The State of the Roster
by, 05-31-2013 at 05:06 PM (1077 Views)
The purpose of this piece is to outline the strengths and weaknesses of our roster in order to evaluate where it is likely to be upgraded next offseason.
We have a much more stable roster than this time last year. Whereas last year the D-Line was an area of weakness we have now resigned our lead DT as well as drafting two of the top interior linesmen in the draft. Not only does this give us a very good group of players but also a stable base to build upon defensively. Credit must also be given for improving depth in this area; Colin Cole is a very good player who, although limited by injury, has shown himself to be a starter-quality player. Linden Gaydosh also, although not currently starter-quality, has the potential to develop and eventually replace Edwards as that no3 tackle. Although this year saw no addition to the DE group, this was already an area of strength. Although relatively inexperienced (Johnson is our most experienced starter with only 6 years of pro football) this group has huge potential and should see no change soon.
Linebacker was always a strength, but it is now even stronger. Admittedly Anderson was let go, but he wasn't a guaranteed starter and certainly not worth what he was due to be paid. Even with him gone, we have the best LB group in he league. Keuchley, although still inexperienced, has proven himself to be one of the very best LBs around. Beason, when fit, is also up there with anyone, boasting consistently excellent stats. Thomas Davis is also a very good player. He has had some injury issues, but managed to stay healthy last year and hopefully will continue to do so. Behind them we have Klein, one of the most talented and underrated LBs in this year's class, Blackburn, who started on a Superbowl-winning defence two years ago, and Senn, who is much better than most people realise. All in all, this a good group that is only likely to get better over the next few years.
Running Back has also been upgraded. Williams has been resigned to a more reasonable, and longer, contract. We also added Kenjon Barner in the draft. Although many feel that we didn't need anther HB, but I can see the point of getting him. I believe that there is a good chance of Jonathan Stewart being traded over the next year. He hasn't performed consistently due to injury and with the addition of Tolbert and Barner, I'm not sure in what situations he will be used. Williams is an every-down back and Tolbert and Barner can be used for short-yardage and 3rd-down situations respectively. Although Stewart's departure my leave a space on or HB depth chart, Poole is good enough to fill that role for now. Fullback is a similar situation. Tolbert is a no-question starter and Brockel will be good enough to back him up until we can draft a serious back-up.
The O-Line also saw improvement over the offseason. Gross was resigned to a longer, more reasonable contract and guard Edmund Kugbila was drafted as the long-term replacement at RG. Hopefully, with Kalil returning from injury the O-Line should be stronger. However, there are still improvements to be made. Byron Bell isn't an ideal starter a RT, he was shown-up too often last year to regard his position as safe. Although Kugbila has huge potential, he isn't a guarantee at RG. He has come from a small college and is very raw, there is still a chance that he will never develop into a starter. Kalil is one of the best Cs in the league, but injury is still a concern. If he's fit then he can dominate opposing tackles but a stronger back-up would be useful. Silatolu did well last year but with one year of experience he is not a guarantee. The really big question is Gross, he is a very good LT and an excellent leader but injuries are an issue, he is getting into the last 3 to 5 years of his career and he is owed a lot of money. He is definitely our starter at LT, but it would be wise to start planning for his replacement over the next couple of years.
Secondary is the biggest risk going into this season. We have a lot of inexperienced players mixed with aging veterans. Norman looked good last year but has had limited experience at this level. He could develop into a good corner, but could also be a bust. White and Lester are both UFAs with huge potential, but have no experience at this level. Mitchell has failed to make the jump to the NFL level but he is still young and has potential but is, once again, a risk. Nakamura was poor last year and will be lucky to make the roster, enough said. Campbell is another 1st year player, he looked ok last year, but is unlikely to win a starting role. Munnerlyn is an ok CB but isn't that great, also, I have the feeling that he took a long time to resign for a reason. It seems like he's looking for a big contract and I don't think that he's earned it. Florence proved to be a good corner whilst at Detroit but he is getting towards the end of his career and has had issues with injuries. He will very useful as an experienced ad competent leader in he secondary, when he plays. Moore is a very good nickel, seriously god in fact. But he has never really made the jump outside and I'm not sure he ever will. Although he isn't going to feature as a CB, he will almost certainly have the nickel role to himself for the next few years. Goddfrey is the one player I have very few issues with, he has proven to be a good player with a lot of potential still to be exploited. He wasn't at his best last year but I think that the move from SS to FS will allow him to develop into the player many think he can be. Overall our secondary will be nagging at Rivera and Gettleman's minds for the next 6 months. They have both quite possibly risked their careers on it holding up by not focusing on it during either the Fee Agency or the draft. Hopefully it holds solid, but otherwise we will be drafting a lot of CBs next May.
Special teams was an area or significant non-interest for us last year. Although various players posted solid return stats, we didn't score a special teams TD all season. However, Adams showed enough promise as a punt returner to hold that job despite some fumbling issues. Kick returns, however, looks like an area likely to see significant change. Barner, the rookie, adds some speed whilst FA Ginn should also feature to a reasonable degree. Although players may come in next year who can add to our return game, it is unlikely we will get somebody especially for that. Our specialists, however, are under theat. Graham Gano replaced Medlock part-way through last season. Medlock was awful last year, and I have no qualms with him going, but I'm not sure Gano is much better. He went 9 from 11 last year which, although not awful, isn't great given the kicks he was asked to make. I wouldn't be surprised is he is replaced following some poor performances. Brad Nortman is under threat for his spot on the 53 man roster. He was near the bottom for almost all punting stats last year, the addition of a UFA posting superior stats isn't a good sign for Nortman. Unless he can dramatically improve this year he will get cut. Special teams, although not actually a weakness, is far from a strength. The return gam has seen a boost this offseason, expect the specialist positions to undergo similar treatment before this time next year.
The TE position has seen very little change. Greg Olsen was always the starter, and that continues to be the case. Barnidge has departed for Cleveland but barely played anyway. Since Shockey left we have barely used two TE sets, and that is likely to be the same this year. There is still a reasonable chance at we might sign a FA TE to replace Shockey (such as Kellen Winslow) but, if not, Dante Rosario will line-up as our no2 guy. Brockel continues to be the choice for blocking situations but is fairly limited as a receiver. We have signed a couple of UFAs but they re unlikely t make their ways onto the rotation, but could see time on special teams. Overall, although slightly different, this group is going to be effectively identical to last year.
Receiver is a position that many thought we might look to address in the draft, and with good reason. Although we possess one of the best, if not the best, wide receiver in football in Steve Smith, there is very little depth. What is reassuring is that Smith has recently stated that he wishes to continue playing until at least the end of the 2015 season, meaning that drafting his replacement can be put to one side for now. Behind him though, we have very little depth. Lafell, Hixon and Gettis are all role players (plus Gettis ad Hixon have had issues with injury), although all of them have safe places on the roster for the foreseeable future, a no2 WR is required. Adams and Ginn are on the roster as return men, not as receivers. Both of them have issues which are likely to prevent them from seeing playing time as receivers, but, a long as they contribute as returners, their roster places are safe. Pilares is yet to prove that he has the ability to perform at the next level, Edwards on the other hand has show that he doesn't have the talent. Unless they can step-up they are likely to be gone soon. Overall our receiver group has some talent but is likely to see significant upgrade soon.
Quarterback actually saw significant upgrades this offseason. Newton looks more focused, Anderson was resigned for the next few years and we signed Colby Cameron as a UFA. He is an excellent passer who could well develop into the best back-up in he league. However, this (combined with the fact that he is awful) likely spells the end of Clausen's career in Carolina.
Overall, this group is likely to see additions to the secondary, specialist positions, O-Line and receiver corps. There are also some starter jobs that are sill up for grabs. This team has seen some major changes since Rivera and Newton arrived, expect that theme to continue for the foreseeable future.