Some media types sat down with John Fox and had a bagel at the NFL owners’ meeting in Palm Beach, Fla. Unfortunately, I wasn’t one of them. But these media dudes were nice enough to write about it so I can tell you what they talked about as they lathered their bagels in butter, jelly and cream cheese. It seems that the coach had some things to say about quarterbacks and Julius Peppers.
First, coach Fox says he’s happy enough with his quarterback situation that he isn’t going to go out looking for an established guy to backup Jake Delhomme.
“I feel as good about our quarterback situation as I ever have in my tenure,” said Fox, who’s entering his seventh season as Carolina’s coach.
Fox also talked about the strides that Delhomme is making in recovering from Tommy John surgery. Trainers and doctors seem to be very positive about his recovery.
“Every indication is that Jake is making great strides and there’s a possibility (his arm) may be even stronger than he was before the surgery.”
The coach is also very encouraged by the play of his backup, Matt Moore. But then who isn’t? The kid looked good last year when he got significant playing time. He says Moore “has gotten the confidence of our players.”
I wrote about this just last week. Sure, some will say that the Panthers need a quarterback. But with Delhomme and Moore, the top two roster spots are filled with Basanez a solid third guy. It’s the draft that could be interesting.
The coach is saying he doesn’t feel the need to add a veteran. And I believe him. But will he add a kid out of the crop of draft eligible quarterbacks later this month? I think the coach would find a lot more love coming his way from fans when he’s walking down Trade Street if the team could manage to draft a new quarterback like, say, Chad Henne.
But that may not be necessary if Moore continues to develop. A second-day pick just makes more sense for this team. I just hope we don’t see another Randy Fasani or Stefan Lefors.
The other hot topic came up while Fox and the reporter guys were washing their bagels down with some orange juice – Julius Peppers.
Rumors have been running rampant throughout the blogosphere, message boards and even mainstream media that the team might very well trade Peppers. Fox says that’s not going to happen.
“I love Julius Peppers,” he said. “We want him to be with our team for years to come.”
Coach, we love Julius too. When he plays well he’s nearly impossible to stop. But when he plays like he did last year, he looks disinterested and like he’s just out there waiting for his next big paycheck.
Stories have been floating around about some mysterious worm that wiggled its way into Peppers’ body and made him sick. The coach said that wasn’t true and that instead the pass rusher just had a bad year when compared to the impossible standards that had been set in Pep’s first four seasons.
I have always doubted the whole worm theory. Seems to me that any doctor worth his or her weight in salt would have found a worm that was causing JP to be that apathetic toward playing.
My theory is that he might rather still be back in Chapel Hill with Dean Smith, Roy Williams and the sorority girls. I’m sure those were happy times for him when he was a two-sport star and he had the world by a string. And maybe he prefers dunks, rebounds and blocked shots to sacks and tackles.
Either way, I’m not sure that it was just an off year. Besides, to go from 13 sacks in ’06 to 2.5 in ’07 isn’t just a drop in production but enough of a change to set off warning bells.
Could defensive coordinator Mike Trgovac have been using him wrong? He sure seemed to be dropping Julius back into coverage far too often last year. I saw that too many times. And that’s not his game. His game is to rush the quarterback like a mad man.
Whatever it is, the coach says he expects him to be back. “I expect Pep to come back in a big way,” Fox said.
The team wants to sign him to an extension. That could be a mistake if all they want out of him is an improvement in his numbers. Players seem to always bust their butts in a contract year. Sure, they want to keep him around for the long term but to get him to play like you want him to might require dangling the new deal in front of him and telling him he’ll get it when he proves what he can do.
No matter what we just want our Julius back!
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