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Tag:Carolina Panthers
Posted on: January 11, 2011 8:47 am
Edited on: January 11, 2011 12:54 pm
 

'Fairley' dominant game won't push DT to No. 1

For those who have watched Auburn's Nick Fairley dominate the competition all year long, last night's performance against Oregon in the BCS Championship game was no surprise. Even the comparisons to the Detroit's Pro Bowl rookie Ndamukong Suh used by ESPN announcer Kirk Herbstreit had been used before.

The reality is, however, many had not seen Fairley play until last night's game -- including some NFL general managers.

The 6-5, 299 pound Fairley was his typically disruptive self, posting five tackles, including three tackles for loss, a sack and a forced fumble. Oregon tried beating with with traps, double-teams and having QB Darron Thomas "read" him in an effort to slow down the big fella and nothing worked consistently.

The All-American finished his junior season with an eye-popping 60 tackles including nearly half of them behind the line of scrimmage (24 for a loss of 106 yards) and 11.5 sacks.

And yet for as dominant as Fairley was last night, he isn't likely to have moved himself into position to be taken with the first overall pick.

Why? There are two reasons.

For one, scouts are rightfully afraid that he is a bit of a one year wonder. Fairley did little to stand out in his first season at Auburn after transferring from Copiah-Lincoln Junior College in Mississippi. Starting two of 13 games, Fairley posted 28 tackles, including 3.5 tackles for loss.

There is no denying Fairley's talent - I've had scouts tell me he's the most gifted player in the country - but few teams have been willing to gamble a high first round pick on a "one year wonder" at defensive tackle since some high profile busts of similar players in the early part of the decade. The Browns (Gerard Warren), Jets (Dewayne Robertson) and Saints (Johnathan Sullivan)  each devoted top six picks to flashy SEC defensive tackles whose stock was based largely off of one dominant season and that tantalizing thought of "upside."

More importantly, Fairley is simply a poor fit for the 3-4 defense Carolina may incorporate if they do hire San Diego's defensive coordinator Ron Rivera as is being widely reported.

EDIT - Rivera played and coached extensively out of the 4-3 alignment during his time with the Bears (player and coach) and Eagles before becoming the Chargers defensive coordinator --

Fairley's best attribute -- his explosive burst upfield - makes him a prototypical fit as a three-technique defensive tackle in the 4-3 alignment -- just as he was being used last night (and all year long) by Auburn. His long arms make it possible that he could make the transition to the 3-4, but it would be a waste of his talents to put him at defensive end in the odd man front, especially considering that the "money" man in this alignment is at nose guard. Fairley, for as dominant as he is, is special due to his quickness, not extraordinary strength -- a requirement to play the zero technique in the 3-4.

Of course, with Carolina expected to strongly pursue any trade offers out of the No. 1 pick, a teaming built around the 4-3 and willing to gamble on Fairley's upside could still make him the No. 1 pick.

As always, for the best in NFL draft coverage, be sure to check out NFLDraftScout.com.

Posted on: January 6, 2011 6:49 pm
Edited on: January 6, 2011 7:07 pm
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Posted on: December 27, 2010 12:24 pm
 

Carolina officially on the clock

Upset victories by the Cincinnati Bengals and Denver Broncos yesterday assured that the Carolina Panthers will finish the 2010 season with the worst record in the NFL and therefore will be awarded the first pick of the 2011 draft.

Despite the fact that the team invested in Jimmy Clausen with their first pick last April, it is a virtual certainty that the team will select Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck should the redshirt sophomore elect to leave school early.

With Luck now knowing precisely where he'd begin his NFL career, his decision is made easier.

His decision could furthermore be made easier if recent speculation is correct and Stanford head coach Jim Harbaugh is likely to leave The Cardinal after this season for another coaching position.
Many league insiders feel that if Harbaugh leaves, Luck will leave Stanford too.

Throughout the year there had been plenty of bold talk out of Stanford that Harbaugh would return. In fact, Stanford athletic director Bob Bowlsby had been quoted as saying that "Jim has indicated he plans to accept" a multi-year extension rumored to be in the neighborhood of three million dollars per season. Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News asked Harbaugh if he had signed the deal (he hasn't) and what Harbaugh thought of his Bowlsby's proclamation that Harbaugh would soon sign the deal. Harbaugh's short reply only added fuel to the fire that he is looking at other options. Harbaugh, according to Wilner, said "Maybe he [Bowlsby] misspoke."

We now know Carolina has the first pick. One can read between the lines to see that Harbaugh is considering his options. There is a belief throughout the league that Harbaugh will consider an NFL position, but would rather take over for Rich Rodriguez at Michigan, Harbaugh's alma mater.

The only question now is whether Luck wants to play in Carolina.
 
Current Panthers' head coach John Fox is on his way out. Carolina general manager Marty Hurney may want to consider head coaches that would entice Luck to leave school early.
Posted on: December 20, 2010 11:19 am
Edited on: December 20, 2010 11:21 am
 

Young NFL QBs Tebow, Flynn, etc impress

As you've no doubt heard or read before, the NFL is a results business. For all of the hype that Tim Tebow received coming out of college (and the little that Matt Flynn had), they were among a group of young passers forced to prove themselves Sunday.

Tim Tebow's starting debut, of course, was the player most focused on. Tebow was unable to lead the Broncos to a victory in Oakland, but played better than his statistics might lead you to believe. The Broncos protected their rookie quarterback with a run-heavy attack. Tebow completed 8 of 16 passes for 138 yards and a touchdown. He would have thrown for another TD had RB Lance Ball not dropped a short pass in the endzone. Tebow also led the team with 78 rushing yards, including a 40 yard touchdown run that showcased the Heisman form that helped him overtake Herschel Walker as the SEC's career leader in touchdowns. Tebow wasn't spectacular, but considering that Denver had lost 59-14 at home to the Raiders in October and were tied at 20-20 in the 3rd quarter before Oakland was able to pull away late to win 39-20), Tebow showed plenty of upside.

Perhaps the most surprising performance of the day -- at least to some -- came from Green Bay Packers' backup Matt Flynn . Flynn, a three year veteran making his first career start, out-shined MVP candidate Tom Brady for much of the night, completing 24 of 37 passes for 251 yards and three touchdowns. He also threw an interception. Flynn played poorly a week earlier after Packers' starter Aaron Rodgers went down with a concussion against Detroit. Flynn's improvement in this game wasn't a surprise to Packers' brass. They are very high on Flynn, as evidenced by the fact that they kept him over 2008 second round choice Brian Brohm. In fact, as I noted in this space in September of 2009, some of the reason why Packers' GM Ted Thompson forced Brett Favre to either retire or accept a trade to a team other than the Vikings was the belief in the former LSU standout, Flynn.
Flynn's performance will hardly unseat Aaron Rodgers, but it does provide the Packers with the assurance that they have a reliable backup and trade commodity.

Tebow and Flynn's efforts in losses weren't the only highlights from young quarterbacks, however.

The Carolina Panthers got their first win under rookie Jimmy Clausen . Clausen was far from spectacular in the Panthers' 19-12 victory over Arizona, but he was more efficient than fellow rookie John Skelton, completing 13 of 19 passes for 141 yards and a touchdown. He did not commit a turnover - only the second time in eight starts this season that's he thrown for a TD and not had a turnover. Clausen wasn't so good that the Panthers should consider anyone other than Andrew Luck with the first overall pick, should the Stanford redshirt sophomore come out early and Carolina end the season with the worst record. He was good enough, however, to allow the team to look at another position (rather than reach for another developmental QB) should Luck remain at Stanford. 

In terms of efficiency, Cleveland's Colt McCoy (19-25 for 243 yards and two TDs) was actually the most impressive rookie quarterback of the day. The Browns struggled to maintain drives against the Bengals, however, and lost to Cincinnati, breaking Marvin Lewis' squad's 10-game losing streak. McCoy's two touchdowns came on a trick play in the first quarter and a defensive breakdown in the 4th.

The Broncos, Packers, Panthers and Browns have plenty of decisions to make before the April draft. Some of those decisions, however, may have been made easier with the performances of their young QBs yesterday.

Remember that for complete draft coverage, be sure to check out NFLDraftScout.com or simply click here.


Posted on: December 13, 2010 1:31 pm
 

Clausen OK, but Carolina has to hope its "Luck"y

NFLDraftScout.com analyst Chris Steuber highlights the "race" to have the first pick of the 2011 NFL draft with a breakdown of the Panthers, Bills and Bengals are facing.

The Panthers, at 1-11, are the favorite to finish with the worst record, as they could find it difficult to win another game this season. Their home matchup this weekend against the 4-9 Arizona Cardinals could decide things, as the Panthers face the Steelers and Falcons to close out the year.

It would be unfair to rookie Jimmy Clausen for the Panthers to invest another high round selection at quarterback this soon. Statistically, he's been terrible this season (51.3 completion percentage, 1 TD/7 INTs), but there have been flashes of the arm strength, toughness, accuracy and leadership necessary to be a successful starting quarterback in the NFL.

Again, giving up on their 2010 second round pick after only 10 starts (assuming he starts the final three games this season) it would be unfair to Clausen. However, the Panthers can't be focused on what is fair for any individual player. They have to do what is best for their franchise - and that would be drafting Luck, should the redshirt sophomore elect to leave Stanford with two years of collegiate eligibility remaining.

Should Luck not come out, the Panthers would find themselves with a much tougher decision. Carolina is a team with plenty of holes, so the Panthers would be wise to investigate trade the pick. As well all know by now, however, the financial obligations of the No. 1 overall pick make it very difficult to trade out of the top spot. 

Unfortunately for the Panthers, should they have to go in another direction because Luck returns to school, their holes in personnel don't necessarily match up well with talent likely to be available. The Panthers would love to find an elite defensive lineman in this draft -- and there are some good ones -- but none as sure as Ndamukong Suh last year. The team could use some reinforcements along the offensive line -- but many scouts believe that there won't be an offensive tackle worthy of a Top 15 pick in this draft, much less No. 1. Besides, left tackle Jordan Gross is among the better all-around left tackles in the league. He's not Carolina's problem.

The two best players (other than Luck) could be fellow underclassmen Patrick Peterson and A.J. Green. Peterson is as good of a cornerback prospect as I've ever seen, but plays at one of the few positions where Carolina already has some talent. Green is a future Pro Bowl regular, but the team has already invested heavily at the position and likely will find the idea of giving another young receiver No. 1 overall type money unpalatable.

Carolina fans have had little to celebrate this season. Perhaps if they and their team gets "Luck"y, there will be a silver lining around this dark cloud.
Posted on: November 2, 2010 2:12 pm
 

Blount, Suh winners in competitive Week for Rooks

Just as this past weekend proved to be a very difficult one in determing the senior Prospect of the Week, Sunday's slate of NFL games featured several noteworthy performances from rookies.

No. 1 overall pick Sam Bradford played very well in leading the Rams to their fourth win of the season and sole possession of second place in the very winnable NFC West division. Bradford completed a career high 78.1% of his passes for 191 and two touchdowns (against zero interceptions) to beat Carolina.

Kansas City safety Eric Berry, my reigning Defensive Rookie of the Week, was even more impressive Sunday against the Bills than he was against the Jaguars on October 24. Berry posted a career-high 10 tackles and his 4th quarter interception ended a potentially game-winning drive by the Bills in the 4th quarter. The Chiefs, 5-2 and atop the AFC West, won in overtime.

Tampa wideout Mike Williams caught four passes for 105 yards, including an impressive 47-yard touchdown in an exciting 38-35 come from behind win over the Arizona Cardinals.

In the end, however, the continued dominance of Detroit's Ndamukong Suh and resurgence of former Oregon standout LaGarrette Blount stole the show.

Suh, who earned Prospect of the Week honors earlier in the year, may have enjoyed his greatest NFL game so far Sunday in Detroit's win over the Washington Redskins. Suh recorded five tackles, including two tackles for loss, two sacks and returned a fumble 17 yards for his first NFL touchdown. Suh now has 6.5 sacks through seven games. His mark ties him for 8th in the NFL and leads all defensive tackles. 

Blount rushed for 120 yards and two scores -- including the game-winner -- against the Cardinals. The bruising runner showcased the power and surprisingly nimble feet that had earned him high grades from NFL scouts prior to the infamous meltdown in which he punched a Boise State player and was suspended from the Oregon football team.
Posted on: August 24, 2010 3:36 pm
 

5 Most Disappointing Rookies So Far

There are lots of opinions out there as to which rookies will have an immediate impact this year. The popularity of fantasy football puts most of the attention on skill position players, but hardcore fans are just as interested in offensive linemen or safeties (or any other position) giving their favorite teams immediate and significant playing time.

I've featured several higher round picks like C.J. Spiller , Bryan Bulaga and Brandon Spikes already as players I fully expected to stand out as rookies and, at least in the preseason, have done so. 

I've also listed 10 players drafted in the 3rd round or later who have impressed as rookies.

The following five players make up the exact opposite story. They are five well-hyped prospects who have thus struggled to acclimate to the NFL.

QB Colt McCoy, Cleveland: McCoy was recently among a list of eight players characterized by Tony Grossi of the Cleveland Plain-Dealer as "need[ing] good showings in the last two games to make the roster." McCoy, in two games, has only completed 5 of 12 passes for 25 yards. He's thrown two interceptions and taken two sacks.

RB Toby Gerhart, Minnesota: The Vikings were hopeful that Gerhart would win the 3rd down role behind Adrian Peterson. Gerhart's inconsistent hands and route-running is a concern. So too is the lack of foot quickness he's shown so far. Gerhart can help this team as a short-yardage specialist, but that may be it.

WR Armanti Edwards, Carolina: Edwards has flashed for the Panthers, but he's shown just how tough it is to switch from college quarterback to NFL wide receiver. He's had issues at receiver and punt returner and may require a "redshirt" year.

WR Golden Tate, Seattle: The 2009 Biletnikof winner, Tate has been a star in training camp, but in the games -- where he's needed to run crisper routes -- he's struggled to demonstrate the same playmaking ability. Tate will be fine. He's too talented not to, but he has only three catches for 13 yards in two games so far.

RB Joe McKnight, New York Jets: I remember when McKnight signed with USC out of the state of Louisiana as one of the most hyped prep prospects in the country. He never showed the agility and balance of Reggie Bush -- the guy he was signed to replace -- at USC though, at times, he received similar hype. McKnight is a terrific athlete, but I haven't seen the toughness out of him so far to think the Jets can keep him on the field much this year.

Posted on: August 17, 2010 12:45 pm
 

Ten Surprising Rookies So Far (3rd Rd-UFA)

During a handful of radio spots over the past few days I've been asked to list rookies that have stood out to me in film review so far in the preseason.

Of course, I start out with some of the obvious choices. Many of the first and second round picks are already proving that the 2010 draft class was every bit as strong as we said it was .  

Rather than re-state the obvious -- that Ndamukong Suh guy is pretty good -- I thought I'd highlight ten players selected in the third round or later that I and, more importantly, league sources feel have been impressive thus far in the preseason.

This isn't meant to be an exhaustive list. There are certainly other players who have stood out, as well. Feel free to leave comments with others that have impressed you and I'll keep my eye on them.

Players are listed in the order they were selected, not necessarily by who has impressed the most.

  1. S Morgan Burnett, Packers (3rd round, 71st overall): Burnett struggled a bit in Green Bay's preseason opener against Cleveland, but otherwise has been one of the rookies generating the most buzz.  Green Bay loves his range, but wants to see him be more consistent in his gap responsibilities. 
  2. WR Jordan Shipley, Bengals (3rd round, 84th overall): Anyone who focused on Shipley while at Texas won't be at all surprised that he's impressed so far with the Bengals. Shipley's toughness, reliable route-running and soft hands have made him the unsung star of a receiving corps dominated by the personalities of Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens.
  3. TE Tony Moeaki, Chiefs (3rd round, 93rd overall): Moeaki has been one of the real stars of training camp for the Chiefs, displaying the athleticism and soft hands that helped him be a standout at Iowa. If he can remain on the field (durability was an issue in college), he could give the Chiefs the best option down the middle they've had since allowing Tony Gonzalez to leave for Atlanta. 
  4. WR Mike Williams, Buccaneers (4th round, 101st overall): I've already highlighted Williams in a previous blog post as having a terrific camp. He showed off his athleticism in the preseason opener, making bigger plays against Miami than Brandon Marshall was able to do against the Bucs. If Williams can keep his focus, he could end up as one of the biggest steals of the 2010 draft.
  5. CB Walter Thurmond, Seahawks (4th round, 111th overall): Thurmond entered his senior year as a potential Top 50 prospect, but a horrific knee injury sidelined him early. It was surprising to see a team take him as early as Seattle did simply because the belief was that Thurmond was at least a year away from contributing. Instead, he saw extensive time in Seattle's opening game against the Titans at cornerback and punt returner. Watch out for Thurmond. He was among the more consistent of Oregon'd DBs in recent years -- quite a statement considering that the other three starters (Patrick Chung, T.J. Ward, Jarius Byrd) were all second round picks.
  6. DT Geno Atkins, Bengals (4th round, 120th overall): I've touted Atkins' explosive burst off the snap before and it is showing up for the Bengals. Atkins is known for flashing and then disappearing for long stretches. If he can play with consistency, he could emerge as Cincinnati's starting three-technique. In two games he has 3.5 sacks.
  7. FB John Conner, Jets (5th round, 139th overall): Due to his Terminator nickname, the fact that Rex Ryan used "his" draft pick on him and the exposure of Hard Knocks and Monday Night Football, Conner is finally getting the hype his game deserves. It's been awhile since we've seen a fullback this explosive a blocker and capable as a runner/receiver come into the NFL.
  8. NG Cam Thomas, Chargers (5th round, 146th overall): The Chargers made a calculated gamble releasing veteran Jamal Williams, but in Thomas they appear to have the big body necessarily in filling their former Pro Bowler's large shoes. Thomas has impressed head coach Norv Turner and appears well on his way towards seeing extensive playing time as a rookie this season.
  9. DE Greg Hardy, Panthers (6th round, 175th overall): Like the Bucs' Williams, I've already highlighted Hardy's play because, quite frankly, he's been among the most impressive rookies I've seen so far this preseason. With Julius Peppers gone, few are expecting Carolina to have any success rushing the passer this year. I think the combination of Hardy and 2009 second round pick Everette Brown could surprise.
  10. WR Victor Cruz, Giants (undrafted free agent): I considered several undrafted free agents to list here, including Philadelpia offensive tackle Austin Howard, Detroit safety Randy Phillips and Houston DT Malcolm Sheppard, among others), but Cruz's dominating performance against the Jets on Monday Night was too much to ignore. I blogged about his 6 catch, 145 yard, 3 TD performance last night, but all indications are that his efforts have been just as good throughout OTAs and training camp. 


 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com