Has Wegher Beat Out Whittaker?

Has Wegher Beat Out Whittaker?

Brandon Wegher has beat out Fozzie Whitaker this preseason.  It’s hard to debate. On the field, Wegher has produced. Fozzie has looked OK at times, but Wegher has looked good every time.

So how do you make a decision like this?  Wegher has capitalized on the opportunities given. It hasn’t been in bursts either. Wegher has made his presence known throughout all four game. Wegher it was the two fourth quarter comeback drives or just sound fundamentals in the final preseason match against the Steelers, Wegher has got it done. 

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On the Line: Pittsburgh Steelers at Carolina Panthers

C3 On the Line series bets the Carolina Panthers line and discusses the literal stakes on the line. CarolinaCatChronicles.com On the Line is not betting advice, but a means for football discussion.

Panthers -3 and 42 O/U

Carolina hosts the Pittsburgh Steelers in a prime-time matchup Sunday evening.  Coming off the hottest start since 2008, the Panthers look to move to 3-0 against a struggling Steeler team which just suffered an embarrassing defeat by the Baltimore Ravens.  A victory Sunday for Carolina could garner the national attention so many fans have clamored for and make for the first 3-0 start since 2003.  So what’s really on the line in Bank of America Stadium this weekend.

All Bets Are In:

Professor’s Bet: Carolina Panthers -3  (Taking the Under 42)

This line is just a slap in the face. Carolina has done nothing but outperform expectations in the first two games. Sure, Tampa Bay stinks, but the Detroit Lions weren’t any slouch. The Steelers, who looked terrible last Thursday, barely squeaked out a win versus the Cleveland Browns in week one. I’m sorry, but I’m just not a believer in the Browns yet. Add to this a Steelers team that is has allowed 172 yds/game rushing and 5 yards a carry, and I just can’t see this swiss cheese defense stopping anyone, even if the Panthers backfield is banged up.  The Panthers defense by the way is boss.  A banged up Big Ben, helming a turnover prone offense likely has Carolina salivating as we speak.  I’m knocking guys out of the way to take Carolina giving the points and the under.  This could easily turn into a blowout, but I don’t foresee Carolina giving up more than 10 points.  I'm knocking people out of my way to get to the betting window to take Carolina giving the points....give me the under too.  24-10 Carolina

Commish’s Bet: Carolina Panthers -3 (Under 42)

I think I’ll surprise everyone this time by NOT being verbose. Panthers by 3? At home? That’s it? We give up 7 points to Stafford and Megatron last week and the over/under is 42?? Vegas generally gives home field advantage as 3 points for most teams, so in essence they’re saying Pittsburgh and Carolina are equivalent. Don’t be silly. And don’t drink and bet. 24-13 Carolina

Mel Mayock Bet Carolina -3 (taking the over 42)

Is this a trap game?  Being ranked 3rd in the Power Rankings and playing on a national-stage would ordinarily make me say the Panthers will lay an egg.  But the best thing about the Panthers (ever since we fired boring Ron Rivera and hired Riverboat Ron in Week 3 of last year) is that we do not fall prey to such things.  We no longer seem to fall apart at the first sign of adversity.  We now tend to make plays and control our own destiny.  Yes, the Steelers are not without their playmakers and the could beat us if we take them lightly.  We must slow down Bell and keep Brown from getting deep, but I fully anticipate a 10+ point victory Sunday night. 27-17 Carolina

Justin Raymond’s Bet: Carolina Panthers -3 (Taking the under 42)

Everyone likes a shutout and that almost happened Thursday night when the Atlanta Falcons played the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. If the Carolina Panthers could have one shutout this season, this could be that game. The Pittsburgh Steelers offense has disappeared and the Panthers defense already made the Lions offense vanish into thin air. I am going to make a crazy prediction and say that the Panthers will dominate the Steelers on Sunday. 20-0 Carolina

Look for Jonathan Stewart to Breakout Against the Pittsburgh Steelers

That’s right, a Carolina Panthers team that has struggled rushing the ball to this point with a backfield riddled by injury, led by a mobile QB with a hiccup in his giddy-up, and a hodgepodge offensive line will successfully reestablish the run game on Sunday night versus the Pittsburgh Steelers!

The Panthers have unsurprisingly struggled to rush the ball this season. There wasn’t much in the preseason indicating that they would, I mean Fozzie “Waka Waka” Whitaker was the most highly productive back for crying aloud. The first two games with Triple Trouble (DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart, and Mike Tolbert) didn’t cause too much trouble for opposing defenses either, despite some of the sharpest running by Williams in Game 1 that we’ve seen in a while.  Averaging only 87.5 yards per game and  3.1 yards per carry, Carolina ranks 25th overall in rushing through the first two weeks, placing significant pressure on Carolina’s passing attack.

This may surprise those who don’t know this team all that well, given that Carolina ranked 11th overall in rushing last season.  Last year’s rushing success, however, wasn’t because of the running backs or even the product of a read option scheme featuring Cam Newton. Much of that 126.6 yards per game average came on broken plays where Cam Newton emerged from the  phone booth wearing the Superman cape and made a lot out of nothing. Cam was Carolina’s 2nd leading rusher, accounting for 29% of that 126.6 yds/game rushing attack. Carolina’s running game last season just wasn’t as formidable as the stats suggest. Subtract Cam’s production, and you get a running game that well looks a lot like this season’s--below average.

If there’s a week for Carolina to reestablish the run, it’s this week against the Steelers, who by all measures are even worse at defending the run. Through the first two weeks, the Steelers have allowed an embarrassing 172 yds/game and 5.0 yds/carry. These defensive difficulties are more systemic than just poor execution and tackling, but also stem for poor personnel for Dick LeBeau’s 3-4 scheme.  Weaknesses at nose tackle and at outside linebacker, allows for teams to rush the ball easily between the tackles. Look for Carolina to attack this vulnerability early and often.

There is a concern that Carolina’s injured backfield, manned alone by glass figurine Jonathan Stewart, won’t be able to capitalize on this porous Steelers’ run defense. (Williams is listed as questionable, Tolbert is sore from the Fairley hit, and UDFA Darin Reeves may be activated from practice squad)  Stewart, aside from a minor hamstring injury early in the preseason, has looked tough so far. Stewart has fought hard for the few yards he’s gained this season, and when healthy always proves to be an effective running back.  If Rivera can overcome the nagging fear of overusing Stewart early, Carolina can exploit this Pittsburgh weakness.  Look for Stewart to have a big game in the prime time spotlight Sunday, and inevitably spark a fan discussion that he is back to his 2010 form.

Follow the Professor on Twitter @Cat_Chronicles 

Who Do the Carolina Panthers Have in Jerricho Cotchery?

Who Do the Carolina Panthers Have?

Part 1: Jerricho Cotchery
Much to do has been made of who the Panthers lost this offseason.  The exodus of Panther staples, such as Steve Smith, Jordan Gross, and Captain Munnerlyn has left fans uncertain. The uncertainty of the unknown has caused fans to flail for something to help them get their bearings, particularly on the offensive side of the roster. 

This is part one of a series meant to explore Carolina’s unknown, well less known anyway.  The series will first focus on the Panthers’ unknown receiver core because that has been the greatest cause of fan angst. Followed by an analysis of offensive additions, we’ll look at new, but more familiar, defensive players, such as Roman Harper, Antoine Casson, and Thomas Decoud. Fans need to know who we have to understand what we need.  The series will conclude with a who we added group of articles, producing the final product of: 

Who the Panthers have, who did they add, and what do they got? Let’s look at some of those mysterious wide receivers first!

Jerricho Cotchery: Panther fans, welcome back a familiar star! The
“Backyard Baller” and NC State college standout shined alongside Phillip Rivers between 2000 and 2003.  Amassing 200 catches for a whopping 3,119 yds, Cotchery ranks 2nd all-time in Wolfpack history only to Tory Holt. 

Year Tm Pos Rec Yds Y/R TD Lng Y/G
2006 NYJ WR 82 961 11.7 6 71 60.1
2007 NYJ WR 82 1130 13.8 2 50 75.3
2008 NYJ WR 71 858 12.1 5 56 53.6

Cotchery’s senior season was insane, seven 110+ yd games and one 200+ yd game.  Look at these crazy stats, and it’s a wonder why we should even have to feature Cotchery in this series. 

Rk Date School Opponent Rec Yds Avg TD
1 2003-08-30 North Carolina State Western Carolina W 5 62 12.4 1
2 2003-09-06 North Carolina State Wake Forest L 9 173 19.2 1
3 2003-09-13 North Carolina State Ohio State L 4 44 11.0 2
4 2003-09-20 North Carolina State Texas Tech W 3 56 18.7 0
5 2003-09-27 North Carolina State North Carolina W 9 217 24.1 1
6 2003-10-04 North Carolina State Georgia Tech L 5 71 14.2 1
7 2003-10-11 North Carolina State Connecticut W 4 55 13.8 0
8 2003-10-16 North Carolina State Clemson W 2 55 27.5 0
9 2003-10-25 North Carolina State Duke W 9 117 13.0 0
10 2003-11-01 North Carolina State Virginia W 7 111 15.9 1
11 2003-11-15 North Carolina State Florida State L 10 135 13.5 2
12 2003-11-22 North Carolina State Maryland L 6 102 17.0 0
13 2003-12-22 North Carolina State Kansas W 13 171 13.2 1
13 Games 86 1369 15.9 10

Provided by Sports-Reference.com/CFB: View Original Table
Generated 5/3/2014.

Drafted by the NY Jets in 2004, Cotchery wore green and white with multiple QBs for multiple coaches. Breaking out in 2007 with 1,130 yds and 2 TDs under an intricate Mangini offense scheme, Cotchery became the featured receiver in NY.  Although he didn’t find the end-zone too often, Cotchery hauled in 82 catches, proving himself a integral part of Mangini’s modest success. The late season collapse of 2008 was enough to push out Mangini, who finished 9-7 after leading the division early.

As the “Rex Ryan Sanchez” era commenced, Cotchery’s production declined.  Battlingly through a serious groin injury and a difficult off-season back surgery, Cotchery fell out of favor with the new regime in 09.  The groin injury was no joke by the way.  He reportedly heard it snap of this wildly awesome play.  This video alone will make happy to see this guy sporting the black and blue.  

Always known as a character guy and locker room favorite, Cotchery’s departure wasn’t as cordial as one would think.  Although there isn’t any direct evidence, numerous veiled comments suggest Cotchery and Ryan didn’t see entirely eye-to-eye. Ryan’s early coaching success triggered a confidence and flamboyance remembered with his press conferences clowning his brother, embracing the spotlight of HBO’s Hard Knock, and we can’t forget that he loves feet! 

Cotchery obviously wasn’t enamored by Ryan’s personality nor his description of his rise to power at expense of ex-coach Mangini in his autobiography, Play Like You Mean It. Cotcherydefended Mangini against Mangini against Ryan’s light jabs. Meanwhile, the Jets continually attempted to “recruit over” Cotchery by bringing in guys like ex-con Plaxico Burress and the ornery Derrick Mason.

By 2011, Cotchery had enough and requested to be traded or released.  The parting wasn’t ugly, but there was some underlying animosity, at the very minimum the relationship had become stale.

The Pittsburgh Renaissance:

Landing in Pittsburgh for the league minimum, Cotchery found himself taking a backseat to the peaking Mike Wallace, Antonio Bryant, and Emmanuel Sanders.  The departure of Wallace in 2012 and rocky 2013 start tested the Steeler’s offense, which started out 2-6 last season.  Jerricho Cotchery’s veteran experience helped, however, Pittsburgh fight tooth and nail to save that prided Steeler dignity. Although the Steelers are aging on defense, their offensive playmakers are still pretty young.  0-4 start seemed to have shaken these players, but it didn't shake the “Walls of Jerricho,” who reigned in 89 balls for 689 yards and 10 TDs last year. 

What we got:

Cotchery has been a quiet presence in the NFL. He was the quiet, productive guy that wasn't ever a star, but never fully appreciated either.  Cotchery's best opportunity to impose himself as a #1 receiver came in a time when the Jets' offense struggled to find an identity. When the Jets did finally found success under Rex Ryan, the offense was never the primary reason driver.  It was a tough nailed defense that backed a ground and pound offense.  What should have been his best years were undermined by inconsistent quarterback play and playing for teams that never manufactured consistent offensive production.  In some ways, there are a lot of similarities to former Panther Steve Smith's years in Carolina between 2008 and 20011.  The teams they played hampered their on field production more than their ability. I mean if Smith had been a Colt in between '08 and '11, he'd be a first ballot Hall of Famer for sure.

There are two things that make me happy about this pick-up: 1)  my man Cotchery has hands.  He catches everything in the same zip code.  2) the luckiest person I have ever known (who will remain anonymous), always picked Cotchery as a third receiving option on his fantasy football team.  The quiet producer helped him win a fantasy football championship or two!!! 

Cotchery never really had the best opportunity to assert himself as a #1 receiver.  He looks to have found his shot in Carolina, however, where there aren't any established receivers ahead of him in the depth chart.  Even if the Panthers grab a receiver in the first round, it's unlikely this player would assert himself as a leader among the receiving core.  The addition would need to transition from a #2 option to a #1 option throughout the year.  Cotchery will have a chance during this time to step into that leadership role.  Let' just hope he can continue the renaissance that he started in Pittsburgh last year in the Queen city.