Devin Funchess Jersey

As their first free agent signing of the offseason, wide receiver Devin Funchess is bringing the Indianapolis Colts some upside, but he also carries a history of drops.
While the tape shows it wasn’t a huge issue during the first half of the season in 2018 when he was with the Carolina Panthers, it did have a massive impact in his game during the second half.

When asked about an issue with drops during a conference call with reporters Thursday, Funchess isn’t paying any mind to that.

“I don’t really even remember last season. Today is March 14 I believe. So I am not worried about all of that and I am ready to go,” Funchess said. “All of that stuff is in the past. I don’t live in the past. I live for today.”

Funchess might be looking to bury his second half deep in his mind, but it was there. Regardless, the Colts have enough confidence that he can be a solid contributor on the boundary after they gave him a one-year contract that be worth up to $13 million.
The 24-year-old wide receiver is a strong route-runner for his size while showing quick footwork and the line of scrimmage. He’ll need to prove the drops are truly behind him, but he could be considered a similar project to that of Eric Ebron.

The Colts offense needs depth in the wide receiver room, and they are hoping Funchess can reach the next level of performance while getting rid of the drop issues.

Shaq Thompson Jersey

Running back Christian McCaffrey and retired defensive end Charles Johnson have heard their names called at the NFL Draft. This year, they’ll call out the names of some new Panthers when they announce the team’s selections on Day Two of the 2019 NFL Draft.

McCaffrey, a first-round draft choice from Stanford in 2017, will announce the Panthers’ second-round pick (No. 47 overall) in Nashville. Johnson, a third-round choice from Georgia in 2007, will announce Carolina’s third-round picks (Nos. 77 and 100).

McCaffrey has lived up to his lofty draft position, last year setting an NFL record for receptions by a running back in a season with 108. Johnson offered production worthy of his draft status over his 11-year career, ranking second in franchise history with 67.5 sacks.

In previous drafts, former Panthers have announced the team’s second-round selection: wide receiver Muhsin Muhammad (2010), fullback Brad Hoover (2011), defensive end Mike Rucker (2012), safety Mike Minter (2013), wide receiver Mark Carrier (2014), safety Pat Terrell (2015), cornerback Chris Gamble (2016) and offensive linemen Travelle Wharton (2017) and Jordan Gross (2018).

Former Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis announced the selection of McCaffrey with the eighth pick in the 2017 NFL Draft and the selection of linebacker Shaq Thompson with the 25th pick in the 2015 draft.

James Bradberry Jersey

GOSHEN — A former county process server will not do time after admitting to her role in a payroll theft case at the Elkhart County Sheriff’s Office. But she will return funds to the county.

Mary Letherman, 54, Goshen, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of criminal conversion during a hearing in Elkhart County Circuit Court Thursday. The charge was downgraded from the felony theft count she originally faced.

Letherman admitted, according to the charge, she exerted unauthorized control of money from Elkhart County by claiming she worked hours she didn’t actually work between about January 2014 through September 2017.

Judge Michael Christofeno accepted the plea and convicted Letherman, and then moved into the sentencing phase of the case.

As part of her plea agreement, Letherman was sentenced to a year in jail, which was suspended with the condition of good behavior. She was also ordered to pay $1,500 in restitution to the Elkhart County government.

The $3,000 bond she posted after her arrest in September 2018 was released, with part of that money directed to cover the restitution as well as court costs and fees.

Letherman’s attorney, David Francisco, explained she had worked for the sheriff’s office for 34 years, with 20 of them as a process server. He argued work for her started to diminish as court systems modernized around 2014.

Francisco argued Letherman’s crime was taking lunches that were “a bit too long” during the period that was investigated. He also said she raised issues about slowing work with her former supervisor, then-Capt. James Bradberry. Francisco described Bradberry’s response as sweeping the issue under the rug.

He also pointed out Letherman has no criminal history and no records of arrest. She’s ready to move past the case, Francisco said.

“This has been a very trying time,” Letherman told the court. “It almost destroyed me.”

Letherman also said she put too much of her identity into her role as a process server.

“There’s more to life than what one does for a living,” she said.

Taylor Moton Jersey

In the five seasons that have passed since the retirement of franchise great Jordan Gross, the Carolina Panthers have had five different players start most of the season at left tackle. In 2019, that number will likely increase to six.

With the Panthers’ decision to re-sign All-Pro right tackle Daryl Williams to a one-year contract on Wednesday, the team is now faced with the unenviable situation of having two high-level right tackles. Taylor Moton excelled at the position in relief of Williams in 2018, which now leaves the team in a situation where they will likely have to move either Moton or Williams to left tackle.

Though Moton has experience playing left tackle (And Panthers head coach Ron Rivera recently stated that he feels comfortable with Moton playing the position if needed), he is a right tackle by trade – as is Williams. And with Williams hardly certain to be the same player he was before missing almost the entire 2018 season with a major knee injury or to have a future in the Carolinas beyond 2019, moving either Williams or Moton to left tackle for a season does not solve the Panthers’ long-standing issue of instability at left tackle.

In the time since the retirement of Jordan Gross following the 2013 season, the Panthers have gone through five different left tackles in five seasons: Byron Bell proved not to be the answer in 2014, leading the Panthers to sign Michael Oher for the 2015 season. Oher would play very well in 2015, but was knocked out for most of the 2016 season with a concussion, forcing Mike Remmers from right to left tackle. The Panthers tried to find a franchise left tackle in free agency by signing Matt Kalil for the 2017 season, only for Kalil to not play up to his massive contract. After Kalil was sidelined for the 2018 season with a knee injury, Chris Clark was tasked with protecting Cam Newton’s blindside for most of the season.

Naturally, the Panthers’ revolving door at one of the most important positions on the offensive line has kept the unit from realizing its potential, and has at times compromised their ability to keep Newton upright. But fortunately, a blueprint exists for the Panthers to use one of their right tackles on the left side of the offensive line in 2019 – while still finding and developing a franchise left tackle.

When both Williams and Moton were rookies, the Panthers opted to take a safe approach to their development by having the two serve as top reserve tackles: Williams would appear in 10 games with two starts in his rookie year of 2015, while Moton was used sparingly in all 16 games of his rookie year primarily as an extra offensive lineman. Given the players that both would turn into, this strategy worked rather well. And theoretically, the Panthers could follow that same path again by taking a left tackle in the early rounds of the Draft and having him serve as a top reserve lineman while grooming him to take over the left tackle position in 2020. Following this train of thought, such a player could presumably serve in the role that the Panthers used Marshall Newhouse in during the 2018 season.

While there will be a number of enticing options at left tackle in the first round of the draft (Namely Alabama’s Jonah Williams and Ole Miss’ Greg Little), spending one’s first pick on an offensive lineman has become a risky proposition – As evidenced by the number of recent high-profile offensive line draft busts to come out of the first round (Such as Luke Joeckel and Ereck Flowers, both of whom were Top 10 picks yet failed miserably with their respective teams.) For their part, the Panthers have had great success finding offensive linemen in the draft’s later rounds: Pro Bowler Trai Turner was a third-round pick in 2014, while Williams and Moton were taken in the fourth and second rounds respectively. Former Panthers guard Andrew Norwell, meanwhile, was signed by the team as an undrafted free agent before becoming an All-Pro.

Christian McCaffrey Jersey

It is NFL Draft season which means that the top prospects and suggestions of where they could fit with different teams are underway. The Carolina Panthers are certainly not removed from those discussions as they look to improve their roster. One of the areas that they could improve is running back. Although they have a few faces at the position behind Christian McCaffrey, they could certainly use someone who can make an impact right away.

Alabama running back Josh Jacobs would certainly fit that mold. Jacobs was a stud for the Crimson Tide. In the 2018 season, he carried the ball 120 times for 640 yards and 11 touchdowns. Averaging 5.3 yards per carry, that is certainly a big chunk of yardage on a first down play for example. In total, he accumulated 140 plays from scrimmage for 887 yards and 14 touchdowns. Averaging 6.3 yards per play he showed he could have that explosiveness in any situation off the line. For his Alabama career, Jacobs carried the ball 251 times for 1, 491 yards and 16 touchdowns.

Those may not seem like impressive numbers, and on any team except for Alabama they wouldn’t be. However, the way Alabama has constructed their offense over the past couple years it is becoming an increasingly pass-friendly offense. Not only that, Alabama has a reputation for bringing in slower backs, ones that can literally run you over. They may not be the fastest, they may not gain the most yards, but you know that they are on the field and they will truck you into the end zone. That’s just the way Alabama running backs have been the past couple of years.

Take for example Derrick Henry. He is not the fastest running back to ever play the game, but his physicality has made him a rising running back in the National Football League. The same could be said for Mark Ingram. While he was with the New Orleans Saints, Ingram was viewed as the power back while Alvin Kamara took care of things moreso on the speed and receiving end. He performed very well with the Saints, and looks to do the same for the Baltimore Ravens. If he can do that, the Ravens would be in good shape.

However, as it pertains to Jacobs, the Carolina Panthers have been linked to him. Charlie Casserly of NFL Network noted that Jacobs could take some of the load off of Christian McCaffrey. That is perhaps the main reason why he would be a good fit with the Panthers. McCaffrey needs someone he can turn to if he needs a rest. He did way too much for the Carolina Panthers offense last season, and I would hate to see him have to carry the load in the backfield again.

It would be fun to see a McCaffrey-Jacobs duo in the backfield for Carolina. They would certainly be a force to be reckoned with, and also be an upgrade from the current running back group. Of course, I am willing to give the other running backs a chance, but ideally I want to see someone that can make an impact right now. Jacobs has shown he can do that.

Ian Thomas Jersey

Columbia will have greener buses, clearer history and more scooters following Monday night’s City Council meeting.

The council voted to purchase three new electric buses, install 21 historic markers on the African-American Heritage Trail and approved an agreement to bring 500 additional scooters into the city.

In the last meeting before voters chose to retain Mayor Brian Treece for a second term had little that was controversial. The next meeting will be to swear in the winner and begin new terms for Third Ward Councilman Karl Skala and Fourth Ward Councilman Ian Thomas, who are running unopposed.

The new buses will be no-emission electric vehicles purchased with $294,000 from the state Department of Natural Resources. The grant received in 2018 came from the state’s $6.25 million share of Volkswagen’s $14.9 billion settlement with the federal government over emission cheating on its diesel cars.

The city did not have the money to purchase electric buses before receiving the grants, and leasing them instead “drained our operating budget,” public works director Dave Nichols said.

Fifth Ward council member Matt Pitzer pointed out that some of the electric buses had maintenance issues. The city leased four buses from Los Angeles, and the buses were not suited for Columbia’s terrain, so the company in Los Angeles has agreed to replace them, Nichols said.

The three new buses will be custom-designed for Columbia and should arrive in a year, he said.

Under the terms of the Volkswagen settlement, vehicles replaced with the grants must be destroyed and replaced with zero emission vehicles. The settlement and matching funds will buy replacements for buses built in model year 2001.

The African-American Heritage Trail has been in the works since 2011 and will eventually highlight 39 locations in downtown Columbia that are important to the city’s African American history. The Sharp End Heritage Committee, named after Columbia’s black business district during the segregation era, raised $52,500 in private donations over the past four years to buy the 21 new plaques. About $2,100 from the city’s Parks and Recreation Department budget will be used to pay for the markers’ installation.

The committee dedicated its first plaque in May 2015, recognizing Sharp End. This was the committee’s first goal, and developing the trail was the second, committee chairman James Whitt said at the council meeting.

“We were looking at fostering the growth of minority-owned businesses as part of our strategic plan, and one of the things we thought we needed to do was take a look backwards, see what we’ve done in the past and see how that interacted with the future,” Whitt said.

Eight plaques have been installed so far, and city staff estimated four more will be installed in 2019. The two most recent plaques were dedicated in September 2018, one at the Douglass Park and Pool on Providence Avenue and one where early 20th century entrepreneur Annie Fisher’s house stood on Park Avenue.

“It’s very inspirational to see that the part of Columbia I grew up in, segregated Columbia, is finally being recognized,” committee member Barbra Horrell said.

The council also approved an interim operating agreement with Spin, an electric scooter company and a subsidiary of Ford Motor Company. It differs from other ride-sharing companies because it asks for cities’ permission before launching, Spin head of government partnerships Kyle Rowe told the council.

Columbia already has a contract with Bird scooters, which arrived in the city in August 2018. The council approved the operating agreement with Bird in November.

Third Ward council member Karl Skala was the sole dissenting vote on both agreements. He recently attended a forum on disabilities in which people “had serious concerns” about scooters in Columbia’s streets, he said.

“I just don’t believe we’ve done due diligence to really take a look at other cities’ successes and failures,” Skala said.

Columbia residents Eugene Elkin and Barbara Jefferson echoed Skala’s concerns about the impact of scooters on people with disabilities.

“They clutter up the streets and block the ramps for people in wheelchairs,” Jefferson said. “In my neighborhood, too often they’re just parked in the streets.”

Bird’s first quarterly payment to the city was due near the end of March, but the city has not yet received it, city counselor Nancy Thompson said. City staff has had conversations with Bird about making the payment this month, she said.

Treece requested a compliance report on when the payment was due, whether Bird is violating its contract with the city and how it can fix its error.

The council approved the creation of a seven-member task force to work with a consultant to create a broadband plan for Columbia businesses and to look into adding more fiber optic internet offerings throughout the city. The task force will include community stakeholders, city staff members and at least one council member.

Skala said he hopes to be considered for the task force, and Fourth Ward council member Ian Thomas said his constituents have told him they are interested in participating.

Donte Jackson Jersey

Panthers fans have come to know and appreciate Donte Jackson after a solid rookie year with the team. With so much speed and so much personality, what’s not to love?

But last February at the NFL Scouting Combine, no one knew Jackson was going to end up in Carolina as a second-round pick.

Everyone, however, knew the fiery cornerback was going to run fast in Indy.

“Don’t blink,” Jackson told reporters. “You’re going to miss it.”

He got everyone’s attention with a 4.32 40-yard dash, which tied for the best time among all participants.

And after further review, his press conference performance wasn’t too shabby either – no surprise given what we know now about D-Jack.

“From the waist down, I’m track. Everything else up from there, my mentality, my toughness, my swagger, my confidence, all that’s straight football player,” Jackson said. “I’m mean on the field, I bite, I’m a Rottweiler. Mentality-wise, I’m all football.”

For Jackson – who measured in at 5-foot-11, 178 pounds – there was considerable concern that he might not be able to hold his own physically in the NFL.

But the former LSU Tiger spoke like a man who had zero doubt.

“I’m a dog. That’s how I developed the skill to play out there,” Jackson said. “I was taught by dogs like Jalen Mills, Jamal Adams, Tre’Davious White, so I was groomed to be a guy out there on an island with confidence. I play with confidence, I carry myself with a lot of confidence and a lot of swagger, so I think I’ll be ready to play on an island and hold my own like I’ve been doing my whole career.”

Jackson’s objective in Indianapolis was to prove to NFL evaluators that there was more to his game than speed alone.

Some teams may have looked at his measurables and shied away. Their loss and the Panthers gain.

“I don’t take my speed for granted, but I always want to stress I’m a complete corner,” Jackson said. “I’m aggressive, I’m a technician, I have great ball skills, I’m not scared to hit anybody, tough, and I play with confidence out that and I love to compete. I think that makes the complete corner, and I think that’s what I am – just with God-given speed.”

DJ Moore Jersey

We all know Carolina Panthers wideout D.J. Moore possesses a ton of talent. We saw it first-hand on the field in 2018 as the rookie made leaping catches, quick cuts, and showcased his speed. I personally believe that he will be extremely successful in 2019. It’s one thing to take my opinion at face value. However, when Arizona Cardinals wideout and former Pittsburgh Panthers great Larry Fitzgerald says something, you have to take notice.

Fitzgerald in his own right has had a great career. Just last season at the age of 35, Fitzgerald caught 69 passes for 734 yards and six touchdowns. Averaging 10.6 yards per catch, a 37-yard grab was his longest of the season. Although those statistics may not be impressive, the fact that Fitzgerald is still balling at the age of 35 is impressive. In my humble opinion, he has been one of the most consistent wide receivers in the game year in and year out.

Moore certainly gave the Carolina Panthers and their fans a nice preview of what may be to come. He caught 55 passes for 788 yards and two touchdowns. He certainly made general manager Marty Hurney look good as drafting a wide receiver with a first-round pick is considered risky in most football circles. However, it was no secret that the Carolina Panthers needed a big-play weapon, and they got one.

The fact that Fitzgerald recognizes Moore could be a tremendous player and that he is in line for a big second year makes me very excited. It’s not too often that a surefire Hall of Famer offers such high praise like this. At the very least, maybe the rest of the league will begin to take notice. With all the successful rookies that entered the league in 2018, I feel like Moore flew under the radar a little bit. That is not necessarily a bad thing. It allowed him to get his feet under him in relative peace. However, now the league is beginning to take notice.

Fitzgerald’s comments certainly carry a lot of weight to them as the offseason continues. I’m very excited to see what Moore will be able to do in the preseason minicamps which are only a couple months away. Hopefully, he does not suffer a sophomore slump. With the departure of Devin Funchess, he and Curtis Samuel need to make a concerted effort to step up and be the impact playmakers for the offense.

Greg Olsen Jersey

According to a report by Andrew Marchand at the New York Post, Panthers tight end Greg Olsen has been offered analyst positions by ESPN and Fox.

Marchand’s report also states that CBS met with Olsen but has not made an offer.
“Olsen, the Carolina Panthers tight end, is deciding if he should continue to play or begin a career in broadcasting,” Marchand wrote. “Both Fox and ESPN have made offers to him, sources have told The Post, in an effort to lure him off the field as an analyst.”

Olsen has some solid experience as a TV analyst, most recently commentating on the divisional-round playoff game between the Saints and the Eagles. He received good reviews for his work in that contest and generally has earned nothing but praise for his on-camera analysis.

Then again, Olsen can earn a lot more on the field than off of it. Carolina still has him under contract for another two years. His base salary for those seasons is a total of $8.5 million.

The question for Olsen is whether he’s ready to retire. He didn’t miss a single game from 2008-2016 but he’s suffered foot injuries in consecutive years, forcing him to the sideline for 16 games.
Olsen’s production has also dropped off a cliff. Once considered one of the elite tight ends in the NFL, he has posted fewer than 500 receiving yards and scored five touchdowns in his last 16 games. He’s become less consistent as well. While his catch rate was a career-high 71.1 percent in 2018, it was a career-low 44.7 percent the year before.

If Olsen can get healthy and back into a rhythm with Cam Newton, he might still be able to post 1,000 yards in a single season. That’s a big if, though.

Kawann Short Jersey

While general manager Marty Hurney has done a commendable job thus far in free agency shoring up the Panthers weak spots, there is one player from Carolina’s 2018 roster who is still a free agent and should probably be brought back into the fold. That man — and that marvelous belly — is defensive tackle Kyle Love.

The Panthers defensive tackle situation today is less than ideal. Kawann Short is a beast and coming off his second Pro Bowl season, so no concerns there. Dontari Poe was a big-money free agent signing in 2018 but didn’t have the impact many of us had hoped for (17 tackles, one sack, three quarterback hits). Vernon Butler hasn’t lived up to his 2016 first round draft pick status with just 45 career tackles and two sacks in 38 largely ineffective games. The only other defensive tackles currently on the roster are Woodrow Hamilton and Elijah Qualls.

Depth is always needed at defensive tackle because players are rotated out so frequently to catch their breath. The position is often a four-man rotation where even the third and fourth players on the depth chart play a lot of snaps. In 2018, for example, Kawann Short played in 59 percent of Carolina’s defensive snaps while fellow starter Dontari Poe played in 52 percent. Filling in the gaps were Love with 47 percent and Butler with 33 percent. The defensive tackle position normally requires four capable players, and as of today the Panthers only have two in Short and Poe. All eyes will be on Butler in 2019 with the hope he has a breakout season and avoids the “first round bust” label, but if that doesn’t happen then the Panthers are shockingly thin at defensive tackle.

Kyle Love has proven to be a capable rotational player with a reasonable cap hit during his five season season in Carolina. He just completed a two-year, $2.2 million contract and remains a free agent so my assumption is he could be signed to a deal somewhere near the $1.1 million he made on his last last contract, but that’s just speculation on my part. While the Panthers have limited cap space, that’s not a bad cap hit for a proven veteran who can be counted on to play nearly half of then team’s defensive snaps. And as far as the cap goes, there’s a certain wide receiver with a $5.0 million cap hit who can still be released before the season to free up some additional funds (Torrey Smith, I’m looking in your general direction.)

It’s hard to assess how productive defensive tackles are by just looking at traditional stats like tackles and sacks so let’s look at how both Pro Football Focus and Pro Football Reference graded the Panthers defensive tackles in 2018. PFF was high on Love as his 77.3 grade ranked No. 31 among interior defensive linemen. This puts Love behind Short (83.7) but ahead of Poe (69.0) and Butler (63.5). On the other hand, Pro Football Reference gave Love an Approximate Value (AV) of 2 in 2018, which isn’t good. This trailed both Short (8) and Poe (6), but once again put him ahead of Butler (1).

At age 32 Love’s best years are probably behind him, but the Panthers should be in win-now mode and can prioritize production over youth in some cases. Plus, Love has shown no signs of slowing down. In fact, PFF named him as the Panthers most improved player of 2018. The big guy still has some gas left in the tank.

Because the Panthers have more pressing needs to address in the draft than defensive tackle, bringing Kyle Love back on a reasonable deal makes a lot of sense to me. He would provide capable depth at a position that will always need it, all without breaking the bank.

What’s not to love about that?