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Marty Hurney, Ron Rivera Q&A

On the Panthers appearing to have addressed a lot of needs: 

Marty Hurney: Yeah, we have. We started off with the first pick in the fourth round today and selected Ian Thomas who we think can be a complete tight end. He’s got all the skillsets. He’s got a lot of potential. He needs experience and he’s going to be a work in progress but he’s got all the tools. We think he’s a very good player. We think that the guy can block, he’s got the ability to catch the ball extremely well and he’s got the ability to go down field. He’s really got all the skillset for a complete tight end.

Then the second pick, we traded up to get Marquis Haynes who is listed as an outside linebacker at Mississippi. He’s played a lot with his hand down. He’s just flat out speed off the edge and he can get to the quarterback, and we just thought he was good enough to make that trade up for.

Then our last pick here we took Jermaine Carter from Maryland who can play inside linebacker, we think he can probably play WILL as well. High motor, physical guy. Just a very good football player.

On if Haynes is a defensive end:

Ron Rivera: Yes, he’ll play defensive end. Come in  and start out at that position for us. There’s something I know you guys have heard us talk about and that’s what we call the Joker position – a guy that can do a couple of different things as well, and again, with his athleticism, his ability to drop that he’s shown to drop into coverage at times, we think that’s where he can fit. He’ll be a situational pass rusher for us, a guy that will have opportunities too in certain situations and circumstances obviously. But with that Joker package, it’s something that we’ve talked about since Sean’s (McDermott) been here, and Steve (Wilks) followed up on it last year and it’s something that Eric’s (Washington) looking at as well. He’s a guy that’s got some abilities that’s going to add a little dimension to what we want to do.

On if they want Haynes to gain weight:

RR: No, the guy will come in and play where he is. We’re not going to force anything on him. His greatest asset as an athlete is his speed off the ball. He’s got a great first step, he’s explosive, he gets vertical very quickly, and he’s got an array of pass rush moves that we think that we can exploit with this young man. We also feel we could move him around. He doesn’t have to line up as the defensive end per se. There’s some flexibility with this guy. There’s some things that we feel really good about with him.

On how Haynes compares to Mario Addison:

RR: That’s exactly what we looked at and we said this is a guy that compares very favorably to Mario. In fact, I showed Marty my write up this morning because we had the first pick and we had time to talk about this and one of lines that I put was that he has upside and favors Mario.

On if Hurney saw something last season that made him want to emphasize speed in this draft:

MH: Well, I’ve always believed that you can’t teach speed, and I think that’s a big part of this game. Again, you have to be big and you have to be physical, but you also have to be fast, and I think coming into this offseason that was one of our general goals was the add speed to positions, especially the skill positions. When you get guys like that, guys who play fast, it’s something you just can’t coach.

On if some of that thought process was in response to the team’s the Panthers play in the NFC South:

RR: Across the board. The division basically. Some of the things that you have to do is you have to look at your division. To get into the playoffs you’ve got to win your division whether you win it at 7-8-1 or where you win it at 15-1. So when you compare those teams that are in our division and what they have we most certainly have to match up with those guys across the board. We saw that with the defensive back position going out and doing what we did with the two young men we brought in (Donte Jackson and Rashaan Gaulden). Both guys are quick, both guys have some foot speed, both guys I think can add something to what we want to defensively. Look what we need to do with the D-line. We wanted an explosive guy with some juice and we went out and thought we addressed that need. Then at linebacker, we needed a young dynamic guy to come in and be part of what we do and be a special teamer as well. So we think we filled some more needs today. We feel really good about filling these needs.

On the way the team has drafted sending a message about the state of the offensive line and what may happen at the left guard position:

RR: I think there’s going to be a tremendous amount of competition, I really do. The one thing I don’t think anyone should feel is comfortable with their opportunities. I think they need step up and take advantage of their opportunities. And believe me, I feel the same way for myself. We’ve got to continue to take another step as a football team and that’s on me. It starts with me and the coaches and down to the players. So competition is good and that’s what we want from them. These guys have got to step up. We’ve got a young group of guys that show some flashes of ability, but now we want to see it in action and give everyone an opportunity. I mean Coach (John) Matsko’s going to mix in a different variety group of guys out there every day and we’re going to play the best player.

On if the replacement for Andrew Norwell is on the current roster:

RR: Potentially, we think so. We think Taylor (Moton) is a solid football player, that’s why we drafted him. He’s a big, physical guy. We like what Tyler (Larsen) brings to the table. Tyler actually came to us as a guard, it just so happened that he had some center ability. Greg Van Roten is another guy that has played center-guard for us, a guy that may get some opportunities for us as well. Amini Silatolu’s a guy we brought in, drafted, played the left guard, started until he got hurt, and then Andrew came in and he was a stalwart for us there for a long, long time. Blaine Clausell is another young guy that we think has an opportunity. And the Draft’s not over. So we’ll see what happens.

MH: From a personnel standpoint you’re always looking at all avenues so it doesn’t stop after the Draft. We’re still going to look for ways to upgrade our team if we think that we can do that. I tell  Ron all the time, “training camp’s not until the end of July,” so it’s just a fluid process.

On not addressing the running back position in the Draft:

MH: Not so far. Again, that’s something that we keep looking at and we’ll continue to look at. Every draft is different and they all break different ways. I think we feel very happy with the way this one broke so far. Again, just because the draft ends, we continue to look at all positions and anything we can do to help upgrade our team we will do.

On what not drafting a running back says about Cameron Artis-Payne’s chances to play:

RR: That he’ll have an opportunity. Exactly that. He’ll have that. Just like last year, and a lot of people thought he was on the bubble and he proved to us that he deserves to get that opportunity. I mean it was sparingly last year, I wish we had played him more. He will get one of the first cracks at it to be part of that rotation and we’ll see how he handles it.

On how much was “swagger” was part of the draft process beyond height, weight and speed:

RR: I think on the defensive side it was something that you most certainly look at, especially with defensive backs. We feel there’s a couple of guys that have that. We think that these guys can come in and bring a little attitude. You want that from your team and you want to be one of those teams that guys think about who they’re playing against. I think that’s a very good thing for us and I’m pretty excited about these young guys coming in to compete. I do mean it. It’s about competition. We’re going to be compete, and we’re going to play the best guys.

On if Hurney thinks Ian Thomas has the mental and physical makeup to compete right away despite saying he is a work in progress:

MH: Definitely and I’m glad you asked that because I want to clarify that. He definitely has the abilities to come and contribute right away, but we think he has got a very high upside.

On if other teams called trying to trade to the first pick in the fourth round:

MH: They did. We got a couple, and one of them texted right after and said “well, we don’t have to look to trade up anymore,” so I guess they were looking to trade up to take Ian.

On if Thomas was who they had in mind yesterday getting ready for the first pick today:

MH: We came in this morning knowing that we were probably going to stick and take Ian.

On Thomas’ background:

MH: You get to know him, he’s a great kid. This is extremely important to him. That’s one of the things that you really like about him. He hasn’t taken really a traditional path even in college. He got to Indiana I think a week before their training camp started a couple years ago. He’s got all the skillset and with more experience and more time we think he’s going to be a very, very good football player.

RR: I agree with what Marty said. Anybody that goes through the things that he goes through and really gets to where he is at the last minute, here’s your opportunity, he’s taken advantage of it. The exciting thing about it is you do see the potential for growth, but it’s not a shallow potential because you see the athleticism, you see the skillsets. It’s one of the things that Marty always talks about, as scouts they’re looking at skillsets, and as coaches you hear about the skillsets then you say OK, do they fit what we do? Well, this young man has the ability to fit into what we and I’m excited because, I don’t know if you guys got to see, but the highlights they put up there I thought really optimized why we took him. We saw him make the catches, we saw him with a good catch radius, you saw him catch the ball over the top. You saw the one block that he made. This is a guy that can do it all. He’s going to be a work in progress obviously, but if he’s as dedicated as he was at Indiana we feel pretty good about it.

On if Rivera agrees with media comparisons to Antonio Gates:

RR: Body-type yes, it looks the part. He’s a physical guy. He catches the ball pretty well in traffic and he has good vertical speed. I think one of the comments they talked about how important that is in what Norv (Turner) wants to do. You want to be able to use two tight ends and stretch the field. With Greg’s (Olsen) ability to ability to get vertical and get open, you thrown another tight end to the mix that does it, now I think you’ve just helped your quarterback and you’ve helped your offense.

On what Rivera sees in Jermaine Carter:

RR: I see a guy that has good quickness, good first step quickness, plays laterally very well. He played in a defense that was OK. They were a young team that was still growing so he had to do a lot of work on his own, and I don’t want to take any shots at any young players. One thing he does is he plays with great leverage. He’s not real tall, he’s 6-1. He’s explosive. When he gets into contact he extends his hands very nicely. He works the shed quickly. One thing I was a little concerned about is he will get engulfed by bigger offensive linemen so he’s got to make sure he keeps those hands off of him. One thing he does very well is he defeats the blocker and then locates the ball as opposed to playing with his eyes in the backfield which is important. I like his downhill step. I think he plays towards the line of scrimmage as much as he can. Good zone awareness. Good zone dropper. He’s got the quickness to run with the tight ends when they try to stretch the field through the middle of the seam.

On if the team would like to add a veteran backup quarterback:

MH: Again, that’s another thing, along with some other positions we just keep working through it at this point.

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