Camp Confidential: Delhomme, Peppers integral to Panthers rebound
Jake Delhomme is coming off of Tommy John and Julius Peppers a 2.5-sack season. One thing is clear, both players need to bounce back, Pat Yasinskas writes.
SPARTANBURG, S.C., -- First, they fixed Jake Delhomme's elbow. Then, they repaired his offense.
With Otah taking over at right tackle, Jordan Gross will switch to the left side and former left tackle Travelle Wharton has moved to left guard. The Panthers expect to have a bigger, more physical line, and the team is hoping Stewart will be the power back that has been missing since Stephen Davis left town. The plan is to mix Stewart with speed back DeAngelo Williams.But the biggest change of all should be the return of Delhomme, who went down in Week 3 last season. Without him, the Panthers struggled with David Carr, Vinny Testaverde and Matt Moore taking turns at quarterback. Carr and Testaverde are gone, and Moore, who showed promise late in the season, is the backup. With all the uncertainty at quarterback last season, the Panthers never fully got to show the new offense brought in by coordinator Jeff Davidson, but that's about to change. "I think people forget that in 2½ games, Jake had eight touchdown passes and a 100-plus quarterback rating and he had really delved into the new offense and what we were doing and the flexibility at the line of scrimmage," Fox said. "He had really taken to it, and I thought he was going to have a big year last year. Now, I'm confident he'll have a big year this year."
1. Who will end up as the starting running back?
Fox and Hurney clearly are on the hot seat. They've had two straight nonwinning seasons, and owner Jerry Richardson isn't known for his patience. Fox and Hurney rebuilt this franchise after the George Seifert era and have taken the team to two NFC Championship Games and a Super Bowl. But the team has underachieved the past two seasons. Fox and Hurney got a pass last season because of Delhomme's injury, but Richardson's not likely to put up with any more excuses. Fox has shown an ability to get the most out of his roster in the past, and he needs to do that again.
Newcomer to watch
Although veteran Terrence Holt was brought in, Carolina has been working rookie free safety Charles Godfrey with the first team for most of training camp. The third-round pick out of Iowa has shown good cover skills and a nose for the ball. The Panthers have a strong trio of cornerbacks in Chris Gamble, Richard Marshall and Ken Lucas, and that should protect Godfrey. But strong safety Chris Harris sometimes struggles in deep coverage, so Godfrey likely will have to step up to immediate challenges from opposing offenses.
The Panthers haven't been thrilled with their kickoffs for several years, and they're considering the idea of carrying a kickoff specialist. They have Rhys Lloyd in camp and he gets great distance on his kicks. Kicker John Kasay and punter Jason Baker each have handled kickoffs in the past, and neither gets the ball particularly deep. But carrying Lloyd would require opening a roster spot from somewhere else, and it's tough to imagine Fox doing that. Defensive tackle has been a problem area in camp because of injuries. Damione Lewis, Maake Kemoeatu, Darwin Walker and Ian Scott -- who are likely to be the top four tackles -- each have missed some practice time. Lewis, Kemoeatu and Walker should be back soon, but the Panthers are taking a long look at Gary Gibson, who has been getting a lot of work in practice. The Panthers have moved linebacker Thomas Davis from the strong side to the weak side. Davis, a former first-round pick, has great athletic ability but hasn't come up with a lot of big plays. The Panthers believe moving him to the weak side will lessen his coverage responsibilities and free him to come up with more plays.
Pat Yasinskas covers the NFL for ESPN.com.
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