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Tag:Jeff Otah
Posted on: October 19, 2011 1:10 pm
 

Panthers place RT Jeff Otah on IR

Posted by Will Brinson

There's an argument to be made that last season, the Panthers loss of road-grading right tackle Jeff Otah was bigger than their deficiency at quarterback. We'll see the real validity of that argument starting Sunday against the Redskins, as Otah's season is now over, with the Panthers placing the offensive lineman on injured reserve.

Per our Panthers Rapid Reporter Steve Reed, the Panthers signed guard Reggie Wells (formerly of the Eagles and Cardinals) to take Otah's roster spot. Undrafted rookie Byron Bell, a favorite of the new coaching staff, will take Otah's starting right tackle spot.

"[Otah has] worked hard. He's just never been able to get over the hump," Panthers GM Marty Hurney said, per the Charlotte Observer. "Then he's had concurrent issues. He's been listed as questionable the last two weeks with a back injury.

"We met with Jeff over the last couple of days and decided that the best thing to do was to put him on IR so he could concentrate on strengthening the knee and essentially taking an 11-week loss for long-term, future gain."

That's the same logic that the Panthers took in 2010, when it was clear that they weren't winning many games and Otah lost the entire season due to an injury he suffered in 2009 against the Patriots.

He's now played just four games in the last two seasons and the Panthers have to wonder about his long-term health, especially given his size (6'6", 330 pounds).

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Posted on: October 5, 2011 11:17 am
Edited on: October 6, 2011 4:59 pm
 

Film Room: Panthers vs. Saints preview

Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit



The Saints are 3-1 but it’s the 1-3 Panthers creating most of the chatter. Or, Cam Newton creating the chatter. Through a quarter of his rookie season, the No. 1 overall pick is, in a word, sensational. But obviously not perfect. The Panthers are still dwelling in the basement of the NFC South.

Here’s a comprehensive look at Newton and his club as they head into their first divisional showdown of the season.



1. How good is he, really?
Through four games, Newton has far exceeded all expectations. Remarkably, this includes expectations about his physical talents. We knew the 6’5”, 245-pound Auburn Tiger was an athletic monster, but rarely are quarterbacks still athletic monsters once they reach the NFL. Newton has been a productive runner, both with power and speed.

He’s a poor man’s Vick when it comes to eluding tacklers and a poor man’s Roethlisberger when it comes to shedding them. That’s a rich combination considering no other quarterback truly exhibits any of these traits (save for maybe Josh Freeman shedding defenders).

Most impressive, however, is that Newton has not leaned on his athleticism. Operating almost exclusively out of shotguns, he’s been a willing and poised statuesque passer who willingly works through his progressions from the pocket. His decisions are usually capped off by a bullet either downfield, outside the numbers (he has the uncanny arm strength to stretch the field both horizontally and vertically) or, if need be, underneath.

For the most part, Newton’s decisions have been good. He has faced an aggressive blitzing defense in Arizona, a classic 3-4 press defense in Green Bay (playing without Tramon Williams, the Packers kept Charles Woodson outside and blitzed far less often than usual that game) and, most recently, a classic Cover 2 defense in Chicago. He posted a legit 370-plus yards passing against all three of them.

The proof that it’s not all daisies and roses is that Newton also threw crucial interceptions in all three games and came away with a loss. He’s still a rookie and still prone to the occasional blunder. The blunders have been far less frequent than anyone expected, but they’ve been costly nevertheless.

2. Panthers dual tight ends
We assumed that with tight ends Jeremy Shockey and Greg Olsen, Panthers offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski would craft a dink-and-dunk, run-first system. Indeed, the Panthers have kept two tight ends on the field a majority of the time, but often, at least one of them (usually Olsen) has split out, serving essentially as a No. 3 receiver.

This poses serious personnel issues for defenses. Leave your base three-linebacker unit on the field and risk getting burned through the air (Shockey and Olsen have been superb downfield route runners the first four weeks). Use your nickel personnel and you risk getting run on by a team that always has a top-10 running back on the field.

The Saints are one of the few defenses that have an answer for this: strong safety Roman Harper. He is their second best run defender (behind Jonathan Vilma) and a demon in the box. He’s versatile enough to play press man coverage (he’s not particularly good at it, but Gregg Williams feels comfortable using him sporadically in this capacity) or blitz (3.5 sacks on the season).
 
Expect the Panthers in Week 5 to continue to be pass-first with their tight ends. And expect the Saints to not simply react to this, but rather, to attack by changing up what they do with Harper throughout the game in order to get Newton thinking.

3. Running Impact
Newton is the first quarterback since Vick to pose a veritable threat as a runner (Vince Young can’t be counted as a running threat quarterback because he was such a limited passer that defenses could get away with putting nine in the box against him; not a chance that happens against Newton). Having a running threat under center does wonders for your rushing attack.

The Panthers have all the resources to pound teams on the ground – DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart are an excellent duo, center Ryan Kalil can lock defenders at both the first and second level, left tackle Jordan Gross is a Pro Bowler and right tackle Jeff Otah flashed his old power against Chicago last week. But for whatever reason, Chudzinski has not gone in that direction. Carolina is averaging 25.5 rushing attempts per game, tied for 18th in the NFL.

Chudzinski would be wise to change this. The threat that Newton poses really opens things up. We saw this on the third play of the game against Chicago last week:


4. What Newton will see from Saints D
The Saints have one of the most aggressive defenses in football – both in terms of execution and presnap disguise. That has a lot to do with the trust Gregg Williams has in his secondary. Jabari Greer is one of the best ball-man corners in the game. Patrick Robinson had a rough Week 1 at Green Bay but has come on the last few outings (he was phenomenal at Jacksonville).

Playmaker Tracy Porter was eased back into action last week – he missed two games with a calf injury – and should see more snaps Sunday. When you factor in free safety Malcom Jenkins’ range, the Saints clearly have the resources to handle a Panthers’ wide receiving corps that is underwhelming outside of Steve Smith.

Dealing with the tight ends might be an issue, but Roman Harper’s versatility could cause Newton to question that matchup at times. How will Newton react when he sees Harper leave Olsen or Shockey and blitz? The simple answer would be, “He’ll throw to Olsen or Shockey”. But if you and I can predict this, so can Gregg Williams.

The Saints are one of the best green dog blitzing defenses in the league. (A green dog blitz is when a linebacker has a running back man-to-man, sees that the running back is staying in to pass protect and so he goes after the quarterback in response.) These blitzes can be hard to recognize because they come unexpectedly and late in the action.
 
When blitzing is not involved, Carolina’s offensive line can contain a Saints pass-rush that has been hit-or-miss early this season (the return of end Will Smith certainly helps). Thus, expect Gregg Williams to go after Newton and get him guessing before the snap. Many of Williams’ blitzes come out of nickel personnel packages. The Saints used their nickel later in the game against the Texans to counter the receiving impact of Houston’s two tight ends (Owen Daniels and James Casey). Don’t be surprised if they refer to their nickel early against the Panthers’ two-tight end offense.

5. The other side of the ball
The Saints have remade their offense this season. It now runs through Darren Sproles and Jimmy Graham. Sproles has been better for the Saints than Reggie Bush ever was (much better, in fact). That could be in part because Sproles doesn’t yet draw the attention that Bush drew. But more than anything, it’s because he has lightning quick feet and an understanding for how to create and exploit spacing in both the run and pass game.

Graham is the dynamic athlete we all knew he’d be after his 2010 debut. It just so happens that the ex-power forward is developing much quicker than expected. He’s a mismatch for any linebacker, has the size to out-position defensive backs and has better hands than Robert Meachem (who is now the fourth option in this pass offense, behind Sproles, Graham and, when healthy, Marques Colston).

Panthers strong safety Charles Godfrey has been stellar in coverage this season and can compete with Graham, but the Panther linebackers (who are really missing Jon Beason) will have trouble with Sproles. Carolina’s best hope is to get pressure on Brees early in the down.

Defensive ends Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy are capable of embarrassing New Orleans’ athletic but grossly unreliable tackles Jermon Bushrod and Charles Brown. But Brees knows this and is also capable of adjusting.

So who will win? Check our Week 5 NFL expert picks for all the games

Follow @Andy_Benoit on Twitter or contact him at Andy.Benoit-at-NFLTouchdown.com.
Posted on: April 24, 2011 10:39 am
 

Offseason checkup: Carolina Panthers

Posted by Will Brinson

J. Clausen hopes to get Carolina turned around in 2011 (Getty).

Eye on Football's playing doctor for every NFL team with our Offseason Check-ups



Not to try and bring back the Anchorman meme that probably became uncool a few years ago, but, man, things really got out of hand fast in Carolina, didn't they? John Fox is gone, Ron Rivera is in, Jerry Richardson is likely not too popular with the fans because of the labor situation, and the draft-pick situation for the Panthers is a nightmare.

There's also a pile of questions relating to how 2011 will unfold based on the rules once the labor situation is settled. And the whole problem of everyone else in the NFC South being potentially dominant or at least pretty good ... primarily because of quarterback play. And thus, we see the Panthers problem: they need a franchise quarterback. Andrew Luck's decision to return to school put a big crimp in the plans for the No. 1 overall pick, and Cam Newton's been penciled in at this point by basically anyone.  

Even if he is the pick, the Panthers can't negotiate with him, so who knows at this point? There's ample argument for why Carolina should take a cornerback, a defensive tackle, trade the top pick, or just roll the dice with Newton.




Defensive Tackle, Quarterback

The odd things about Carolina's roster is that in 2010, they had the talent to succeed. Injuries (Jeff Otah and Thomas Davis most notably), poor play (Matt Moore and Jimmy Clausen most notably) and an awkward coaching situation changed things dramatically and the team unraveled. It became pretty clear, though, that even with a talented offensive line and two superb running backs in Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams, you can't run the ball if no one respects your passing game.

Can Newton fix that passing game? Is his upside worth passing on a very-much-needed defensive tackle like Marcell Dareus out of Alabama? Does it even matter if Newton can be Tim Tebow 2.0 and sell a pile of jerseys while making the Panthers nationally relevant, at least for a season?

It seems clear that Newton's going to either be a total home run, though not likely right away, or an absolute, unmitigated disaster. There might be an in-between area, but given the hype surrounding the potential No.1-overall pick, it's hard to imagine Newton settling into something that's just "average."



1. Quarterback
Value Over Replacement Player is typically a statistic that you see in baseball. But the notion remains true when you talk about the MVP race: how would the Patriots fare if you took out Tom Brady and plugged in an "average" quarterback? Well, the Panthers showed that if you plug in the player most below average in the NFL, disaster ensues. Quarterback is absolutely the most important position of need for Carolina -- it's just a matter of whether or not Newton or Blaine Gabbert could end up becoming "the guy" in Carolina as a top pick, just one season after the Panthers apparently wasted a second-rounder on Clausen. No one -- and I mean NO ONE -- can know the answer until we sees how it plays out. That's what makes their top pick so insanely controversial.

2. Defensive Tackle
Making the Panthers' choice at the top of the draft even more difficult is the presence of Dareus, who seems like a pretty good bet to succeed in the NFL. Or, at least, to not flop at defensive tackle. With (maybe) four winnable games on the 2011 schedule, the Panthers could conceivably draft Dareus, hope they perform to 2010-level expectations with a vastly more difficult schedule, and land Andrew Luck in the next season. Playing chicken with a franchise quarterback and gambling on losing a lot isn't really an efficient way to manage in the NFL, but is drafting Cam Newton really a safer option?

3. More Draft Picks
I said this for Denver and they probably have more holes to fill than the Panthers, but Carolina doesn't even have a second-rounder because they traded their pick to the Patriots in order to draft Armanti Edwards out of Appalachian State, which might secretly be the worst draft decision in quite some time, especially because it's the first pick on the second day of the draft and a coveted spot. With a draft that's deep at defensive line, and the Panthers in need of a cornerback, a quarterback and a defensive tackle, having more picks -- as opposed to, say, LESS picks -- would be a pretty big advantage for the franchise.



2011 could be disastrous for the Panthers. I mentioned four winnable games, and that's not a joke: can they beat Detroit in Ford Field? Arizona out west? Tennessee at home in Week 10? Washington at home in Week 7? The Jaguars at home in Week 3? Okay, that's actually five, so we're getting somewhere! Or not -- those games are as far from locks as you get, and they're the easiest ones on the schedule. Maybe an upset or two in the NFC South is doable, but that's a bit optimistic for anyone who watched what happened in 2010.

Hey, but hope springs eternal. Or something. Ron Rivera's got a talented staff in place and the Panthers do still have a roster with some stars; at the very least, they've got studly linebackers and a strong offensive line, should free agency fall they way they want (and when you've got your owner leading the negotiations, well, that's never a bad thing). Drafting Newton could immediately reenergize the fanbase and turn out to be an absolute gamechanger when it comes to the franchise's future. But if there's one team that actually wouldn't mind seeing a lockout last through the entire 2011 season, it's probably Carolina.

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Posted on: November 9, 2010 10:44 pm
Edited on: November 9, 2010 10:45 pm
 

Otah to IR, 'Cats grab Brown, Williams to play?

Posted by Will Brinson

We can probably put the Carolina Panthers season to bed -- officially anyway -- today, as the 'Cats put tackle Jeff Otah on injured reserve, ending his season. 

Otah might not seem like the key to a franchise resurrection, but his season-long absence has been a tremendous hinderance to a typically powerful ground game. Missing Otah meant moving Geoff Schwartz from his natural right guard to right tackle, and an overall weakening of the line.

Now, DeAngelo Williams' injury doesn't exactly help things, and as things stand right now, the Panthers might be rolling with just Mike Goodson on Sunday against the Buccaneers -- which is why they claimed Andre Brown (a local product who attended Rose in Greenville, NC, and then NC State) off of waivers when the Colts dropped him.

Although Darin Gantt of the Rock Hill Herald pointed out Tuesday night that Williams was spotted "walking without a boot or limp Monday." So maybe, given the likelihood that Stewart will miss time, Williams can go against Tampa's weak run defense.

Brown might see some burn as a backup to the backup (five times over) if Williams can't play on against Tampa, but he probably won't spur a Panthers winning streak.

Not that any one player, outside of an MVP-caliber quarterback, really could this point.

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Posted on: August 5, 2010 12:08 am
 

Jeff Otah out (knee surgery)

Panthers right tackle Jeff Otah has left training camp to undergo arthroscopic surgery on his left knee. Otah missed three games last season with a torn meniscus in the same knee.

Reports say the Panthers are hopeful that the former first-round pick will be available in Week 1. Otah is one of the more promising young right tackles in the game, but injuries have hindered his development thus far.

--Andy Benoit

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