Thursday, November 3, 2011

Brandon Hogan Could Be a Big Contributor for the Panthers Sooner Rather Than Later

Credit: WVU
  Brandon Hogan has not played in a live football game since he tore his ACL against Rutgers in WVU's regular season finale last December. Hogan was a fringe first-round talent before the injury, and the Carolina Panthers took him with the 1st pick (98 overall) of the 4th round in this past spring's NFL Draft despite him not being able to participate in any of the pre-draft workouts.
  Hogan started this season on the Panthers' PUP list after not passing a physical when players reported for training camp and not playing in the Preseason. Hogan began practicing two weeks ago with the team after finally being cleared of the ACL injury. The early reports from Panthers' practices were expected: he showed flashes, but looked rusty. That's expected after not practicing for over a year.
  The Panthers' defense has suffered this season with injuries to two Pro-Bowl linebackers (Jon Beason, Thomas Davis) and a distinct lack of depth at corner, the position Hogan plays. The Panthers also rank near the bottom of the league in kick and punt returns, another position Hogan can help the Panthers with.
  Now, the Panthers are going into their bye week at 2-6, and are mixing things up on defense going into the second half of the season and are looking for answers to help boost the return game. Starting with Monday's practice, Hogan surprised some people.
  Chris Gamble and Captain Munnerlyn are the Panthers two starting corners. Gamble does a decent job, and reviews on Munnerlyn are mixed. Munnerlyn had one of his best games of the season this past weekend against the Minnesota Vikings, but was replaced by Brandon Hogan on the first-team defense for Monday's practice. Hogan suffered a setback in Tuesday's practice by tweaking his ankle.
  First year head coach Ron Rivera is a former defensive coordinator for the San Diego Chargers and played on the Chicago Bears defense in the 1980's. Rivera is not afraid to mix things up if he has a 'feeling' about a player. He named 2nd-year DE Greg Hardy the starter before the team ever practiced. Rivera has watched Hogan practice for two weeks, and has to make a decision on whether to activate the former Mountaineer by next Thursday.
  The question is: does Rivera see enough in Brandon Hogan for him to either start or get significant playing time as a rookie... in the middle of the regular season? Rivera says that Hogan "gets better and better everyday."
  Although the Panthers and Ron Rivera have until next Thursday, Nov. 9 to declare if Hogan will be activated this season, Rivera revealed today that they will have a decision by Monday.
  Generally, teams will begin gameplanning for the next week's game early in the week. The Panthers will be coming out of their bye week and will start preparing for the next week's game against the Tennessee Titans. If Rivera likes what he has seen from practices this week (all of the Panthers players were given Thursday- Sunday off) and on Monday, if his ankle is healed, my belief is that Hogan will be activated for the Titans game, and he could get significant action at corner and possibly as a kick returner.

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