Work in Sports
More defense for Panthers
Carolina hopes Anderson, Grant will help stop pass
Posted: Sunday April 16, 2000 12:24 AM
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- Carolina proved it could throw the ball with the best in the NFL last season. Now, the Panthers will try to stop other teams from doing the same.
After an offseason of defensive upgrades, the Panthers continued that trend Saturday by taking cornerback Rashard Anderson of Jackson State with the 23rd overall pick in the NFL draft.
The 6-foot-2 1/2, 204-pound Anderson gives the Panthers several needs in the defensive backfield, including speed, size and versatility. His father, Ricky Patton, played in the NFL for Atlanta and San Francisco.
They followed up that pick by choosing another defensive back, safety Deon Grant of Tennessee with the 57th overall pick. Carolina went offense with its third-round selection, picking Indiana (Pa.) guard Leander Jordan.
"This guy to me is what you're looking for in a safety or corner," Jack Bushofsky, Carolina's director of player personnel, said of Anderson. "He can run with the small corners and his ability is untapped. Maybe I am going overboard on this, but I just see an unlimited future."
Carolina finished 8-8 in the NFC West and just missed the postseason in coach George Seifert's first season despite a defense that ranked 24th in the league against the run and 23rd against the pass.
The drafting of Anderson follows the free agent signings of Atlanta defensive end Chuck Smith, St. Louis defensive lineman Jay Williams, Minnesota cornerback Jimmy Hitchcock and former San Francisco linebacker Lee Woodall.
"We have addressed issues on the defensive line through free agency," said veteran cornerback Eric Davis. "Now, this is a guy who can play corner, he has the size the play safety, he runs well and he seems to be a physical guy. I can definitely see [Seifert's] thinking bringing this guy into the fold."
Anderson played safety his first two seasons at Jackson State, then switched to cornerback last year. He finished his career there with 124 tackles, 22 pass breakups and seven interceptions.
"The size influenced us all a great deal because of the size of the receivers we're facing in the league," Seifert said of Anderson's big frame. "As a former defensive backfield coach I have always been partial to the bigger defensive back."
Anderson, who was timed at 4.48 seconds in the 40, said he would prefer to say at cornerback, but Seifert said the coaching staff will keep an open mind with the club's No. 1 pick.
"We are going to work him at the corner position and see how he responds to that," Seifert said. "I my mind there is no doubt he can play the safety spot. We see coverage ability -- certainly. "But it is becoming more and more essential to have at least one safety in your secondary because of the three-receiver offenses that can come up and play man-to-man coverage against wide receivers," he added. "I believe that's what we have with this man."
Carolina's original first-round pick (12th overall) went to Washington when Carolina signed free agent Sean Gilbert two years ago. The team acquired Miami's first-round pick, No. 23, in exchange for the Panthers' second-round selection in 1998.
The Panthers seriously considered trading down in the draft, but decided against it when Anderson was still available.
"We felt the pick was more valuable than what we would have received in return," Seifert said. Carolina's scouts projected Anderson, who impressed them at the Senior Bowl, as a mid first-round pick, and was the top-rated player on the board when the Panthers picked, Seifert said.
Bushofsky had Anderson rated higher than Deltha O'Neal of California, the first defensive back taken in the draft by Denver at pick No. 15.
The Panthers took another cornerback from a small school in the first round in 1995 -- Tyrone Poole of Fort Valley State. But the 5-8 Poole was eventually traded to Indianapolis after three mediocre seasons. "Some people might think [Anderson] is an unusual [pick], but for us, the way we rated the players, this man was the player to take at this time," Seifert said. Anderson was at home in Forest, Miss. -- a small town of 10,000 -- when he received the call from the Panthers. He said he's not worried about competing at the next level. "I feel like I've faced good players every day," said Anderson, who practiced against teammate Sylvester Morris, who was drafted two spots earlier by Kansas City. "We both have to wake up in the morning and put the pant leg on at the same time, so that's the way I'm going to treat this situation."
Grant, who decided to forego his senior year at Tennessee to enter the draft, is considered by many NFL scouts as the best coverage man in this year's draft.
But scouts have also questioned the 6-foot-3, 205-pound player's tackling ability. Grant was a second-team All American and Southeastern Conference defensive player of the year.