SPARTANBURG, S.C. – NFL Network analyst Charley Casserly, former NFL general manager for the Washington Redskins and Houston Texans, stopped by Wofford College on Thursday to check out Panthers training camp.
Panthers.com caught up him to discuss his thoughts on the team, starting with what Carolina needs to do to win a third consecutive NFC South title.
"One of the keys will be left tackle. If Michael Oher can come through and solidify that position, the rest of that offensive line is solid – in fact, the inside is really good. Oher didn't practice today, but a number of people have told me that he's been having a good camp.
"The second thing is the secondary being able to contain and keep things in front of them, not give up big plays. James Bradberry is a good player, but the rest of the group as far as speed – especially at the safety position – is something to watch. Now you might be able to scheme your way through that with coverages, and there are a number of teams that do that. The front seven should be pretty good."
What about the wide receiver position, which has undergone a major overhaul over the last two offseasons?
"You've got to be excited here. (Kelvin) Benjamin had a terrific year last year. I think he looks better right here in his route running, which is something he had to improve from college where they didn't ask him to run a lot of routes. He's a big target who makes plays. (Rookie Devin) Funchess impresses you with his fluidness and athletic ability. You've also got a lot of flexibility there – you can play him in the slot, play him outside, move him around."
What's your view of Carolina's competition in the division?
"You know the Saints are going to bounce back, and they've made a number of changes there. Obviously Tampa is a talented team on offense, but they could start two rookies on the offensive line and a rookie quarterback. They're going to have some growing pains. On some days they'll look pretty good; some days they'll look like they're starting three rookies. Atlanta, they should make some jump on defense, and they should be really good on offense. You might be chasing them for points every game."
How would you assess the job general manager Dave Gettleman has done his first two-and-a-half years in Carolina?
"I've known Dave a long time now. We went to college together. I knew him when he was a freshman (at Springfield College) and I was a sophomore. We lived in the same dorm, but dorm stories are off-limits. I think Dave has done a tremendous job here. He's a solid football man, a good personnel guy, and he's not a guy that's looking to be a self-promoter – never has been.
"He's a sound thinker, and he'll tell you what he thinks. He's not going to beat around the bush. I'm not surprised at all that he's had success. He came in and had to work with a limited salary cap. He had to make some tough salary cap decisions, and the drafts have been solid. He's also done a good job with the lower-tier free agent market. I'm not surprised he's done a good job."