By: Russ Taliaferro
Headline Photo Credit: Darrell Owens-LMS Network
Seeing everything that’s going on in the world, any sort of football is very welcome, even a virtual draft. With the draft coming up this weekend, a lot of teams are of course looking to start their 2020 season off right. Everybody wants to get this weekend right. Here we’re gonna take a quick look at 2 teams in particular with a connection that especially want to have a good 7 rounds, the Panthers & the Redskins.
The Panthers come into this draft with some glaring holes, but how big these holes are up to personal opinion. Out goes Cam Newton, so now they got to replace the face of the franchise. His backup is also gone as Kyle Allen followed Coach Rivera to DC. The obvious thing you could think is that they need to replace Newton ASAP, but they believe they have done enough in free agency to be ok at the position with signings of Teddy Bridgewater & XFL MVP (most likely) PJ Walker. The one position we know they definitely aren’t even sniffing around in the draft would be running back, as they made Christian McCaffrey the highest paid back in league history just last week. Wide Receiver could’ve been considered another need coming into the draft, but they addressed that in free agency as well. New addition Robby Anderson looks to make some noise in the south & Pharoh Cooper looks to help out as well, especially in the return game. That leaves the offensive line as the only position not improved with free agency so far. On the other side of the ball, out goes Luke Kuechly, so now they have to replace arguably the best linebacker in the league & the face of their defense. One plus about their defense though, they get longtime lineman Kawann Short back. Short was put on IR after the first month last year with a partially torn rotator cuff, but that’s really all they have up front on defense. They’re losing Dontari Poe (who didn’t play that much anyway) & Gerald McCoy. Last year’s first round pick Brian Burns had a decent rookie campaign with 25 total tackles & 7.5 sacks. The sacks may not be that high, but when you consider the only other 2 players with more are no longer with the team, it’s definitely good news for the Panthers. All things considered, I would say rookie head coach Matt Rhule needs to give Defensive Coordinator Phil Snow somebody to build that defense around, & attack the front 7 early in the draft.
Looking at where they’re at in the first round, 2 prospects come to mind in particular that I believe would be perfect for them, if they can fall to that seventh pick. First up, Derrick Brown, Defensive Tackle from Auburn. Brown is an absolute beast of a tackle that can anchor any line for years to come with his unbelievable combo of strength & agility. Even with reports of the team moving away from the 3-4 defense to go back to a 4-3, DC Snow could use Brown & co in multiple spots & schemes across the line. Snow has also said he would run more of a multiple defense before the 4-3 reports came out, so don’t expect to see a 4 man front all the time. With all the trade chatter happening in front of them, this next prospect seems just as likely to happen for them as well. Next prospect, Isaiah Simmons, Linebacker from Clemson. I am a person who LOVES versatility & Isaiah Simmons is just that, having played every position on the Clemson defense except tackle, which makes him a DC’s best friend. His versatility allows for so much freedom for gameplanning. I haven’t even mentioned his actual talent on the field, which is pro bowl level already. If either one of these players end up in Charlotte, things will for sure be looking up for the team.
On to our nation’s capital & the team we cover here at LMS Network, the Washington Redskins. I must go back first though because I believed I mentioned before that the Panthers have a new coach. Owner David Tepper had bought the team in 2018 & wanted to form his own vision of the team as he had inherited coach Ron Rivera. A slow 5-7 start to 2019 didn’t help Rivera’s case, as he was let go after a week 13 loss to, ironically enough, the Redskins. As fate would have it, Rivera was hired by the Redskins on New Year’s Day 2020, after they had let go of Jay Gruden. Regardless of how his team performed in Carolina, I personally have always been a huge fan of Ron Rivera & I’m excited to cover more closely. The potential of what he can do with this team & the talent that he has to work with, especially on defense, has me extremely excited. Rivera brought along Scott Turner, who was the QB coach in Carolina, to be a first time Offensive Coordinator. The scheme on offense is a little bit of an unknown, as Turner has stated he will form the scheme to cater around the strengths of his players. That being said, it is arguably a 3-way competition at QB heading into camp with the trio of Haskins, Smith, & the fellow Carolina transfer, Kyle Allen. One glaring need on offense is their situation at Left Tackle. Everybody should be familiar with all the drama that surrounded Trent Williams last season & the distrust he had built from what he felt was the team’s mishandling of the whole ordeal. Although it’s been reported that talks with the new coach Rivera have been better than the previous regime, it seems almost guaranteed that Williams will be playing somewhere else next season. In that situation, I think it would be ideal for them to try to trade him before the draft starts tonight, thus gaining some more good draft picks for a top 5 tackle in the league.
The defense sees new life under new Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio, a previous Head Coach in Jacksonville & Oakland. Del Rio immediately came in & declared he’s bringing a new 4-3 defense to Landover, which has seen a 3-4 scheme for the past decade. What you got to love about the players on this defense is that most of their key players are 26 & under, with the exception of Ryan Kerrigan, who is still a threat even coming off a calf that ended his season early. The amount of youth & talent they have to work with is something a lot of coaches & coordinators would salivate over. I would argue here that most of their draft needs are on the offensive side of the ball, with cornerback & edge rusher being the top needs on defense. They are in luck at the number 2 pick in the first round with a certain edge prospect looking to be available for them. Enter Chase Young, edge rusher from The Ohio State. A big, explosive, strong, sturdy built nightmare, Young is an instant Pro Bowler coming off the edge on either side of the ball. Throw him in the mix with other names on that line like Kerrigan, Allen, Payne, & last year’s first pick, Sweat, the Redskins will have a beautiful rotation of talent & skill to cause havoc in the league. If Young is the pick at number 2, that would be the 5th first round pick on the defensive line, reminiscent of what San Francisco has built with their drafts, which Rivera & company only hope will also take them deep into the playoffs