Jake Delhomme, Matt Moore, Brett Basanez and Lester Ricard; these are the quarterbacks currently on the Carolina Panthers roster. While these players share a common trait in that all of them play the same position on the same team, they also share another, more inauspicious commonality-they all came into the league undrafted. It's not to say that undrafted players can't produce in the NFL, but it sure doesn't give confidence to the fans that not one of the four players that we are supposed to trust as the commander on the field for our favorite team was considered talented enough to be drafted.
Jake Delhomme, perennial starter in Carolina since the second week of the 2003 season is returning after missing the last 13 games of the 2007 season. He is still recovering from Tommy John surgery. Full recovery takes about a year; right now, Jake has been recovering for seven months and eight days. He is already throwing the ball with zip and on the spot. He should be the starter on day one. He will not be at 100% though for the start of the season.
Matt Moore started the final 3 games of last season and in 2 of them had a quarterback rating higher than 90. Moore is the backup for Delhomme. His teammates believe he has what it takes, and the coaching staff made it clear that they believed he could be the future by not taking a quarterback in the 2007 draft.
Brett Basanez has seen action in only one game for the Panthers completing 6 passes on 11 attempts with 1 interception. Lester Ricard was signed this offseason after spending the 2007 season on the Jacksonville Jaguars practice squad. If the Panthers have to explore their third and fourth options at QB this season, John Fox will likely be looking for a job in 2009.
Synopsis: Delhomme is healing and if all goes according to schedule should rank somewhere between 11-15th in the league in passing yards. Matt Moore provides an unpolished yet budding talent as the backup, but the heir apparent could also prove combustible if forced into the starting role too early.
In 2007 the Panthers ranked 29th in the league in passing yards per game and needed a complete overhaul. John Fox began by releasing Keary Colbert and Drew Carter, whom despite the tutelage of Steve Smith and being in their "prime" seemingly contributed to many more dropped balls than completions over the course of the 2007 season. Fox then picked up prodigal Panther, Muhsin Muhammad after a two year stint with Chicago. Fox also picked up D.J. Hackett, a solid receiver with the Seahawks before being injured in the sixth game of the 2007 season. By making this switch, Fox lost 53 yards per game of receiving yards by giving up Keary Colbert and Drew Carter while picking up 99 yards per game in Muhammad and Hackett. That's a 46 yard per game swing at wide receiver. Based only on the bare numbers this would give the Panthers a predicted 217 yards per game and when transposed on last years averages, the Panthers should expect to rank around 14th in the league in receiving. While, I think the talent is there for an even higher ranking, John Fox's commitment to the running game should restrict a much higher ranking.
Dwayne Jarrett provides little depth as the #4 receiver after seemingly taking off his rookie season with the Panthers and compiling only 6 catches. Jarrett was selected in the second round of the 2007 draft and after receiving a DWI this offseason, hopes for his future with the Panthers seems dismal. Steve Smith has taken responsibility this offseason to see to it that Jarrett either turns it around or is taken off the team.
An unexpected player may come up big for the Panthers in 2008. Travis Taylor, a former first round pick by Baltimore in 2000, attempts to redeem his career in Carolina. After posting 57 catches for 651 yards in 2006, Taylor only accounted for 1 reception resulting in 4 yards in 2007 while spending time with 3 different teams.
Synopsis: A healthy Jake Delhomme throwing to a savvy, mature group of receivers (avg. age of 30 for the starters) should allow the Panthers to enter the top of half of the league in receiving numbers. Expect the Panthers to rank around 14th in the league, a 15 spot jump from last season due to excellent work in the offseason by John Fox.