Carolina Panthers: Efe Obada and the American dream

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    Efe Obada was recently highlighted here at CSR so this is as good of a time as any to give some props to the NFL for its International Pathway Program. The IPP launched in 2017 and gave each of the teams in the NFC South an additional spot on the practice squad for a foreign born player. The goals of the program include expanding the NFL’s global reach while developing players from outside of the United States to help them live the American dream. Call me a sucker if you want Cheap Shaq Thompson Jersey , but I love underdog stories. Movies like The Rookie, Invincible, and Million Dollar Arm are right in my wheelhouse. So yes, I’m rooting for Nigerian-born, London-raised Efe Obada to fulfill his NFL dream. Obada was born in Nigeria then trafficked from the Netherlands to England where he was left abandoned and homeless at age 10. His rise from homelessness to warehouse worker to the London Warriors to the Dallas Cowboys (and now the Panthers) is incredible. I’d encourage you to read Obada’s entire story here at While Obada becoming a successful NFL player is improbable, it’s not impossible. Just look at the Detroit Lions’ Ezekiel (Ziggy) Ansah. As a BYU fan I had the joy of watching Ansah develop from playing “American football” for the first time in 2010 into a first round pick in 2013. Ansah’s story in a nutshell is he was born in Ghana, arrived at BYU in 2008 as a former soccer player with basketball aspirations, but he got cut from the basketball team in both 2008 and 2009. He walked on the track team in 2009 then finally listened to friends and coaches who told him to try out for the football team. When he first showed up on the football field he didn’t know where the end zone was. He didn’t know how to put on pads. He didn’t know how to get in a defensive stance or how to tackle. Three years later Ansah was the fifth overall pick in the NFL draft, recorded 8.0 sacks in his rookie season, and was selected to the 2013 All-Rookie Team. In 2015 his 14.5 sacks where third in the NFL and made him a Pro Bowl selection. He went from clueless to dominant in five short years. Some foreign-born aspiring football players just need a chance. They need coaching, equipment, and infrastructure. Football lacks the access of soccer and basketball where kids can just gather and play with minimal cost and virtually zero adult oversight. Competitive football players can’t develop that way. They need an organized support staff assisting them almost every step of the way. Obada told the NFL UK his life “is a dream” and “feels like a movie.”Call me a sucker, but I hope this is a movie with a happy ending.What’s next for the Panthers after Ross Cockrell’s season ending injury? Welp. That happened.The Panthers signed Ross Cockrell to a two year deal following the debacle with free agent Bashaud Breeland , after Breeland failed his physical due to a laceration suffered in his foot during the offseason. Cockrell was brought in effectively as a plan B. Cockrell’s always been a zone heavy corner, and in the Panthers zone heavy scheme he looked like a perfect fit, even garnering praise every day from defensive coordinator Eric Washington in regards to the “hustle” he wants to see from his corners.Well, that all came to a screeching halt after Cockrell collided with Torrey Smith, shattering both the bones in his lower leg. Now, the plan for him is to go to IR after his surgery is complete, most likely shelving him until next season. Cockrell was easily in the running to be the Panthers second corner opposite James Bradberry. So now the question arises, where do they go from here?Current rosterSo Cockrell was competing with incumbent Kevon Seymour, who managed to take snaps from the departed and since arrested Daryl Worley. Of all the CBs on the roster, Seymour has the most experience at outside corner (unless you want to include Captain Munnerlyn’s time there back during the McDermott days of 2013). Seymour likely has the inside track here, however the team expressed interest in using corners based on the gameplan and matchups, which we saw last year as Seymour and Worley traded snaps outside. 2nd round pick Donte Jackson figures to factor in here as well, bringing top level speed and a certain scrappy play style that Seymour simply doesn’t have. So these two should be fighting for time all season.In addition , Cockrell’s injury helps open the door for others to make the roster when it may have been tough for them before. We have yet to see what 2017 late round pick Corn Elder brings to the table as he works his way back from injury, while Cole Luke filled in nicely during the 2017 preseason and did enough for the Panthers to bring him back for a second look. Another person to watch here is Lorenzo Doss, who has been making plays since the rookie minicamp. There are definitely some guys to watch here, but the biggest issue is finding a guy to use in zone heavy gameplans like they planned with Cockrell.Potential answers off the roster?While it seems the bridge would be burned with Breeland after the Panthers rescinded their offer, he is still a free agent. He got a visit with the Chiefs, but didn’t like the offer they gave him. This is certainly an outside shot, but crazier things have happened. There’s also guys still floating around in free agency, such as Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Delvin Breaux.It is tough to say whether the Panthers would make a play on a free agent or make a trade, but they clearly expected to have a proven veteran to pair with Bradberry. The injury bug bit this team early, but not all is lost. They’ve got some time to figure things out here.What are your thoughts? Do you think the current roster is sufficient? Who would you bring in if you were Marty Hurney?

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