Lewis Woodard Talks Panthers Free Agency With James Dator
The Last Word 3-27-2013 – James Dator, editor of SB Nation’s Cat Scratch Reader, joins Lewis to discuss the Panthers’ recent free agent signings and look ahead to the draft. How will D.J. Moore and Drayton Florence fit in the secondary? Will Ted Ginn improve the Panther’s underperforming special teams unit? Who would be an ideal fit in the draft?
Timestamps are in parentheses.
Lewis starts by asking James if prioritizing the secondary in free agency was a good call. Without hesitation, James supports Gettleman’s decision. “All you had to do is look at some of the games during the 2012 season. Any Panthers fan remembers that game against Atlanta when they got burned at the last second with the deep ball over Haruki Nakamura so I think going to the secondary was the sensible move (2:28).”
When asked what role veteran corner Drayton Florence will play for the Panthers, James responds, “At this point in his career [Drayton] is probably best suited to being a nickelback, but because of cutting Chris Gamble, he finds himself in an odd situation where he is the Panthers most talented cornerback (3:39).”
What about Spartanburg native D.J. Moore? “In a lot of ways both of these players are similar. They both play that number three cornerback role, but because of the Panthers’ needs in the secondary I think at least one of them will be asked to start outside (4:14).”
Lewis moves the conversation to Captain Munnerlyn – a polarizing figure for Panthers’ fans. He was soundly criticized early in the season, but many considered him essential to re-sign months later. How should we view Captain Munnerlyn?
James weighs in: “If you look at arc of his career, he’s always excelled at that number three corner role.” He continues, “[Captain]‘s not the biggest guy. He’s not the fastest guy, but he works well in smaller spaces.”
If there’s a problem with their free agency strategy, according to James, it’s because the Panthers acquired three guys who work best in the nickel role – a one man job. “I think the problem the Panthers have now is how they kind of reconcile have these three guys who are all ostensibly nickel corners at this point in their career – in Drayton Florence, DJ Moore and Captain Munnerlyn – and who’s going to end up starting on the outside (5:29)?”
They transition from the secondary to the Panther’s “splash” acquisition – return specialist Tedd Ginn, Jr. Lewis attempts to get James in trouble with his readers by asking how Ginn affects former Appalachian State star Armanti Edwards. Reluctantly, James responds, “I think [Armanti] will make it to training camp, but when we get around to last cuts, especially if the Panthers decide to draft a wide receiver or bring someone else in. He should be the one feeling nervous (13:03).”
Lewis notes that the Panthers have ranked near the bottom of the league in back to back years in special teams and hopes that Ginn will help improve the unit’s production. James is cautiously optimistic. He says,”What we saw on special teams last year was a product of a lot of undrafted free agents, a lot of guys without experience thrust into positions where they had to make plays. I think with a year under their belt, with a little more time, and especially after adding Ginn, I think we’ll an incremental improvement in special teams, but I don’t think we’ll see any major jumps (15:19).”
What is the Panthers’ biggest need in free agency that hasn’t been addressed yet? James believes it’s wide receiver. “They’ve got to find a way to get a number three wide receiver. I think Ted Ginn can contribute here and there, but I think it’s a mistake to rely on him to be the Panthers’ slot receiver (15:55).”
Lewis presses James on who the Panthers draft needs. Given equal talent, do the Panthers need a defensive tackle or wide receiver more? James believes their greater need is at DT and would love to add another Utah Ute to the roster. “Star Lotulelei out of Utah would be an absolute dream for the Panthers. He projects to be a 4-3 nose tackle, filling that Ron Edwards role, but he has a lot of athleticism to him too where he can really manipulate the line of scrimmage and push people back.”
Unfortunately, James doesn’t think Lotulelei will fall to the Panthers at number 14. “I think he’s probably going to go top 5 overall. “James then lists defensive tackles Shariff Floyd, Sheldon Richardson and Jesse Williams as players to consider if Lotulelei is off the board.
If the Panthers opt to go with a wide receiver, who should they choose?
James appreciates Tavon Austin’s playmaking ability, but really has his eye on a receiver who’s currently working through knee and hamstring injuries. “A guy who I really like is Keenan Allen out of California.” James continues, “He spent the entire pre-draft process with Ricky Proehl – who’s now the Panthers’ wide receivers coach.” James notes that Allen possesses good size and made plays despite working with a subpar quarterback at Cal. “He’s a guy who I expect to climb up the board as soon as he’s able to workout and show people what he was able to do at Cal (21:19).”
Lewis concludes by asking James what the Panthers need to do make the playoffs next year. He simply replies, “Find offensive consistency.” James takes issue with former offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski’s playcalling decisions. “I’d like to see Mike Shula slow everything down and go down to some more basic offensive principles.” He continues, “Really use those two running backs and set things up so Newton doesn’t always have to make 3rd and 12 throws and instead can make some third and three throws (22:42).”
~Lewis Woodard, WFNZ Sports Radio The Fan 610 AM
Find Lewis on Twitter @LewWoodard