So many changes have been made to the Carolina Panthers roster. The most aggressive offseason in team history saw a lot of new faces brought aboard. One statistic that is very encouraging – 28. That’s the oldest player signed through free agency (Tyler Brayton) other than Muhsin Muhammad.
But Muhammad highlights a group of players who are 30 or older who will be counted on this season to help this team succeed.
Before we begin, a little math when looking at the Panthers roster also reveals two crucial numbers. First, the average age of the 80-plus guys now listed on the roster is just over 26 and the average number of years of NFL experience is barely over 4 years.
That makes this a young team and also places even more emphasis on the performance of these players over 30 who must also be the leaders in the locker room.
Here is a breakdown of the players who have broken the 30-year-old threshold who will be important members of the ’08 version of the Carolina Panthers listed from Oldest to Youngest.
John Kasay, Kicker, Age – 38
Can you believe that John Kasay has been in the league now for 18 years and that he’s 38? As steady as he’s been in his career, aside from some injuries, the team might be looking to go in a different direction soon. Rhys Lloyd was brought in presumably to handle the kickoffs but he could also provide some competition to the aging Kasay. Rumors have swirled that this could be the team’s elder stateman’s final go ’round in Carolina. The last remaining original Panther, it would be a sad day to see him leave. If it is indeed his final season, let’s hope he goes out with a bang.
Muhsin Muhammd, Wide Receiver, Age – 35
Muhammad is amazing in that he keeps himself in such great shape and is still able to play at a high level. Still, many wonder aloud if his presence will be more for morale and leadership than his potential contribution. These pundits point to his lack of production in Chicago for the last three seasons but they don’t seem to be taking into consideration the fact that he was playing in quarterback hell the entire time. The best parts of Muhammad’s game, routing running and downfield blocking, will be vitally important to the success of the offense. The team and fans alike are hoping he is truly in great shape and that he stays healthy enough to help this team win.
Jake Delhomme, Quarterback, Age – 33
Question: How many articles can be written about an elbow? Answer: Enough to fill the sports sections of every newspaper and website. When in doubt or when lacking a story, this has been the subject matter for every sports writer covering the Panthers. A pitch count will likely be strictly enforced in camp for Jake. This will give Matt Moore extra reps but it’s hardly comforting to know that six weeks to opening day that Jake is being monitored that closely. His elbow has to be the most important joint in the city of Charlotte – at least to this team it is. When he’s on the field, the offense flourishes. When he’s absent it’s another story. Maybe Jake sweats a little less this summer in training camp because he isn’t allowed to throw as much as usual. But during the season when he does throw, let’s hope he’s sharp and that nobody gets near that elbow.
Brad Hoover, Fullback, Age – 31
The Panthers must feel confident in Brad Hoover. They made no moves during the offseason to pickup another fullback. And with him playing one of the most physically demanding positions on the field, that could be a gamble that might backfire considering his age. Sure, he’s been a solid pro but age catches up to every player eventually. If Hoover stays healthy, the running game will benefit while Jake will continue to have his security blanket to throw to when under pressure. Brad Hoover has been a very important part of this offense. If he goes down, we may all learn the hard way just how important he is.
Na’il Diggs, Outside Linebacker, Age – 30
Does somebody hear footsteps? Perhaps we don’t but Na’il Diggs must. The team has been adding linebackers aggressively with the free agent signing of Landon Johnson and the drafting of Dan Connor. Could one of them be in line to take Diggs’ position? He’s been productive having posted 58 tackles last year along with 3.5 sacks and 1 forced fumble but this is the most loaded position on the team. There are no fewer than six capable linebackers headed to camp. John Fox believes in sticking with veterans who have proven themselves on the field. This could be something that helps Diggs and all the incumbents but with guys like Connor, Johnson and even Adam Seward waiting in the wings the battle could be fierce.
Nick Goings, Running Back, Age – 30
Goings ain’t as young as he used to be and that doesn’t necessarily work in his favor when the team has so many options at this position. Running back is probably the second deepest position on the team behind linebacker. Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams are both going to line up ahead of Goings while LeBrandon Toefield will likely be caught in a battle with Goings for the third spot. Could this be the final summer we see Nick Goings in a Panthers uniform? Is he the odd man out here? If he could bulk up and contribute as a fullback he may very well remain in the silver, black and blue. He has been a valuable asset. I would have to think that John Fox keeps him around as long as he possibly can but competition in training camp might help push a fan favorite out the door.