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“Uncertainty along Carolina’s defensive front”
by Steve Reed
Gazette Sports Reporter
CHARLOTTE — It’s amazing to think that just two years ago the Carolina Panthers defensive line seemed strong and stable.
Julius Peppers and Kris Jenkins were signed through 2008 and Mike Rucker and Brentson Buckner through 2007. These guys were good and it seemed they’d be together forever. And the Panthers were better off for it.
People were ready to start coming up with nicknames for the group.
But my, how things have changed.
Buckner was released last offseason and free agent Ma’ake Kemoeatu was brought in to replace him. Rucker, a mainstay since 1999, suffered a severe knee injury last December and, although he will play this year, his long-term future remains up in the air, with retirement being one option. And Jenkins, despite three Pro Bowl appearances, is on the trading block and could be moved as soon as this weekend. Even backup Al Wallace was shown the door this offseason.
The only defensive lineman from that group likely to be playing for the Panthers beyond this season is Peppers, one of the league’s more dominant players, and one who should command a healthy raise in the next year or two.
As the Panthers head into this weekend’s draft, much of what they do will depend on whether or not they are able to move Jenkins. If they do trade Jenkins, they’ll need to target a defensive lineman early in the draft.
PANTHERS IN PLACE: The Panthers are banking on Peppers and Rucker starting again at the ends and Damione Lewis, a former first-round draft pick by St. Louis in 2001, starting alongside Kemoeatu if Jenkins is moved. But while all signs point to Rucker being back on the field, you have to wonder how much the injury will limit him this season.
Regardless, the Panthers will need to add depth in the draft because of the loss of top reserve Wallace and the anticipated trade of Jenkins.
DRAFT OUTLOOK: The Panthers own the 14th pick and there are expected to be as many as six de-fensive lineman going in the top 15 picks — defensive ends Jamaal Anderson from Arkansas, Gaines Adams from Clemson and Jarvis Moss from Florida and defensive tackles Amobi Okoye from Louisville and Alan Branch from Michigan. And then there’s Adam Carriker from Nebraska, who can play both positions.
There’s no shortage of guys to choose from. If Carolina doesn’t address this need in round one, then expect them to do so in the second or third round.
PANTHERS’ OPTIONS: If the Panthers go the defensive line route, Carriker seems to make the most sense. The Panthers love versatile defensive lineman and Carriker can play both spots and is considered a high-character guy. Most importantly, Carriker also seems to fit best in Carolina’s style of defense.
PANTHERS’ BEST PICK: There’s no real doubt about this one. Peppers, the second overall player se-lected in 2002 (behind new teammate David Carr) has a chance to go down in history as one of the best to ever play the game. Some will say Peppers was a slam-dunk, but Carolina certainly had other options like Joey Harrington, who at the time seemed like a great pick. But the Panthers made the right move and landed Peppers.
Carolina also struck gold with second-round picks Rucker (1999) and Jenkins (2001), who have been voted to a combined four Pro Bowls.
PANTHERS’ WORST PICK: Carolina’s attempt to rebuild their old defensive line through the draft in 1998 turned out to be a complete disaster.
They took Jason Peter in the first round and then Chuck Wiley in the third and both busted. But un-doubtedly the worst pick ever came later in that same third round when they took so-called “workout warrior” Mitch Marrow from Pennsylvania, a player who could never get on the field due to back prob-lems. (Must have hurt himself in the weight room.)
Oh, but wait, the list gets longer.
In 1996, the Panthers took J.C. Price from Virginia Tech in the third round. The Panthers learned never to never again draft a player who was nicknamed “The Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.”
The Price selection came one year after the Panthers used a second-round pick on Shawn King, who demonstrated that he preferred smoking marijuana over playing football.
Other busts included Alvin McKinley and Gillis Wilson in 2000.
Last edited by RamsSB99; -04-26-2007 at 08:59 PM.
Re: “Uncertainty along Carolina’s defensive front”
It don't make a lot of sense to me that they would trade Jenkins and then go DL in round 1.
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