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The Unemployment Line

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Posted

I'm not so sure that we need to keep Peppers. To be honest, I'm kind of scared of what could happen without him, but what if we franchise tagged him? We'd be back in the 1st round if another team would bite on it, and we could use that on his replacement(s), and then some.

In this day and age of football where holding is never called, and offenses are given the upper hand, I'm just not so sure that Julius Peppers makes a big enough impact on games on a week-to-week basis to completely throw trading/tagging him out the window.

This is coming from a guy who has defended the guy from day 1 (almost blindly, but I do have good information:)) It just might be time to look at the new era of the defensive line.

I understand he gets doubled a lot, but I'd like to see him cause more havok when he's singled up if we're going to break the bank to keep him.

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Here is a big question heading into the offseason. What price is too high to re-sign Peppers? Does he really deserve to be one of the highest paid defensive players in the league? He is a great athelet and a good/pro bowl DE but just isn't a game changer. At least not on a consistant basis. You could turn the same arguement about Delhomme onto Peppers. IMO anything over 6 mill a year isn't a value for what you get and in an offseason with a lot of needs his trade value may outweight his onfield value. JMO and I'm sure I'm going to get bashed for it but I don't care.

IF we're to overpay him, i say tag him and trade him elsewhere for a boatload of picks. otherwise, pay him. who else would garner double teams on our line and get to the QB? and who we can replace him with?

thought: nashonigi (sp?) and a pick for peppers? would you do it?

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Here's my take on who needs to go, and who doesn't.

Most of these thoughts were formed before tonight's game. Only a few are new, with the very first being the most obvious of the "new" batch :(

DEPARTURES

JAKE DELHOMME: I'm as big a fan of Delhomme as you'll find, but I'm not sure his teammates can follow him into battle in the future as confidently as they did before. If they can, then he stays, and it'll be a testament to just how much respect he command in the locker room. Much as I hate it though, i just don't see that happening.

My best hope: the team keeps him on-board in some sort of coaching capacity. Delhomme has shown himself to be the kind of guy you want as a mentor to the younger QBs. Mike McCoy critics would likely love to see Delhomme replace his QB coach. I doubt we'll see that (at least not next year) but he's good for the team, and I'd love to see his influence remain even if it isn't in an on-field role.

MIKE TRGOVAC: To be clear, I'm not new to the anti-Trgo movement, but I think tonight was definitive. yes, the defense didn't give up as much in the second half, but I think you'd have to say the Cardinals took their foot off the gas (and why not? we were posing no threat) :(

KEN LUCAS: That he's miscast as a physical corner on a defense that prefers zone coverage is valid, and not his fault. With that said, his combination of age, salary and overall quality make it pretty unlikely he'll still be a Panther next season. Shame because I like him. The downside though? I'm not dead certain that his heir apparent, Richard Marshall, is the answer as a starting corner. maybe he is, but I'm not convinced of that at this point.

JEREMY BRIDGES: This one's iffy, because both Jordan Gross and Geoff Hangartner are free agents this offseason. What happens with them could have a big impact on whether Bridges sticks around, especially Hangarter. If the team hangs on to Hangartner, it could be bad news for his CPI security partner. Hurts me a lot to say it because I've always liked Bridges, but with the line depth overall better and the notion that at least a few tweaks happen every offseason, his time as a Panther could be at an end. My overall sense is that it will be, but I could easily be wrong.

NICK GOINGS: The Panthers longtime Mr. Reliable largely disappeared this past season. the emergence - and durabilty - of Jonathan Stewart, made him redundant. It's honestly hard to imagine a Panther roster without Nick Goings, but come next year I have a feeling you won't need an imagination to see it.

DEMOTIONS

DAMIONE LEWIS: I like Lewis, but I like him a lot better as a situational rusher than I do as an every down lineman. Likewise I prefer Ma'ake Kemoeatu as a two down player geared toward running downs. To be clear, I believe the team made the right decision when it ousted Kris Jenkins. With that said, I also think the team needs to find an every down DT to take his spot next year, allowing them to go back to using Kemo and Lewis situationally as they did when Jenkins was here.

JEFF KING: Yeah, I know I'm reaching here, but I'm holding out hope that this will be the offseason the team finally decides to ditch the "one blocker, one receiver" model at tight end and goes after a Jason Witten / Todd Heap / Dallas Clark type TE that can do both things well. Being brutally honest, nobody has to respect Jeff king as a receiver. We need someone starting at tight end that teams do have to account for while also being someone who can contribute in the run game as well. Good as the offense was this year, that one thing could have made it all that much better.

NA'IL DIGGS: You might read this and think "Diggs did nothing glaringly wrong this season" and you'd be right. With that said, I think his best contribution on the defense has been veteran presence and leadership. At this point, I believe Jon Beason has enough seasoning to fill that role, and for that reason i can see Diggs being demoted so that a younger, faster guy can take over, solidifying what could be one of the best linebacking corps in the league (if they get the right guy).

UNDERSTUDYS

BRAD HOOVER: In one or two cases, I'm not so much looking for a replacement as I am a successor. At the top of that list, longtime fullback and one time pie-in-the-face victim Brad Hoover. I think it's long past time we had an "heir apparent" waiting behind Hoover. As I've stated before, no disrespect to Hoover but I'd like for the next fullback to be more of a Howard Griffith / Lorenzo Neal type sledgehammer back.

MUHSIN MUHAMMAD: Moose was great this year, and I do believe he's got one more year like that in him. With that said though, the team needs someone of similar pedigree waiting in the wings. Sadly, I don't think either DJ Hackett or Dwayne Jarrett is "that guy". If the team finds someone who is ready to go, then by the middle of next season I think it's conceivable that Moose moves into the "Ricky Proehl" position as the savvy veteran number three. Mind you, this can only truly work if his replacement is at least somewhere close to Moose in the blocking skill department. Otherwise the run game may suffer.

RETURNS

Without much comment, here are the people whose ouster and or replacement I think some folks will be calling for undeservedly:

Charles Godfrey (hit the rookie wall, but still good for the future)

Tyler Brayton/Charles Johnson (an able enough rotation on the other side if Peppers stays)

Mark Jones (unspectacular perhaps, but solid and improving)

John Kasay (still has a year two in him, Rhys Lloyd looks like a decent understudy)

Julius Peppers / Jordan Gross (not a doubt in my mind now that both need to be re-signed)

Jeff Davidson (still learning, and was outmatched tonight, but is steadily getting better)

John Fox (still the best coach the Panthers have had; any calls to get rid of him now are unfounded)

SUMMARY

What you see above is the blueprint for a way more active offseason than most folks would have expected, even as little as 24 hours ago.

Then again, 24 hours ago not too many of us expected that our offseason would be starting today :(

It must also be remembered that with the status of major free agents Julius Peppers and Jordan Gross still up in the air, failure to secure either one would add a major offseason priority and make it tougher to address many of the other things listed here.

Bottom Line: I still think overall there's plenty to work with and build on for next year.

We'll see whether or not that proves true.

How can you say you are the biggest Jake fan but you want to see him kick rocks back to Louisiana? What kind of fan are you? I like Jake but I think we should keep him on the sideline not get rid of the man..anyway my opinion.

Departures: The whole defensive staff, Julius Peppers, Diggs, Lucas,

I would love to see us get some good tough minded guys on defense in free agency and later on in the draft, and draft a young qb with our first pick.

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I'm not so sure that we need to keep Peppers. To be honest, I'm kind of scared of what could happen without him, but what if we franchise tagged him? We'd be back in the 1st round if another team would bite on it, and we could use that on his replacement(s), and then some.

In this day and age of football where holding is never called, and offenses are given the upper hand, I'm just not so sure that Julius Peppers makes a big enough impact on games on a week-to-week basis to completely throw trading/tagging him out the window.

This is coming from a guy who has defended the guy from day 1 (almost blindly, but I do have good information:)) It just might be time to look at the new era of the defensive line.

I understand he gets doubled a lot, but I'd like to see him cause more havok when he's singled up if we're going to break the bank to keep him.

A lot of the impact Julius has isn't seen on the stat sheet. Opposing teams have to game plan around him, and that's something you want in a player, badly.

We already gave up one unique physical specimen by trading Kris Jenkins. And while that trade was justified, how nice would it have been to have the physical ability jenkins brought to the table in the arsenal tonight?

If you give up a guy like that, you better have a darn good reason. They had that with Jenkins, but not with Peppers.

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All around DEs dont happen very often and we are not just gonna replace peppers. I blame coaching and not using him right more then I do Peps play. He has 13 sacks and really no one else even came close to getting to the qb this year but him.

So how do you fix those problems? Signing him to a

12 to 15 mill dollar a year deal won't leave much for re-signing Gross and/or other starting caliber d-lineman.

Peppers is good and I would hate to see him leave. I just don't want him staring for the Panther in 2009 if that means 11 t5 a year.

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Kemo draws a ton of double teams on 1st and 2nd down anyways. At least with most teams he does. Peppers usually doesn't get doubled unless it's a passing down.

This is the way I look at it. Kemo is going to get doubled on run downs. It's just going to happen. So, you've got Peppers out on the edge getting singled. Sure he makes some nice plays sometimes, but most times he's not really a gamebreaker. He fills his responsibilities most times, but that doesn't really change the game. You don't have to pay franchise money to get a defensive end that can just hold his own with a single blocker.

I guess the only time you wouldn't know who'd eat the double would be on passing downs. But I'm not so sure it really makes that big of a difference. This line is doing decently at just holding the line, but they are not game changers. It feels like 9 times out of 10 when we get a sack it's because we blitzed or it was a coverage sack.

The whole point of having someone like Peppers on your team is so you don't have to blitz to get pressure. We have to blitz. And whats the point of a franchise DE if he's only effective if you have yet....ANOTHER franchise DLineman to support him? Losing guys like Jenkins and Rucker have really hurt his ability to make plays.... to the point where I think his trade value exceeds his actual value.

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Did Bridges just let that guy through to lay one on Jake? I swear it looked like it to me.

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I don't see why you get rid of Jake for one game. He won 12 for us and thats not bad I don't think.

I'm going to refrain from getting too much into the Jake thing for a couple of days in order to avoid the reactionary/emotional rantings that many are posting right now, however, I will give a quick response to this.

First of all, Jake did not win 12 games for us, he managed 12 wins...some of which he tried very hard to lose (not intentionally, obviously). Even in the games in which he played ok, he really didn't stand out. This was the season of the RB's and the team pulling together, with the QB only being needed to manage the games. And with those expectations, he still had a very uneven year.

So, it was not for just one game that some feel it is time for him to be replaced as starter, but a season's worth (IMO, it goes beyond this season, but that's a discussion for another time).

Here's the thing that this game did make me wonder about:

One issue that could be bigger than people realize is that it's possible he lost the trust of the team tonight. Up until this game, most players had faith that when the chips were down or when we made it into the playoffs, Jake would be able to step up and lead this team to victory, but I'm not sure that's the case now.

This is two straight playoff games in which Jake has stunk it up, and that's the one thing players do not want in their QB. After all, getting to the playoffs is nice, but they all want to win the big game, or at least feel like they have a fighting chance, but when they can't count on the QB to keep them in the game (or at least not to take them out of it) it can really shake the foundation of their trust...no matter how good of a leader he has been or how much everyone likes him personally.

I don't know if that's the case, and we'll likely never hear it if it is, but I do think this is a legitimate concern. Is the team's faith in Jake eroding, or do they still fully believe in him???

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Did Bridges just let that guy through to lay one on Jake? I swear it looked like it to me.

Intentionally? Doubt it. I think he just made a huge mental error.

(one that, given his overall performance tonight, could cost him a job)

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One issue that could be bigger than people realize is that it's possible he lost the trust of the team tonight. Up until this game, most players had faith that when the chips were down or when we made it into the playoffs, Jake would be able to step up and lead this team to victory, but I'm not sure that's the case now.

This is two straight playoff games in which Jake has stunk it up, and that's the one thing players do not want in their QB. After all, getting to the playoffs is nice, but they all want to win the big game, or at least feel like they have a fighting chance, but when they can't count on the QB to keep them in the game (or at least not to take them out of it) it can really shake the foundation of their trust...no matter how good of a leader he has been or how much everyone likes him personally.

I don't know if that's the case, and we'll likely never hear it if it is, but I do think this is a legitimate concern. Is the team's faith in Jake eroding, or do they still fully believe in him???

You can't really put the Seattle game on Delhomme. We had Jamal Robertson in at running back (Goings got his bell rung) and had Drew Carter and Keary Colbert opposite Smith. There was no winning that game. We were just too far down into the depth chart (not to mention tired from being on the road).

That said, the notion that the team might have trouble keeping the same faith in Jake that they had before is a legit concern. I posted on it as well.

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Tim Lewis is a really tough one to figure.

On the one hand, Chris Gamble improved by leaps and bounds under him. You'd also have to throw in that the Panther secondary was flagged only one time for pass interference all year, one time. That's impressive.

On the flipside, the number of 'ricochets' this year has been maddening. You could say a lot of that's on the players, but when three or four players all share the same weakness, you have to look a little deeper.

If Trgovac goes, Tim Lewis likely gets a look at defensive coordinator.

Does he get the job? Don't know.

I've long been an advocate of Fox looking at Titans LB coach (and former Cardinals head coach) Dave McGinniss as a Trgovac replacement.

We weren't flagged for PI as much due to the fact that our defenders were simply nowhere near where the receivers were catching the ball. Hey... at least we avoided the penalties.

I have to think either Lewis or Trgo is gone. Fox seemed pretty irritated about things with our D tonight that had more to do than just secondary coverages... namely, pressing the QB. That's directly on Trgo's playcalling.

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We weren't flagged for PI as much due to the fact that our defenders were simply nowhere near where the receivers were catching the ball. Hey... at least we avoided the penalties.

I'm sorry but that is just absolutely not true. Even though our pass defense was terrible towards the end of the year, I don't blame the defensive backs. You can't. The pressure on the QB hasn't been there, and the soft zone scheme is an absolute joke.

Blame Mike Trgovac, blame the entire defense for a lack of stopping the pass...but don't single out the secondary. That unit has done nothing but improve since Tim Lewis arrived. And yes, I'm talking about the unit as a whole. There is no secondary in this league that can shut down the pass without some heat on the QB. It doesn't have to be over the top, but you can't let a QB sit there and go through every single one of his reads, and then wait for someone to just get open. There is no defensive back in the world that can cover a WR forever. If you cover your assignment for 3-5 seconds on a typical play, you've done your job.

In a zone defense, there are holes. We let Larry Fitzgerald run wild and exploit them, and we gave Kurt Warner enough time to find him whenever he needed to. That's where the failure is.

What you're saying would be the same as blaming a team's running backs for their lack of a ground game when the offensive line can't manage to open up a single hole.

For a defense to work, no matter what the scheme is, everyone has to be doing their jobs. You could put together an All-NFL allstar secondary, and if you give any NFL QB all day to throw, he's going to shred them into next week.

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