To contribute to the slowest time of the year, I decided to step back and look at what we have done since Gettlemen arrived to see if there is a strategy. Much of this is conjecture and I am not pretending to know anything-I feel confident that parts are correct and only share this to stimulate discussion. I probably would not have posted this had there been any real news to disucss, but when I see "Hardy might be naked" and "Cam throws a ball 50 yards" as topics that won't go away, I decided to try to raise the stakes. This is long and many will comment without reading it, or about how long it is, like when their teachers assigned a short story longer than a few pages. But all are welcome here. Here is what I came up with. Have at it--I am sure I missed a few names/moves:
- Star Lotulelei ( 1st round draft steal; starting NT)
- Drayton Florence (competing for starting CB job)
- Mike Mitchell (competing for starting SS job)
- DJ Moore (Competing for starting Nickel job)
- KK Short DT (2nd rounder who can rush the passer; should split time with Dwan Edwards)
- Chase Blackburn (starting-quality depth behind oft-injured LB corps)
- Colin Cole (possible key rotation at NT-fell in our laps)
- Captain Munnerlyn (re-signed starting Nickel back)
- AJ Klein (5th round LB who can play behind 2 or all 3 LB positions)
- Quintin Mikell (If signed, will compete for the SS starting job-33 years old though)
- Hixon (replace Murphy as the #3 WR)
- Ben Hartsock (re-signed Blocking TE, reserve, but could have a bigger role in run game)
- Edmund Kugbila (4th round G from small school; probably for 2014)
- Barner (6th round, #3/4 RB or Scatback?)
- Ted Ginn (return specialist)
- Chase Blackburn (a solid special teamer who will see time as a backup LB as well)
Gettlemen and Rivera were faced with several conditions that influenced personnel decisions.
- In February, this team was $16 million over the cap, with about 10% of the cap invested in the RB position. Free agency (the crop of players) was not great either.
- The team had 5 draft picks, only 2 that were not “Day 3” picks.
- The team had needs at Nose DT (2), Under DT (2), CB, WR, RG, S, KR, PR, Nickel CB, TE, and backup QB.
The first thing a good boss will do when arriving at a new job is do a complete a needs assessment to analyze where the company is and where it is going. Personnel is his job, so personnel assessment was his first order of business. He talked to Rivera and learned what he was trying to do as a coach. It is so obvious what they discussed by now. They addressed the needs of the offense and the defense very differently.
Defense: They decided to allow Rivera to coach to his strengths and focus on the defense; he has one year—maybe half a season—to show improvement. It seems obvious now that DT was the priority, and what a masterful job Gettlemen did at finding 4 players who turn the joke of the interior line into a strength of the team. Blending veterans with rookies, expect to see our NTs hold court and the 3 techniques get after the passer. When this happens, everyone gets better. While an offensive line in front of a QB is important, a defense behind the QB is also important. By solidifying the DT position, the entire defense (DBs, LBs, DEs) get better. The QB gets better field position and has less pressure to score 30 points a game to stay in them. Gettlemen brought in or re-signed around 7 players who will either start or rotate in regularly. That is significant when your offense also has needs.
Offense: So, Gettlemen and Rivera, do you really think Hixon is the answer to our offensive woes? Do you think Valdosta State Guards are going to save this team? Personnel is NOT how they chose to address the needs on offense. Listen to what they say and what they did. The offense will be remodeled—in 2014. They redo the Gross deal, making him expendable (if needed) next year. They made DWill take a cut and will probably part ways with him in 2014. Kalil and Olsen chipped in. Aside from Hixon, an oft-injured #3 WR and the draft’s fourth and sixth rounds, what have we done? CONSISTENCY was the key to the offense. They are putting it on Cam’s shoulders. Gone are the Chud ways. In with Shula. Out with the complexity of play calling and confusion; in with simplicity and thinking faster. Since we cannot cut or trade our cap-heavy RBs, let’s get more out of them. With WRs on first contracts who have seen little action on the roster, hope that a star emerges from the competition and the motivation of contract years. We could not afford a top WR anyway-not this year. So, by changing our language and keeping consistency, we expect our offense to grow.
Heck, I would say that Special teams have been upgraded more than the offense has been so far.
Look for the offense to get the attention in the 2014 offseason. Williams will be gone (94% certain) and most of the WRs will be free agents. Gettlemen will have a season of tape to decide if there are any (including Lafell) worth a second contract. Kugbila will be ready to beast on the right side, and maybe we finally grab that OLT or sign Gross for one more season. And in his contract year, Cam Newton gets some weapons on offense to go with that awesome defense.