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“Big hog mollies”: plugging the middle

Carolina Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman made no secret of the fact he was looking for "big hog mollies" in the draft, and he followed through on his promise.

Carolina Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman made no secret of the fact he was looking for “big hog mollies” in the draft, and he followed through on his promise.

Judging by the reactions splashed across the internet in the wake of the 2013 NFL Draft, Carolina Panthers fans are wearing rose-colored glasses right now. To hear them tell the tale, general manager Dave Gettleman performed flawlessly last weekend. They are abuzz with excitement over the sixth-round pick they believe will challenge for a starting job, and or the steal Carolina found in the undrafted free agent market.

On the other hand, there has been plenty of criticism leveled against Gettleman for his failure to address the secondary in a division that includes quarterbacks Josh Freeman of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Matt Ryan of the Atlanta Falcons, and Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints. With Chris Gamble now in retirement, the current roster of defensive backs — Josh Thomas, Josh Norman, Captain Mutterlyn, D.J. Moore, Drayton Florence, Charles Godfrey, Hakuri Nakamura, D.J. Campbell, and Mike Mitchell — elicits little more than a quizzical look and a baffled “Who?”

But whether anyone agrees that Gettleman did the right thing by picking the best player available at every point in the draft is beside the point. Whether they believe Gettleman failed in taking Edmund Kugbila, A.J. Klein and Kenjon Barner instead of Shamarko Thomas, Quinton Patton, or Bacarri Rambo is irrelevant. Whether the hodgepodge of defensive backs are below average talent or just a mix young and slow developing up and comers, it does not matter.

Because the 2013 Panthers draft class was about one thing and one thing only — in Gettleman’s own words, collecting “big hog mollies.”

His goal going into the draft was singleminded, and fate smiled on him. He opened his career as a general manager by grabbed two highly rated defensive tackles.

Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei intends to burst on to the scene and into the backfield.

Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei intends to burst on to the scene and into the backfield.

Round 1: Star Lotulelei, Utah

I don’t know if Gettleman has mastered the Jedi Mind Trick or if thousands of Panthers fans collectively made a wish on a falling Star. For whatever reason, the New York Jets inexplicably took Sheldon Richardson out of Missouri, paving the way for Star Lotulelei to become a Panther. Carolina could not get their pick in fast enough, as if there had been an earlier mistake and they had to get the next play off before the refs reviewed the tape.

The cheers and praise were immediate and have not begun to subside. I have yet to find an NFL expert, analyst, or fan who doesn’t agree that Lotulelei will have the biggest and most immediate impact of the any player in the NFC South draft class.

Round 2: Kawann Short, Purdue

Ranking in the Big Ten top 10 for sacks and tackles for loss, Kawann Short was considered a borderline first round talent by many teams and evaluators. He brings the skills of a defensive end and linebacker in the big body of a space-eating defensive tackle and not surprisingly, commanded double teams throughout his collegiate career.

Short: His name and the amount of time QBs will have to get rid of the ball.

Short: the amount of time quarterbacks will have to get rid of the ball as Kawann Short out of Purdue bears down upon them.

Looking ahead

“Super Nova” and the ironically nicknamed “Little K.K.” are not merely great value picks. Bringing them on board has enabled Gettleman to upgrade most every player on the team.

The Panthers front seven now consists of defensive ends Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy, who combined for 23.5 sacks and nine forced fumbles last year; defensive tackles Star Lotulelei and Dwan Edwards; linebackers Luke Kuechly (2012 Defensive Rookie of the Year) and Pro Bowlers Jon Beason and Thomas Davis.

Even scarier for other teams, these starters will be spelled by players like defensive ends Frank Alexander, defensive tackles Colin Cole and Sione Fua, and linebacker Chase Blackburn.

Facing three or four defensive lineman who command double coverage is going to create a huge dilemma for opposing offenses. On virtually every passing play they will have to decide to keep either the tight end or running back in to protect the quarterback. This will greatly limit their diversity of play call options and will completely neutralize backs like Darren Sproles of New Orleans and Jacquizz Rodgers of Atlanta, since the defense will immediately know whether the call is run or the tight end is staying in to block.

With one offensive weapon and the quarterback removed from the equation, the defense will essentially be playing 11 on nine before the snap even occurs. If teams try to go to a three or four wide receiver set, the defense blitz, and the line will be hard pressed to account for the linebacker or safety.

This will set Carolina’s top-of-the-line backers loose to float, react, assist, and attack with more freedom.

With the linebackers covering the weak sides, and with the defensive line putting on constant pressure, hurries, and sacks, the below-average secondary should look far better. Expect nervous field generals to throw the ball off target or out of bounds.

Let’s not forget that having above-average backup linemen and linebackers in the rotation will allow everyone to stay fresh. This will translate to getting off the field quicker, and as the game wears on, they will get stronger.

All of this will add up to a time of possession advantage that will wind and wear down the opposition. This will be immensely beneficial for a defense that has been prone to fourth-quarter collapses. Of the 19 losses in the Cam Newton/Ron Rivera era, nine times Carolina was leading in the fourth quarter and once more they were tied. (Incidentally, five of those games came against NFC South foes and three against the NFC North.)

Reinforcements on the defensive line should help Carolina Panthers linebackers like Luke Kuechly be even more effective in 2013.

Reinforcements on the defensive line should help Carolina Panthers linebackers like Luke Kuechly be even more effective in 2013.

Clash of styles

With just two fortunate picks, Dave Gettleman has managed to not only convert the Panters historical weakness, their defensive line, into their greatest strength, but also improve the entire defense. He has also succeeded in handcuffing opposing offenses.

Either that, or he has greatly underestimated the offensive firepower of the NFL and the severe limitations of his cornerback and safety corps.

The forthcoming 2013 season will be a fascinating test of philosophies. For better or worse, Gettleman has pushed all his chips into “Ground and Pound” — as in pounds of beef. Watching this old-school slugfest contend against teams built from the “high flying offense defense be damned” style of management will be exhilarating even for those not emotionally invested in the Carolina Panthers.

560 comments
LKP
LKP

Pack officially said they are switching Bulaga to LT. Bulaga and Reiff, T-rex LTs. Huzzah!!!!

MIBearFan
MIBearFan

I got hammered on Facebook by a bigoted religious zealot. He's not as  fond of homos as I am.

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Mike Tanier draft assessments.  It's different. He breaks it down to Finds Talent, Meets Needs, Uses Resources,  Final Assessment    Here's the link: http://www.sportsonearth.com/article/46341626

North

Packers: Final Assessment: Advanced. The only thing the Packers did not do was build a time machine and send Franklin and Lacy back to 2011 or 2012 when they could have really helped.

Vikings: Final Assessment: Advanced. The Vikings have not switched into "a player away from the Super Bowl" mode, because they are not a player away. They are many players away, and they may have just gotten three of them.

Bears: Final Assessment: Proficient. There is not a lot to jump around about here, but the Bears got both meat and potatoes to add to a roster that already had a fair amount of gravy.

Lions: Final Assessment: Remediation. This would be a great draft for a division champion: a developmental boom-or-bust edge rusher, a cornerback who might not be needed immediately, some swings for the warning track in late rounds, and a punter. The Lions are far from division champions, and their organizational problem right now appears to be an inability to turn talented pieces into a coherent team. This draft did not help.

South: All four teams, Final Assessment: Proficient.

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Football stuff.

Offsets likely to be next battleground in rookie contracts / Will Ziggy hold out?

There's a growing sense around the NFL that teams in the top 10 will be much more adamant about putting offset language in the latter years of rookie contracts and that more prolonged negotiations and even holdouts could result from the issue, several people on both sides of the issue told USA TODAY Sports. The people, who spoke on condition of anonymity because negotiations are to remain private, said some teams have begun talks with top-10 picks in hopes of getting them to sign offset-laden contracts before rookie camps begin over the next week.

An offset means the next team to sign a player would foot the bill on any or all of the guaranteed money owed a player who has been released. For example, if a player owed $3 million is released and is signed by another team for $2 million, his former team would only owe him the difference of $1 million. A player with no offset language would earn the original $3 million plus the $2 million from his new employer.



LKP
LKP

@Mr._Horse Lions filled 3 needs and got a good punter. Great draft

LKP
LKP

@Draji, the D is silent @LionskillPack Yeah that is an interesting choice. Maybe Newhouse will be better at RT and they have confidence in Bulaga like the Lions do in Reiff. You are allowed to run left too

SuhDidNothingWrong
SuhDidNothingWrong

@LaCWrestler @DWargs I see where you're coming from, but if a WR can make a Lions QB a 5000 yard passer 2 years in a row, he deserves any accolade that's thrown his way, and he'll catch them, too.

LaCW
LaCW

@DWargs @LaCWrestler Yes but if you pick 1 person to build a team around out of the entire NFL it better be at a position that best helps you wins games and WR may be the least important of offense and defense.

SuhDidNothingWrong
SuhDidNothingWrong

@LaCWrestler  You can't put that all on CJ. I can think of a few QBs who didn't fare very well because of the lack of talent around them.   Steve Young while in Tampa Bay and Jim Plunkett before he joined the Raiders come to mind. 

LaCW
LaCW

@DWargs @jwoude23 Bear Down Especially since those considered the best Qbs (Brees, Rodgers,Manning, and Brady) rarely miss the playoffs while CJ has made them once in 5 or 6 years. 

SuhDidNothingWrong
SuhDidNothingWrong

@jwoude23 Bear Down Well, I'm not denying that Rodgers is the Best QB in the league right now.  He's got the accuracy, the arm, the mobility: the entire package.   I just feel like there's more than one QB who can take you to a SB.   Hell, if you've got the right players around him, you can make Joe fucking Flacco a SB MVP.

LaCW
LaCW

@SDL @jwoude23 Bear Down CJs been part of a 0-16 team, 2-14 team, and 4-12 team. Rodgers worst season he won as many games as those 3 for CJ combined. I am going QB over WR anyday. 

SuhDidNothingWrong
SuhDidNothingWrong

@SDL  Well, in my personal opinion, Calvin is a better Receiver than Rodgers is a QB by a slim margin.   Still better though. 

SuhDidNothingWrong
SuhDidNothingWrong

@SDL well, I don't know about SB rings, but I'd rather have Megatron over CMIII or Aaron Rodgers.