|FUN FRIDAY: Is Otah's future a concern, and 10 other observations|
|Written by Steve Reed|
|Friday, 12 November 2010 23:25|
CHARLOTTE – Three years ago, the Carolina Panthers traded up into the first round to draft Jeff Otah, the thinking being that would give them bookend offensive tackles for the next eight to 10 years.|
But now there has to be some level of concern within the organization about Otah’s long-term availability after he couldn’t make it back from a routine arthroscopic knee operation in August.
The Panthers initially called that surgery a success and said Otah would be ready for the regular-season opener. Instead, one week stretched into two, and two into three and so on.
Otah never could make it back and earlier this week was placed on injured reserve.
Otah said Wednesday that he wasn’t concerned about his future in the league and is confident he’ll make it back for next season.
But whenever big men begin to have problems with their knees it’s almost never a good sign. Otah hasn’t put on pads now since the middle of last December when he first tore the meniscus in his knee, which started the entire problem.
There’s also something else to consider and this could come into play when Otah’s next contract comes up in a couple of years. There’s at least a small faction of folks inside the organization who feel Otah gave up on the team this season and didn’t really push himself to get back as hard as he could have.
Otah, for his part, said he desperately wanted to play this year but there was little more he could do to get on the field. He claims the knee simply didn’t heal as fast as he or the team wanted.
Regardless, the Panthers now face some uncertainty at a position they once felt pretty good about.
Jordan Gross, who mans the other tackle spot, has fought back from a broken leg last season and is still playing at a high level. But Gross isn’t getting any younger, and next year will be his ninth in the NFL.
Eventually, the Panthers will need a replacement there too.
That begs the question of whether the Panthers should draft a tackle high this year knowing they’ll eventually need to fill those spots.
And maybe sooner than expected.
INJURY UPDATE: RBs DeAngelo Williams (sprained foot), Jonathan Stewart (concussion) and Tyrell Sutton (ankle) are out, along with DE Greg Hardy (concussion). LB Nic Harris (knee) is probable.
Here are my 10 observations from the week:
1. Insight of the week: Everyone wants to know why the Panthers don’t give Armanti Edwards a crack at playing quarterback this week.
“What do they have to lose,” people keep asking me.
Well, unfortunately it’s not that easy.
For one, Edwards isn’t even mildly prepared to handle running an NFL offense. He didn’t even start taking snaps from under center until this week, so he’s unfamiliar with the calls and the reads from a quarterback perspective.
If the Panthers ran Edwards out there, it wouldn’t take the Bucs defense long to confuse him and make him look like a fool.
That said, Edwards has ability and needs to see some time at quarterback in the second half of the season. But first, the Panthers need to get him prepared and that will take some time. This is the NFL, not college, and you can’t just throw someone out there.
2. My advice of the week: Contain Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman. Freeman is a big dude (6-6, 248) and he’s extremely tough to bring down as the Panthers learned in their first matchup with the Bucs in September.
It wasn’t necessarily that the Panthers didn’t get any pressure on Freeman but rather they couldn’t get him on the ground.
Freeman repeatedly shrugged off would-be tacklers and found receivers downfield, mainly tight end Kellen Williams.
Freeman hurt the Panthers with his feet, finishing with 43 yards on four carries.
Earlier this week, coach John Fox conceded the Panthers don’t have anything to imitate Freeman’s size in practice.
“We’ve got to practice tackling a big quarterback, and we use those big blue (tackling) bags over there,” Fox said this week. “They’re a little easier to hit than him.”
3. Foxism of the week: You have to love Fox separating himself from personnel decisions after Sunday’s game only to come back the next day and say he still has a role in the personnel decision-making.
We've written about it in the past, and it continues to be true – Fox is still trying to distance himself from the personnel decisions in an effort to later proclaim, “I didn’t cause that mess. It wasn’t my idea!”
4. Hypothetical thought of the week: This is just something to put on the back burner, but what happens if running back Mike Goodson makes good on his starting opportunity?
What if he has a few 100-yard games, something no other Carolina back has accomplished this season?
Would that influence the team’s decision on whether or not to re-sign soon-to-be free agent DeAngelo Williams after the season? If Goodson proves to be an effective, albeit cheaper, alternative to Williams, the Panthers could then use that extra cash to re-sign other core players or bring in help from the outside.
That said, my gut feeling is the Panthers do everything they can to re-sign Williams and not let him walk – even if that means putting a franchise tag on him, providing there still is one.
5. Encouraging stat of the week: The Panthers have won six of their last seven games at Raymond James Stadium. Of course, in the last seven years, the Panthers have had good teams and not the lot they have this season.
6. What I didn’t like from Week 9: There wasn’t much to like from Carolina’s 34-3 thumping at the hands of the New Orleans Saints, but perhaps the most disappointing aspect of all is how the offense simply isn’t showing any improvement.
Yes, it all starts with the quarterback position but there are so many issues right now with the offense you can’t begin to describe them all.
7. Stat of the week: According to STATS, LLC, the Panthers are the first team to enter a game with three rookie quarterbacks since they began keeping track of such information in 1991.
8. Unrelated thought of the week: So the Panthers sign 31-year-old QB Brian St. Pierre to the practice squad on Friday. My big question is why? St. Pierre is already getting up there in years in terms of football age and doesn’t have much experience. He’s only thrown five passes in the NFL. Quite frankly, the move really doesn’t make much sense at all. That one is a head scratcher.
9. Interesting nugget of the week: It probably shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone and this may be classified as beating a dead horse, but the Panthers offense is dreadfully bad in the red zone this year.
Of their 16 possessions in the red zone, the Panthers have only scored eight times – four TDs and four FGs – right at 50 percent.
By comparison, the next lowest team in the NFL is the Seattle Seahawks at 78.6 percent. Ironically, the 0-8 Buffalo Bills are the best in the red zone, having scored on 100 percent of their 16 trips in the red zone.
10. Wild prediction of the week: Goodson scores on a long touchdown run Sunday. I don’t think the Panthers have any shot at beating the Bucs, but perhaps Goodson will give the Panthers a little spark on offense with the other three backs out.