Monday, July 28, 2008

It's July! Football's Coming Soon! FRONT FOUR Edition

Brethren: Three days into Training Camp, and I’m in hook, line, and sinker. On a car trip back from Charlottesville to DC yesterday (after a most wonderful drunken weekend of tubing, crushing the Virginian, and hitting the Mediocre Restaurant Heaven that is Cville), I spent a solid two hours on my buddy’s iPhone reading all the updates from Chaz Chandler and the boys I could get my hands on. I have to say: I like what I’m hearing so far. The Thomas Davis quote about the Thunder/Lightning combo of Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams brightened my day. Reading the story about Jake doing his fiery Cajun thing and yelling at O-Linemen after a busted play got me excited. Seeing Steve Smith blatantly voice his dislike of training camp even got a rouse out of me. All of it sounded good to me.

Then I saw Chaz is reporting that this team has a positive vibe going for it, that they’re loose and excited to be playing football. That’s when I knew: let’s keep this momentum going.

So, I’m back at the helm today, sitting down to break down maybe the most significant unit on all the team: the Panthers D-Line. Once feared and revered, the Front Four needs to answer a lot of tough questions this 2008 season. What the fuck happened to Pep last year and can he come back? Are we going to miss Kris Jenkins more than we expected? Is having Mike Rucker not around going to affect us? Has Maake eaten any babies recently?

We attempt to answer these questions, and more, desde:

Brethren (cont’d): As I mentioned Saturday, the Fox/Hurney Era has been about making a claim for a dominant Front Four. Some years, it’s more bark than bite, but cotdamn, they try to go big or go home every year. What’s the 2008 edition look like?

The Starters
Julius Peppers, RDE: I don’t think there was anyone who summed up last year more than Pep. After a huge stastical 2006 campaign, he mysteriously disappeared in 2007. 2 ½ sacks? Are you kidding me? He’s a phenomenal athlete, and he claims he wasn’t sick or injured and refused to give excuses.

Well, what the fuck then, Pep? What gives? Your double-teams waned as the season went on and the production wasn’t there, in terms of stats. And any explanation we get is that stats don’t tell the whole story; that’s the company line from Pep, Hurney, and Fox. Well, they know more about football than me, so when they say that Pep’s still affecting the game, that he contains the outside, can force a running play inside, and limits the other team’s playbook with his presence, I’ll believe them. On the other hand, stats might not tell the whole story, but they tell a pretty damn big story, because they reflect production, as much as any piece of measurement can. So while I love the big fella and I rock his black #90 jersey every week, I want to see him making Pep plays and having Pep stats this year.

I want to see him bat a ball mid-air, pick it off, and stiff-arm a fullback on his way to the end zone. I want to see two blocked kicks in one game. I want to see him run down a LDT-type back. I want to him to single-handedly save a victory for us.

So yes, those are my expectations. He was the #2 draft pick, an athlete unlike any other to come through Charlotte. And it hurts that much more when he doesn’t meet them because we all know he can do it. We’ve seen it before; we want more than anything to see it again on his way to taking us to the Promised Land.

But better yet, the past two days have seen reports floating out of camp that Pep looks better than ever, that he looks on the verge of breakout year. He isn't talking to the media, and he's got a sick beard. I'm convinced: Make it happen, Pep. As you go, we go. Put us on your back, Big Cat.

Maake Kemoeatu, DT: One of the largest Panthers ever. I have enjoyed his presence, depsite never knowing how much he actually affects the game. He's not a pass-rushing DT so he doesn't pile up the sacks, but he takes up a lot of space, so I'm down with that.

Damione Lewis, DT: The returning sacks leader for the Panthers, Lewis is reported to have taken on a more vocal leadership role now that Jenkins is gone. I don't know really know what that means, but hey, I'll take it. Maybe more vocal means more production? Sure.

Tyler Brayton, Charles Johnson, and Stanley McGlover: The three dudes fighting it out for Peppers' old Left End spot. McGlover's got the crazy long hair, the Panthers hope Johnson becomes the next Mike Rucker (even with the Georgia lineage) and Brayton's an athletic dude. Of course, it won't really matter if Peppers has the crazy year we all want him to have, then the other guy should have some great opportunities.

From there, we got some rookies and others. But seriously, the time is now for Peppers to take over the D-Line. He's in his 7th year and it's time to start owning this line.

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Saturday, July 26, 2008

It's July! Football's coming soon! D-BACKS EDITION

Nacho: About a month ago, I went to see a production of "A Chorus Line" in downtown Los Angeles. Ostensibly, I was there because a fellow former Hawk was in the show, but afterwards, I found myself thinking quite deeply about the show.

Let me abundantly clear: "A Chorus Line" is the gayest musical I've ever seen. If you had absolutely no experience with live theater, and went to see "A Chorus Line" you would undoubtedly walk away with the certainty that everyone involved in the arts is damaged, gay, and obnoxiously emotional...which is pretty much what you can say about a football fan during the summer.

Except the gay thing. I love boobs.

So, without further ado, lets move onto Training Camp. First practice starts today, and if there's anyone in Spartanburg singing "Got I hope I get it. How many boys does he need?" it's definitely, the D-Backs.

Nacho cont'd: Currently, the Panthers roster lists fourteen different Cornerbacks and Safeties. Methinks not all of them will make the final cut. So, in the interest of boredom, lets talk about the favorites:

Ken Lucas, CB: He took over as emotional leader for the squad last year and did alright by it. He's a steady cover guy, makes tackles, and will be an great asset for the 3 rooks. I can't wait for the first time Kenny does something that makes me bolt upright from table, causing all the booze to spill.

Chris Gamble, CB: Chris lives up to his name. He's just as likely to make me spew expletives as he is to make me make some wildly irrational argument for his inclusion onto the Supreme Court. Gamble guarantees for the year: he will miss coverage, he will miss tackles, but he will be a deciding factor in at least two wins this year.

Richard Marshall, CB: Marshall's consistently shown improvement in his three years in the league. He's got some of the best pivot feet I've seen since Rik Smits and when he makes a move on a lazy pass, you can take it to the bank that he'll come down with it. His 5'11" stature hasn't been that big of a problem, but it just feels like all the receivers are 6'5" these days.

Chris Harris, S: Finally, a Safety. Chris Harris runs like a gazelle, can chase down any of the leading RBs in the league, and generally has a pretty good move on the ball. He'll cause consternation and frustration but there's hardly a better Alamo/Last Line of Defense I'd want more.

Terrence Holt, S: Terrence anchors the safety position for the Cats. He's a seasoned vet, he's a local boy from Greensboro, and I just feel better knowing at least one player on the field has sweet tea coursing through his veins.

Charles Godfrey, S: We took him in the third round, so he better cause no less than four boners this season. He had a breakout year last year and seems like a sniper. Chaz probably has the best chance to the BEASTon of the D Backs this year.

Joe Fields, Darren Toney, CJ Wilson These guys are all young, and could potentially blossom into players, but only time will tell.

Ricardo Colclough, CB: Easily the team's resident ladies' man. Just on the squad to teach Dante Wesley, Quinton Teal, Nate Salley, and Curtis Deloatch how to take down sluts.

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It's July! Football's Coming Soon! LINEBACKERS Edition

Brethren: Well, lassies and lads, we are but a few scant days from the beginning of training camp and with it, the coming of the glorious 2008 NFL season. I wrote nearly two weeks ago that Nacho and I would be rolling out our Panthers season preview, and I intend to honor that. So since we already covered that we’re of the mindset that Jake’s our QB, let’s take a look at the group of on-field leaders on the other side of the ball.

Overall, this looks to be the stacked part of the defense. The depth is there, the young legs are a plenty and the head-hunters are there. On paper, this is a fearsome group. It’s interesting because in the Fox/Hurney Era, so much emphasis has been placed on the D-Line and they always seem to just plug in a decent veteran here or there along with a 1st/2nd rounder to hold down the LB fort. This year’s group harkens back to the days of Sam Mills, Lamar Lathon, Michael Burrow, and Kevin Greene, back to the Dom Capers Era. If there was anything I liked about that era, it was the players that wore jerseys in the 50s: they were a badass bunch.

The 2008 linebacking corps is starting to inspire that same kind of confidence in me as a fan. The voice inside me that says, these guys will stop a 225-lb running back train on a dead stop, pick off a rope to a TE over the middle, and blitz the fuck out of the pansy-ass quarterbacks that make up the NFC South. Fuckin a.

Full breakdown desde:

Brethren (cont'd): We take a player-by-player look at the LB Corps:

The Starters

Jon Beason, MLB (aka Jon BEASTon): Great Googily Moogily. We haven’t seen a rook step in, look around, notice the desperate need for football plays to get made, and just go do them like that since a 3rd round receiver out of Utah came in with a chip on his shoulder. I remember last summer liking the fact that BEASTon wore the #2 in college, and that was about it. I was still holding out hope for the now-retired Dan Morgan and I was wondering if we’d get some production out of Beason when Morgan went down in Week 6. I had no clue we’d be getting a really good middle linebacker.

Nai’l Diggs, OLB: The one guy who fits the Fox/Hurney “veteran” plug characterization, but that’s only at the surface. This man continues to make plays from the outside and will make at least one play a game that can turn a casual fan to me and say, “wait who the fuck made that hit?” Plus, absolutely stellar name.

Thomas Davis, OLB: The young head-hunter who kept getting swapped between linebacker and safety early in his career seems to have settled in at the OLB position. I remember when the Panthers drafted him pretty much to play “spy” on Michael Vick back when Vick was terrorizing the Panthers (and not pit bulls). Well, after moving out of that specialty, he’s become a ferocious OLB. The Charlotte media has wondered aloud for many seasons that the former first-round draft pick wasn’t living up to his potential. While he didn’t have the early impact BEASTon did, Davis is still a man on the outside. If he continues to improve, he could take this group to another level.

The Bench
Landon Johnson, LB: He led the Bengals in tackles the past two-three years, and he won’t crack our opening day starting line-up, if everyone’s healthy. An ultra-productive linebacker, he will lead the bench and can easily fill in at all three positions should one of the three starters go down. His signing was a very savvy Fox/Hurney move that characterized the under-the-radar, but aggressive offseason those two directed.

Dan Connor and Tim Shaw, MLB: Two former Penn State ‘backers, their presence on the team gives my buddy Big Mike an instant erection. Connor is a potential huge steal from the draft, as some say he’s even better than Paul the Polack up in Buffalo that came out of Penn State in 2007. Connor is definitely going to push BEASTon to make sure there’s no sophomore slump from him. Shaw’s another young hard-hitter and his Linebacker U pedigree gives him a nod from me; if we can get some stellar special teams plays out of these him, I’d be excited.

Adam Seward, LB: Scrappy dude. Never gonna be a starter, but mops up special teams duty and seems just crazy enough to enjoy it.

Brandon Jamison, Donte Curry, LB: Never heard of either of them, but they have names that J. Price and I would have recruited hardcore during our dominant NCAA Football 2006 UVA dynasty days. Side note: playing that game on Dynasty with a college roommate as a team effort might be one of the most awesome things to do. Receiving text messages during class letting you know that the 5-star QB out of Cali named Eddie Cannon just signed is one of life’s unheralded treasures. We also rushed for over 3,000 yards in one season with Mikell Simpson (the same 3rd-stringer who became the real UVA’s go-to running back last year). Damn, this makes me miss college. A lot.

And Just Because I Still Want Him To Be Around:
Mark Fields, OLB: This dude beat cancer and, with Sam Mils, inspired the 2003 Super Bowl run. He was crazy fast and would definitely put Reggie Bush’s 3.3-year-per-carry ass in his place. Well, guess that job falls to BEASTon now.

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Saturday, July 12, 2008

It's July! Football's coming soon!

Brethren: Is it really July 11th? That means football is nary but a few scant weeks from training camp, which means the Panthers are that much closer to my life, which means a very real and important part of my being becomes a little more alive.

And fortunately for the Brethren, the Carolina Panthers have more than enough going on where their name gets brought up in all sorts of media conversations.

First off, there's the Favre thing. Now he's not my one true hate -- which may be one of the most thoroughly readable, relatable, and enjoyable columns about the goodness of hate ever -- but he's certainly not my starting quarterback. And this is important: I think I can say for most Panthers fans, that "Brett Favre making Brett Favre plays" is not what we want come September when we take the field for the first time in 2008 in the Whale's Vagina.

I want Jake Delhomme feeling spry as the chicken that becomes the delicious Bojangles' chicken biscuit. Dammit, Jake's our Biscuit Avenger! He's our boy to love unconditionally. He may not be the best quarterback out there, but fuck it, he's ours. He's fiery. He's Cajun. He and the most talented, tenacious player on our team, Steve Smith, have a great relationship -- on the field and off. He's taken us to the Super Bowl (when was the last time Favre did that?). Our team fell apart last year without him. He has earned the right to be the starting quarterback of this team.

So no, Brett Favre, you are not welcome to come in and try to fuck that up. I'll gladly take you as long as you know you're second fiddle to Jake Delhomme. Yes, Mr. All-Time TD and Passing Yards Record Holder, if you dare come here, you dare to hold a clipboard.

This is Jake's team.

More Panthers musings, desde

Brethren: Ugh, glad we got that out of the way. Fortunately, there's even more to talk about the Panthers. Like, for instance, the 2008 season!

It's fucking sweet the season's right around the corner. And while that might not technically be true because we're still a solid 8 weeks away from a meaningful game, it definitely is that part of the year where my brain says, "Oh shit, is that the hot July air I smell? That means football players should be sweating in Spartanburg soon!"

Nacho and I will be rolling out our full Panthers previews in the coming weeks, but rest assured, this team is on our minds. The Panthers historically play best when no one expects them to do well -- which is why I hated this software -- but we're getting to the point that, as we enter the 14th season of this franchise's history, I enter July honestly believing we're winning it all.

Because the Panthers will. They've got Jake at QB, Smitty and Moose out wide, a barn full of speedy, hard-hitting linebackers, the sleeping giant that is Pep, a bruising rookie RB to complement the speedy and fantastically mustiachoed DeAngelo Wiliams, and the Fox/Hurney era with a sense of urgency ne'er seen before. Yes, ladies and gents, 2008 is the year the Carolina Panthers will dominate the NFL.

Welcome to it.

Nacho: I"m gonna let y'all in on a lil secret. Ever since Football ended, I still get up redonkulously early on the weekends. Why? Through the magic of transference I've redirected my love of the pigskin, into a love of the Food Network. Seeing as how ESPN will shove this Favre silliness down our throats for the next four weeks, I figure I'll need something to keep me occupied. Take that ESPN; my ass belongs to the Neelys!

Luckily, my fattening infatuation will pass soon and I can get back to the real work at hand, blindly loving the greatest football squad in all the land. As an added bonus, it would appear yours truly will be in attendance for the season opener, seeing as how Komrad Goodell was nice enough to ask the Panthers to come out to San Diego for week 1. Don't think for a second I've forgotten all those Panthers/Redskins games where Norv was at the helm. First guarantee of the season: Panthers beat the Chargers in their own house. Take that to the bank!

There's lots to cover over the coming weeks, and you can rest assured the Brethren are on top of it all. Favre's welcome to come to Carolina, as long as he's only employed after The Defender of Fresh Biscuits goes down. Not unlike poo, he's number two.

Strap in and enjoy an overflowing amount of coverage of a small market team with few ties outside of the geographical headquarters.

And now, there's much to do before I head out to go see the one and only Ricky Gervais.
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