Some final thoughts and observations on Carolina’s minicamp now that I’m back home.
First, an update, out of John Fox’s wrap-up comments. This one’s interesting. Fox talked about the decision to trade safety Chris Harris and said the team’s budget had something to do with the move. In other words, it had a lot to do with the trade and probably prompted it. Consider this another sign that general manager Marty Hurney is probably steering this boat more than ever. Decisions are being made with a possible 2011 lockout in mind and the long-term future a big part of every decision. Yes, we all know Fox is on the hot seat as he heads into the final year of his contract. But I’m not so sure Hurney falls into that category in the eyes of owner Jerry Richardson.
I thought cornerback Captain Munnerlyn looked pretty good out there, running with the first-team defense. He was in there because starter Richard Marshall is looking for a long term contract and didn’t attend. Marshall could be trying to force a trade and I could see the Panthers doing something like that, in part because of the reasons we talked about in the first item. But Marshall, a restricted free agent, isn’t really dealing from a position of strength. Yes, the Panthers could definitely use him this year, let Munnerlyn develop as a nickelback for another season and groom some of their young guys for bigger roles. But Munnerlyn might not be that far away from being ready to be a starter.
The single-best play I saw in all the sessions was by the other starting cornerback, Chris Gamble. He made a diving interception Saturday on a ball that looked like he had no chance to get. Very quietly, Gamble has been putting together a pretty nice career and I wouldn't be surprised to start seeing this guy get some more recognition.
I came away really impressed by what I saw out of Armanti Edwards, the rookie out of Appalachian State. He played quarterback in college, but the Panthers are going to use him as a receiver and a punt returner. This kid is pretty dynamic and can be an instant factor in the slot. Fox and coordinator Jeff Davidson haven’t used a slot receiver much in recent years. Might be time to change that and there could be other ways designed to get Edwards some touches. In fact, this kid could turn out to be what some people thought Tim Tebow could be. Plus, I think Edwards’ throwing motion might be better than Tebow’s.
Speaking of Tebow, Fox wasn’t sending out any smokescreens when he was singing the praises of the University of Florida product at the owners meeting. Fox really liked Tebow and so did others in the organization. They think he might become a good NFL quarterback, but they never were serious about using an early-round draft pick because they think he’ll take time to develop.
Obviously, quarterback Jimmy Clausen, who the Panthers believe is much more ready for the NFL than Tebow, was the talk of minicamp. I don’t want to declare this kid the next Joe Montana, and I don’t want to declare him the next Ryan Leaf. It was one minicamp and you really can’t tell much from that. But the kid can throw the ball and he seemed to be interacting quite nicely with his new teammates and saying all of the right things to the media. The rest of the offseason and training camp will determine if Clausen's ready to start ahead of Matt Moore. Speaking of Moore, I didn't see anything bad out of him in the minicamp, but I didn't see anything spectacular.
One final thought: Receiver Steve Smith kept saying throughout the weekend that change can be good. I don’t always agree with everything Smith says or does, but I’m going to agree with him strongly on this one. Yes, there are a lot of questions to be answered by a lot of young players, but I walked away thinking the Panthers might have the ingredients to become a pretty good team.