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Pro Sports Wrap - Sports Personality of the Day:Kris Versteeg

8/2011 Team Scope: Carolina Panthers

August 13th 2011 18:34
Going into free agency, the Panthers had a ton of key players that they had to re-signed. To say their free agency period was a success would be an understatement. They were able to re-sign two very good linebackers in James Anderson and Thomas Davis, they re-signed Charles Johnson who was the second best end in the league last year, and they kept DeAngelo Williams- even though they paid too much for him.

You can tell that Jerry Richardson was gearing up for this though. He never signed anybody the past couple of years, and he was the most vocal about a new CBA that would "help out" the owners. Most coaches' contracts and player contracts were set to expire this year. This was all in Richardson's grand plan.

The Panthers have a very good roster in terms of overall talent, but their season rides on the shoulders of their number one pick. They were terrible last year with the worst starting QB in the league under center. Derek Anderson's one great year was under current offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski while with the Browns. I have no idea why the second worst starting quarterback last year was brought in. He's not a mentor, and he sucks.

Cam Newton is actually by far the best signal-caller on this roster, and that really has more to do with the ineptitude of the other guys. I think Newton is going to be subpar in his rookie year, but he'll do enough to keep the Panthers around .500 (think 7-9).

But Newton has the best running game in the league to back him up. DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart are two of the best backs around, and Mike Goodson is a very good all-around option. Tyrell Sutton is an underrated player buried on the back of the depth chart. The offensive line is also very good, as the Panthers have perennial All-Pros in Ryan Kalil and Jordan Gross. Travelle Wharton is seriously underrated and is one of the best guards in the league in pass protection.

However, the receivers are mediocre at best. With David Gettis sidelined for the rest of the year with an injury that Thomas Davis is all too familiar with, the Panthers really only have two playable receivers. Steve Smith is still among the best in the league, and Brandon LaFell has a ton of potential. But LaFell isn't a number two receiver at all, but he is a big guy in the red zone.

What helps Newton out the most is the two tight ends that Carolina recently acquired. Jeremy Shockey isn't what he used to be, obviously, but he is still a solid number two TE and can play some in the red zone. Greg Olsen is one of the best pure pass-catchers at his position, and he was not properly used by Mike Martz in Chicago. He's going to breakout this year, and Newton is definitely going to be looking for him a lot. But make no mistake, Smith is going to be heavily targeted this year, which means he will finally have the stats to show his skills. All he needs is somebody who isn't "beyond stink".

Defensively, Carolina has a stacked core of linebackers. Jon Beason is one of the best LBs in the game, and will have him blitzing more than he ever has in his life. Davis should be healthy and ready to contribute, and James Anderson emerged as an important playmaker on defense. Dan Connor is extremely underrated, and he is one of the best linebackers in the league against the run. It was a shame that his season was cut in half last year, and he should be back to full strength this year. Connor will be ready to make a name for himself.

The corners are very thin after the departure of Richard Marshall. Chris Gamble is still okay, but he has vastly declined recently. Captain Munnerlyn is crazy fast, and he's a solid number two corner. Brandon Hogan was an interesting pick, and I think he'll end up being a solid contributor on defense. Charles Godfrey was in the same great draft haul that yielded Stewart, Jeff Otah, and Connor, and he's a ball-hawk who can make plays. The other safety, Sherrod Martin, is a solid player; there's really nothing special about him.

The entire philosophy has changed in Carolina. They have gone from the ball-control offense employed by John Fox and , to an offensive attack that is more about taking risks. The same can be said for the defense with Sean McDermott at coordinator; expect a whole lot of blitzing. The Panthers are going to be solid defensively, but the offense is directly affected by Cam Newton. All he has to do is play average football out there, and the Panthers will hit .500.

3/2011: NFL Safety Rankings

March 10th 2011 15:58
1. Troy Polamalu- Do I even have to explain his impact?
2. Quintin Mikell- He is one of the most underrated players in the league. Mikell doesn't get appreciated much, and he is the best coverage safety in the league who also plays some nice run support D. Reed gets the picks, but Mikell is the true star in coverage.
3. Ed Reed- A pick machine.
4. Nick Collins- A big playmaker who showed it in the Super Bowl.
5. LaRon Landry- Did you see this guy at the beginning of 2010? Expect more big things with Atogwe next to him.

6. Antoine Bethea- Remember when Bethea was more than just a tackle-machine?
7. Adrian Wilson- He'll bounce back in 2011. He's still too good to not improve from last year.
8. Michael Huff- I can't wait to see what he achieves next year after building on an amazing 2010.
9. Eric Weddle- The Chargers really need to lock this guy up.
10. DaWan Landry- He may be poor in coverage, but boy does he make plays and tackle well.

11. Chris Harris- One of the best leaders and most underrated players in the game.
12. Jim Leonhard- He showed his importance after the Jets' secondary really took a step back when he went on the IR.
13. Eric Berry- This guy is a stud and another one of Pioli's great picks.
14. Tyvon Branch- He was game last year with Huff. Man can he disrupt plays behind in the line of scrimmage.
15. Kerry Rhodes- I love his run D. He was underpaid and under-appreciated by the Jets, and he has shown just how good he is with the Cardinals.

16. Roman Harper- I know he sucks in coverage, but he is the best pass rushing safety in the league and can hit like heck.
17. Dashon Goldson- He oozes raw ability.
18. Donte Whitner- A real prize in free agency.
19. Bernard Pollard- It's not his fault that the Texans' secondary is bad.
20. Thomas DeCoud- He was one of the most improved players last season.

21. Michael Griffin- He would be much, much higher if he stopped making an excusable number of whiffed tackles.
22. OJ Atogwe
23. Malcolm Jenkins
24. Ryan Clark
25. Jairus Byrd
26. Gerald Sensabaugh
27. Charlie Peprah
28. Yeremiah Bell
29. Earl Thomas
30. Charles Godfrey
31. Sean Jones
32. Danieal Manning
33. Antrel Rolle
34. Louis Delmas
35. TJ Ward
36. Sherrod Martin
37. Deon Grant
38. Chris Hope
39. George Wilson
40. Nate Allen
12 Safety in NFL

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