Archive for December, 2007

A Democrat speaks out on Bush

And I think he’s right.

A Stand-up President
By Orson Scott Card

One of my favorite parts:

The insane Left loves to call Bush a liar, though they have no evidence of any lies — they have to redefine “lie” in order to make any kind of case.

I voted for Bush twice and I’m proud of it. I think he’s made mistakes, but I think that history is going to be very, very good to him.

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My bold prediction for 2008

The Panthers are unique in that they are the only team in the league with an owner who actually played the game. No other owner has as clear an understanding of what it’s like in the locker room, and how small the separation is between the best and the worst, talent wise. No other owner can really appreciate the combination of talent, execution, and luck it takes to be consistently good and win big in the NFL. I think that when Jerry Richardson evaluates this season, he can take one of two approaches. He can either scrap this current team and see if wholesale changes can fix the attitude in the locker room, or he can go one more year with the current staff and see if a few wins can do it instead.

In business, he never took a lot of risks. Instead he worked hard and was patient, and built a food empire. He’s not a Mark Cuban–in fact he’s the anti-Cuban. If he believes in his product he’ll give it every chance to succeed. That’s why I think that I’m safe in saying this.

No wholesale changes will be made in the off-season.

You may as well get used to the notion of John Fox being around for 2008, because he will. He’s got a big contract and is well-regarded outside of Charlotte. Richardson has plenty of reasons to give him one more year, although he may make it clear that he expects some changes. That means Crossman’s gone for sure, and Fox may not get as much control over personnel decisions.

On offense we don’t need a lot, just another option to throw to and better blocking. With the threat of a real passing game, the misdirection that a zone blocking scheme brings may actually fool a linebacker or two, and running could be more effective. A good quarterback can also make the line look a lot better (consider how bad the line looks when Carr is under center). I kind of expect Fox to open it up like he did in 2003 (come on, did we really look like a ball-control offense in the Super Bowl?). That hinges on two things though. The first is a second receiving threat at the wide receiver position. The second is stability–our offense needs to stay healthy. So here are the offensive changes I’m looking for in the off-season.

Our Offensive Line will remain largely intact. Gross will be resigned at a figure that almost brings the boards down with “Fire Hurney” threads. Wharton, Wahle, and Bridges will probably start in 2008. We will probably draft an offensive tackle, but will start 2008 with largely the same line we had in 2007.

Jake will be our QB in 2008, with Basanez as the first backup and either Moore or a draft pick as the third string. Carr will probably be out of the league, I think everyone will be shocked if he’s still on the roster.

Foster and Williams will still be our backs in 2008. Running backs will go for a premium in the off-season, driven by Michael Turner’s salary demands. Maybe we can borrow Tom Coughlin to teach Foster how to hold on to the ball, because apart from the fumbling we have two decent backs and that’s why this position will be ignored in the off-season.

Jarrett and Smith will be back, and Carter will be if another team doesn’t grab him. Robinson might return, but Colbert will have to go run great routes in practice for someone else. We’ll have a new veteran wide receiver at number two and will also go after one in the draft. Expect some real attention given to this area in the off-season.

Kasay will be back for one more season. Baker will be back also. This means our kicking game will still be the only bright spot of special teams. It’s really impossible to say if we can get better in returns or coverage, but at least we can’t get much worse.

On defense, we really need a couple more players. This unit is suffering from a lack of cohesiveness and a poor balance of talent. We have two (potentially) great players on the defensive line and two who could be characterized as journeymen at best. In the secondary we’re missing a free safety and our strong safety may be a good hitter but he has no coverage skills. The defense is also on the field for way too long, and that has a tendency to wear at the players, both physically and mentally. Look at the difference in effort in the first half and second in our latest game for a perfect example.

Trgovac will be back unless he’s hired away by Michigan. In other words, he won’t be fired. Fox knows defense and obviously respects what Trgovac is doing. He also has a unique understanding of the role and the problems our defense is facing. Trgovac is safe.

Rucker will retire, and the team will pursue a replacement in Free Agency. Don’t be surprised if they make a run at Justin Smith or Jared Allen. This could be our high profile Free Agency signing for 2008.

Morgan will probably call it quits, and if he doesn’t I suspect they’ll finally cut him. If they don’t I think he’ll be demoted to a backup position behind Beason. I love the guy, but just don’t see him on the roster in 2008.

The Panthers will work hard to find a veteran free safety in Free Agency and will look to draft a solid free safety as well. If we strike out at the DE position and still want to spend some serious money in Free Agency, Ken Hamlin is a possibility. They’ll still draft here, and they have Nate Salley coming back next year as well (for what that’s worth).

In sum on defense, if we get a good replacement for Rucker and find a good Free Safety, our basic personnel needs will be met. If the offense can get some points on the board the defense will have more freedom to take some risks. With more scoring the defense will play with less pressure and more abandon. An improved secondary will allow more press coverage from the cornerbacks and more blitzing. It’s not a stretch at all to see the 2008 Panthers at the top of the league in defensive stats. And that’s with some rather minor changes.

Now for the good news. We have an easier schedule in 2008. Tampa Bay will be a year older, the Saints will still be the Saints, and Atlanta will be a non-factor. Four conference wins are almost a certainty. We’ll host San Francisco, Chicago, Detroit, Denver, and Kansas City (combined record of 24-41 so far in 2007), and go on the road against Washington, Green Bay, Minnesota, Oakland, and San Diego (combined record of 36-29 so far in 2007). With a little luck it looks like a double digit win total for the Panthers in the regular season is well within reach.

So wrapping up, I think our draft will target the Offensive Line, the Defensive Secondary, and Wide Receiver. If a gift falls in our lap (like a great QB prospect in the second round), we’ll grab it. Barring injury, we’ll have some great stability at the offensive line and good QB play again. This will keep the defense off the field more. We’ll have two decent Tight Ends who can catch the ball and move the chains. And we *should* finally have a complement to Smitty. Between the tight ends and alternative options at WR, he should get some relief from the regular double-teams.

Frankly, we’re due for some good fortune. The last two years have been killers where injuries have been concerned. This season may suck, but there’s still a lot of goodness left in the core of the panthers. I think that the ownership will see it that way, and though many of you won’t like it, we’ll have yet another off-season with few changes.

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