With lots of depth at the cornerback position but no top-tier guys, who are the Panthers expecting to step up and take the lead role? – Ryan in Ontario, Canada
That's a question that likely will linger well into the preseason, but the lengthy decision-making process will begin very soon. The Panthers' offseason workout program starts Monday, and coaches will be able to join the players on the field following two weeks of conditioning.
"As coaches, we look for production, for guys that are going to produce and make plays. Those are the guys that will be on the field," passing defense coordinator Steve Wilks said. "One thing we're going to talk about Monday is that 2013 is a clean slate. We're not worried about what happened in the past, not looking in the rearview mirror. We're looking forward, and everybody has a fair shot."
Wilks is excited about the return of cornerback Captain Munnerlyn on the heels of a career year and can't wait to see what Josh Norman and Josh Thomas will do following a year of extended playing time. He's also curious about what a pair of recently signed unrestricted free agents – Drayton Florence and D.J. Moore – will bring to the table. In addition, the draft is still to come.
"I like what we've created," Wilks said. "We've created a lot of competition."
Wilks stopped by my office earlier this week to pass on some information about his inaugural Elite Defensive Back Academy in June. The Charlotte native is partnering with Communities In Schools for the camp, which will help high school players master their position while building a winning attitude for success on and off the field.
Hello Bryan, I've been a huge fan of Carolina Panthers for several years. Wide receiver David Gettis had an impressive rookie season but hasn't really played since. How do you consider his future in Carolina? And do you know how he has progressed following his back-to-back injury nightmares? – Soren in Odense, Denmark
I've gotten a similar question recently from Kevin in Appleton, Wis., and from Cruzer in Perth Amboy, N.J., but you are the first to ask from Northern Europe.
Following a strong rookie campaign in 2010, Gettis missed the entire 2011 season with a knee injury suffered in training camp. He hoped to be ready for 2012, but sustained a hamstring injury during organized team activities. After spending the first eight games of the season on the physically unable to perform list, Gettis played a few snaps in two games. In retrospect, head coach Ron Rivera realized Gettis wasn't quite ready.
Gettis should be back at full strength heading into the 2013 season but will be nearly three years removed from his last on-field success when the season kicks off. Regaining confidence will be key to whether he can contribute again, but he is still young and has a great role model on the roster in the form of linebacker Thomas Davis.
I know every fan thinks their team gets the short end of the stick when it comes to officiating, but it really seemed like the Panthers were frequently handed questionable calls in extremely critical moments last season. Is this just luck of the draw, or is there something we were doing wrong that we might be able to fix for next year? – Tyler in Orlando, Fla.
In a lot of ways, your opening statement says it all. Much like two weeks ago when I answered a question regarding the Panthers' red-zone efficiency, the reality isn't often as bad as the perception because any failures are understandably magnified for fans.
The Panthers didn't seem to get a lot of breaks in regards to penalties last year, with some late calls in a narrow loss to the Cowboys and a crucial personal foul late in a stunning loss to the Buccaneers springing to mind. They even had four more penalties than the Raiders – who weren't among the three most penalized teams for the first time since 2006 – but still won the game.
But overall, the Panthers tied for the 10th-fewest penalties with 98, one year after only five teams were whistled for more than their 113 penalties. They're moving in the right direction and could continue that trend as players in key positions gain more experience.
What is Mike Craft's 40 time, and can we get some video of that? – Hank in Lake Norman, N.C.
Straight-line speed wasn't that important when Mike opened up massive holes along the University of Richmond offensive line in the mid-1980s. So it certainly isn't important now for our Panthers.com Insider, unless he's trying to run down DeAngelo Williams for a post-practice interview.
I did ask Mike if he'd be willing to take on the stopwatch with cameras rolling. He said he'd do it only if you'd run against him.