Carolina Panthers: 5 Players Whose Stock Is on the Rise in OTAs
The Carolina Panthers are holding OTAs (a fancy acronym for "Organized Team Activities") as we speak. By definition, these gatherings can be anything from an organized training session or minicamp to team-oriented recreational activities. Each team is only allowed to have a limited number of offseason OTAs per the NFLPA's collective bargaining agreement.
On a the team level, the march towards things such as a winning season and postseason victories begins right now. On an individual level, players have their first opportunity to enter training camp with a stock on the rise.
Which Carolina Panthers will complete OTAs with their stock on the rise within the organization?
In the following few slides, you will find out.
Cornerback Brandon Hogan Has Much to Prove
At the corner position, there are two ways to view the Carolina Panthers' current situation.
If you're a fan of the team, you understand that the group is extremely unproven and borderline thin behind veteran Chris Gamble. If you're one of the unproven within the group, you realize the immense opportunity that exists for you to grab if you can be the guy who finds a way to make the most plays.
Chosen 98th overall in the 2011 NFL draft out of West Virginia, Brandon Hogan entered his rookie season with much respect given to his raw ability by scouts. He spent some of his rookie season on the PUP list while failing to register much in the way of counting stats when he did see the field (three tackles, no interceptions).
Hogan's goal during OTAs will be to show the coaching staff that he is the second-best cornerback on the roster.
It is my belief that many who follow the Panthers closely think that the No. 2 corner will be rookie fifth-round selection Josh Norman or Captain Munnerlyn.
I think Hogan emerges in OTAs and enters the season as a relative dark horse to win the job. A defensive-minded coach like Ron Rivera values athletic corner play, and if Hogan is healthy, I believe he will emerge as the front runner to start opposite Chris Gamble when training camp begins.
The Year of Jeff Otah
It's last chance saloon, Jeff Otah. The lights have just came on, it's 2:30 in the morning, and the bar is closing. It's last call for drinks.
What I'm trying to say is that it's likely now or never for Otah in Carolina.
What does Ron Rivera think heading into his team's OTAs? According to Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer:
"Nobody's getting anything there. Byron Bell did a hell of a job for us last year,” Rivera said. “We know what Jeff's capable of. But the problem with Jeff is we haven't really seen him in two years. It's up to Jeff. If Jeff wants to come back and be a huge part of it, it's on him. He's got to do the things we ask him to do. He's got to do them the right way.”
We are all often defined by what we do when things aren't going completely in our favor—how we perform when our backs are to the wall.
OTAs and eventually training camp will serve as opportunity for Jeff Otah to claim what should be his. If he is healthier than he was in 2010 and 2011, he will outplay Byron Bell. I see Rivera's comments as a short motivator for Otah and a message to the entire team that every player will earn his position regardless of promise and draft status.
In what is maybe his last opportunity, Jeff Otah will provide the Carolina Panthers with a wonderful year of offensive line play. The tackle's stock will be on the rise when OTAs end.
Jimmy Clausen Needs to Play His Way into a Better Situation
Unless his goals included wearing street clothes on Sundays last fall, Jimmy Clausen didn't accomplish a lot.
Inactive for the second half of the year and relegated to third-string duties behind Derek Anderson, Clausen has fallen fast from the time when he was the planned quarterback of the future in Carolina.
It's unlikely that Clausen's NFL career ends without him ever seeing action again, so he is a player to watch in terms of rising value in 2012. Solid play during the OTAs followed up by a strong training camp performance could go a long way towards getting Clausen another shot, if not in Carolina then somewhere in the NFL.
Remember, young quarterbacks are at a premium in this league. There's always going to be someone in the league looking for a guy they can turn into their gem.
The positive for the organization is whatever value it can recoup for Clausen after spending a third-round pick on him in 2011 will be a bonus. If you're a fan of the Panthers, you have every reason to pull for positive reviews on Clausen coming out of OTAs.
Jon Beason Returns from Serious Injury
With bad news, there's always good.
Last year was the ultimate case of the bad: star linebacker Jon Beason missed the entire season due to injury just minutes into the first game of the season at Arizona. Now, it will be time for some good news.
The Panthers basically add an All-Pro caliber player to the middle of their defense that was absent last year, and it didn't cost them anyone in trade or a draft selection. With Beason returning from injury and resuming football activities at OTAs, his value will be on the rise from what it was when he was on injured reserve.
The Panthers coaching staff is easing Beason back into action during OTAs very slowly, with the hope to have him at full strength in July when training camp opens.
Beason at 80 or 90 percent is as dangerous as most defenders fully healthy. When he gets back to full speed at some point during the 2012 season, the Panthers will have another monster to unleash on opposing offenses.
David Gettis' Quest for the No. 2 Receiver Spot Begins Now
I love David Gettis as a major boom candidate this season.
It seems everyone in Panther-land is busy discussing Brandon LaFell, Joe Adams or a possible free-agent acquisition like Plaxico Burress. Sometimes the answer is right under your nose while you're busy looking around for it.
All Gettis needs to do to improve his stock is reclaim his health. Recovering from a torn ACL is no small order. But if Gettis can work back slowly, coaches will see the talent he displayed in 2010 as a rookie when he caught 37 passes for 508 yards. Even running at half speed in OTAs, he will be able to display his large frame and good ball skills that will make him a prime option for Cam Newton this upcoming season.
The Panthers No. 2 wide receiver job will be an open battle during training camp. I expect Gettis to begin separating himself from Adams, LaFell and the rest of the field during OTAs, and the effort will continue in training camp.
What if I told you he would double his stats from 2010 if all goes well? Would you sign up for that right now? It's a major possibility with the offense the Panthers run and the coverage that Steve Smith should draw coming off last season's effort.
Gettis' stock might be under the radar, but it will be quietly on the rise as you read this article.