02 January, 2012


A young mother looks in the mirror after a shower. She’s just dropped her two-year old to her first daycare, and the bikini body she had before she conceived is long gone. Her husband got a family gym membership, and she sighs, but she knows she has to get in there and sweat and exercise her body to get into that hot two piece she wore a scant 32 months ago. Shes’ got work to do.

The Tri-Lambdas of “Revenge Of the Nerds” looked at the dilapidated house off campus, with all manner of fixtures and molding falling apart. They were not dissuaded. They wanted out of the oppressive situation the head football coach put them in. They had work to do.

Rocky Balboa road the coattails of his prior successes until Clubber Lang beat him senseless in the third “Rocky” movie. Status quo was no longer enough to stay on top of the heavyweight boxing world. Apollo Creed sought him out. He saw that there was still a champion in him, but there was work to do.

A big yellow retired school bus sits in its big aluminum shed in James’ West Mecklenburg address. It’s musty, the seats well-weathered, but it’s the start of the new Pantherfanz bus. We’ve got work to do.

It’s in this spirit that I close the final rant of the season. It was disappointing, to say the least, to finish the season the way we did. There’s nothing positive about rehashing everything that went wrong, and in record numbers. But if you’re using that most superlative of ass-kickings as a diagnostic tool, it can be useful. There’s work to do. Every aspect of the Carolina Panthers needs work. Some more than others. Let’s start with the obvious.

The defense is awful. Against a bottom feeder like Tampa Bay is one thing. Against a good team you see the deficiencies. Against a great team, well, you saw the result. Yes, yes, yes, we’ve beat the injury bug drum all damn year. Every one has injuries. It’s part of the game. The key is having depth. This is where the scouting departments and talent evaluators must earn their money. You’re going to think I’m nuts, but I don’t believe that defensive line is our biggest need. I like our ends. I think Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy can put enough pressure on the passer, once the linebackers and secondary are stocked with NFL talent. I think a couple more big fat spaceeaters are important, although it’s possible our rookie tackles Fua and McClain could benefit from an offseason of OTA’s.

Behind this line lies one of our two biggest needs. What started out as a defensive strength is now one of our biggest weaknesses. Linebacker is a pressing need on this team. We are sure to lose Dan Connor, who despite his effort, will never be a top NFL ‘backer. James Anderson is an excellent role player, but he’s not the beast that BEASTon or TD was. And speaking of those two, it’s likely we’ve seen the last of Thomas Davis. There’s no guarantee that Jon Beason will be back to 100% after his Achilles surgery. There’s no question the effort’s there, but the body will be the deciding factor whether he can ever regain his formidable field presence. What this unit needs is a lunatic, my body-be-damned-as-well-as-yours, freak of nature athlete in the mold of Kevin Greene or James Harrison.

It isn’t likely this player is in this draft this year. Our best case scenario is for BEASTon to come back near peak, and a nice complimentary free agent acquisition. This is going to be a work in progress. It may take a couple of seasons to get this group back to its once fearsome, game changing status.

What REALLY ails the defensive unit is the backfield. While Chris Gamble has made a remarkable comeback in Rivera’s first year, he can’t cover the whole field by himself. Captain Mummerlin has looked completely overwhelmed in coverage, and there’s been few sightings made by Godfrey and Martin, much less plays. Gone are the days of the power hitting of Mike Minter, and the turnover generating Chris Harris. Take your pick. A tenacious ball-hawking corner with turf-burning speed, or a human Exocet missile of a safety is what this secondary absolutely needs. What we have now will simply not do, as evidenced by the way Drew Brees made us look like juco walk-ons. Like the linebacking corps, this situation is likely not going to be remedied by one draft. There’s a corner or two in the draft’s upper spots, and there’s a safety from Alabama that has promise as a second-round pick. It’s a start. A bonus for this draftee would be the availability and ability as a kick returner, much as Patrick Peterson is for the Cardy-noles.

Fixing this defensive squad, clearly, is the number one priority of the franchise. When the defense is bad, everything is bad. You lose the field position game, you lose the time of possession advantage, and you force your offense to score on virtually every play to keep any chance of victory alive. In ANY contest.

Thankfully, our offense is capable of that. But they are not without need of a bit of elbow grease. While Cam is UNQUESTIONABLY the white-hot superstar of our franchise for years to come, he needs to continue to grow into the position, and learn to temper his emotions. I feel strongly that he will do this, and not only will he grow into the leader he is destined to be, but he will become mechanically better, he will make far smarter decisions with the ball, and he will execute plays both basic and exotic with the precision of an explosives disarming expert. To do this, he will need the following –

-We must keep our “Double Trouble” duo intact. Having SteWilliams in the backfield along with Cam is a three-headed beast that most teams will not be able to defend. For Chudzinsky to have this in his weapons chest is paramount.

-We need Jeff Otah back healthy, or we need a suitable replacement. We also need to upgrade our line with depth. Keeping Newton’s jersey clean is a must next season. Opening holes for SteWilliams is vitally important to our offensive strategies next season. The O line is decent, but it can be better. Otah is a big part of this issue.
-While not a VITAL need, if you’ve got the chance to upgun your main cannon to a 105mm tank-buster, much like the Israelis (speaking of folks who had work to do) did with the archaic M4 Sherman Tank, you do it. Alston Jefferies of South Carolina is the kind of receiver that forces teams to single-cover Steve Smith or Brandon LaFell. Uh oh. Another weapon in the inventory of Chudzinsky. If he’s (or another big possession type Mushin Muhammad-type receiver) available in the second round, I think Hurney should think hard about taking him.

-And most important of all, we MUST keep Rob Chudzinsky on the staff for AT LEAST for one more season. Throw whatever cash you need to, Uncle Jerry, but this offensive wunderkind has to be retained. The success of the offense and particularly Cam next season will depend on it. While your at it, Jerry, you can keep Son Of Jaw here, too. Cam’s benefited much from David Shula’s intelligent and observant coaching style.

Another offensive need is a reliable backup to Cam if God forbid it, should he be catastrophically injured. Derek Anderson could be that quarterback. As shown by Houston and Green Bay, a good backup is critical to a successful season. Not having one? Indianapolis is the perfect example of what happens when you don’t have a contingency plan in place. So is Jacksonville. So are the Deadskins. So are the Iggles. Panthers, don’t be that team.

And while we’re at it –

Time to cut our losses on players that will never be. Say goobye to Jimmy Claussen, Armanti Edwards, Captain Mummerlin, Dan Conner. Orlindo Mare. Sherrod Martin, Charles Godfrey. And anyone else not making plays. The “lockout” season is over. Chef Rivera’s first trip to the NFL Mega-Mart is now less than four months away, and soon, it will be time to get to work on remodeling the Carolina Panthers, Ron Rivera style. I can’t help but be excited. Yes, it sucked getting our ass kicked by the team that very likely could be hoisting the Lombardi Trophy come February. But you know what –

When Rocky lost to Clubber Lang, he was clearly not the better boxer. Poland had little chance against Hitler’s Panzers with its cavalry. Duke will never, ever, beat Alabama or LSU on the gridiron. (nor would the reverse be true on the hardwood) (damn.)

But at the end of a period of blood, sweat, toil and tears, and a judicious amount of elbow grease, that young mama put on her two-piece, and strolled confidently onto the sands of Oak Island. Her husband is planning to go to Jared for Christmas. The Tri-Lambdas got a great frat house, and deposed the tyrannical Alphas on the Greek Council, and took control of the student life at Adams College. Rocky Balboa inherited a nice Italian restaurant in South Philly. And like the slick new Pantherfanz bus taking form in James’ shed,

I can see the end of the hardship period of the Carolina Panthers. They’ve got work to do. It starts now.

We’ve taken the first steps in getting out of the NFL cellar. We’ve gotten out of the bottom of the NFC South standings. That last place spot is now the domain of the Sucky-Neers. Duckies, you’re next. Saints-

We’re gonna remember this ass-kicking of yesterday. It’s not happening again. Win your SuperBowl XLVI, and have a big French Quarter parade. But next season, you will have 120 minutes, at least, of mouth-bustin’, bone-chattering, bell ringin’ football to play with the Panthers. From here on out…

And I’m not done with this blog. Not by a long shot. There’s still playoff football to experience, and I’m much inspired to chronicle this laborious journey about to be taken by Panther Nation –

Stay tuned.

Gotta Comment?
E-mail me, The Cedar Street Seer


No comments: