Preseason games in the NFL are all about making a name for yourself and showing that you, as a player, can contribute by making the product that all franchises put out is the best product possible. The same is said for the Carolina Panthers. Following the completion of the final preseason game for the Carolina Panthers more than a few stories have started circling about the projected 53 man roster, set to be released tomorrow. Robert Lester, David Gettis, and Josh Norman are just a few of the more popular stories to come out of the preseason. However, a player who has flown completely under the radar is Defensive End Wes Horton.
November 24, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish quarterback Everett Golson (5) looks to pass under pressure against Southern California Trojans defensive end Wes Horton (96) during the first half at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Horton, an UDFA out of Southern California, was expected to play the preseason and gracefully say his goodbyes after the final game, played last night against the Steelers. So far that has not been the case. Horton’s level of play has been extremely vocal which plays against his Charles Johnson like façade. He only has one and a half sacks throughout the preseason, but four of his seven tackles during the preseason have been for loses. Not only that, Horton seems to be everywhere when the already stellar D-Line gets a productive push on the opposing team. His push on the O-Line is staggering when compared to players like Sione Fua and Colin Cole.
What I look for most when it comes to a Defensive Lineman is the initial pressure he can put on a line and QB. Stats come second for me. Star Lotulelei is a premier player who has played in all four preseason games (He only took a few snaps in the Steelers matchup.) With that being said, looking on ESPN.com, Lotulelei has not charted any stats; tackles, sacks, tackles for a loss, etc…, until the Ravens game. Now I am not saying that Horton is better than Lotulelei by any stretch of the imagination, but his stat production has been staggering. However, his push on the opposing line is the most exciting thing about Horton. Like I said, he is always in the backfield when the whistle is blown. Go back and watch the preseason games, he is everywhere. His hands are furious too. Similar to Star, Horton shakes off blocks with ease.
Dec. 31, 2012; El Paso, TX, USA; Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets quarterback Vad Lee (2) throws a 3 yard touchdown pass as Southern California Trojans defensive end Wes Horton (96) defends during the first half during the Sun Bowl at Sun Bowl Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
Horton is still a major project however. He is listed as a Defensive End on every website under the sun, but watching the preseason games (and I have watched them all), Horton lines up in the Defensive Tackle spot. Obviously the coaching staff thinks he is a better player there and switching positions, even on the same unit, takes some time to adjust. Horton’s run defense isn’t so stellar either. His four tackles for losses have been on RB’s; except for his sack, but besides that the RB’s usually gut the line. Now that could be because the players around him, Sione Fua, Colin Cole, and Kawann Short, aren’t producing good blocking schemes, but Horton isn’t really contributing to stopping the run.
Wes Horton has more upside than downside, or at least he does to me. I’d really like to see him on the final 53, along with Brandon Williams, representing the UDFAs. He is a project, but again his potential is sky high. On a side note, I have lost faith in Robert Lester making the team. It’s hard saying that, I advocated for him the entire offseason but his performance hasn’t been eye catching. So here’s to Wes Horton making the final 53, and to all the players who get cut, I sincerely hope they make a practice squad, and maybe even a team somewhere else.