrown to 13 times? Those are not exactly Rookie of the Year numbers. It seems that he was having trouble picking up the offense. Coach Fox said, “Not that Dwayne was a disappointment by any stretch. I think he’s a young player, even young for a rookie. He should have been finishing up his senior year in college. I think the guy has got skills and ability and hopefully he hones those in as we move forward.” There’s a lot of honing to do if this guy is to be a solid number two in this league.
WR – Drew Carter : Here we go again. Another guy that tried in vain to play opposite of Steve Smith. This was his best season with the team posting 38 receptions but it’s unlikely at best that he is retained. He is set to be a free agent this offseason but the team will almost certainly let him go.
WR – Keary Colbert : Another promising player who looked good back in ’04 during his rookie campaign but we may be seeing him depart this offseason. Colbert missed four games with a knee injury and posted 32 catches on the season. Scheduled to become a free agent, the team isn’t expected to retain him.
Others – Ryne Robinson looked like a decent receiver at times last year and may have an opportunity next year to make the cut and get some playing time. Jason Carter was a practice squad player prior to the season and failed to put up any official numbers after being activated. Expect him to be allowed to exit as an urestricted free agent. Travis Taylor’s trip around the league (three teams in one year) may continue with a fourth this fall.
The wide receivers, as usual, are Steve Smith and the other guys. The team wants to add play makers. Well, this would be a great place to start. In order to get the defense to start dropping people out of the box and respect the pass, the Panthers almost have to add somebody with play-making ability to lineup opposite of Smitty. There are some good, not great, WR’s in free agency available. And maybe the team takes yet another shot at a WR in the draft. But considering that they just drafted Jarrett in ’07, don’t count on it being on day one if it happens at all.
TE – Jeff King : King was second on the team in catches last year but that may not be enough to make him the starter next year. He played well early and seemed to trail off after the problems at QB began. It may just be that there was no one to throw him the ball? He’ll have a chance to prove it next year.
TE – Dante Rosario : This guy may be the biggest reason that King doesn’t get as much playing time next year. He finished the season strong and showed that he has the ability to make some plays downfield. He could become the starter next year. Rosario is definitely a player to watch in ’08.
TE – Christian Fauria : He was picked up late and really didn’t make a spash in the passing game but was used primarily as a blocking tight end. He’ll be a UFA this offseason and, due to age, will almost assuredly be allowed to leave.
The tight ends are decent, maybe even solid if not spectacular. For fans that long for the days of Wesley Walls, you may have to wait a little longer. The Panthers have other needs that need to be addressed this offseason. Sure, they might make a move at the position in free agency or the draft but it would probably be priority number 4 or 5 this year.
Remember, part three of our team breakdown is tomorrow. We’ll be doing something a lot of people did in ’07 – tackling the running backs!