Panthers observations

Charles Robinson
Yahoo! Sports

More Panthers: It's DeShaun Foster's show

SPARTANBURG, S.C. – In his perfect world, Carolina Panthers head coach John Fox would have the massive tandem of Kris Jenkins and Maake Kemoeatu playing alongside each other in the middle of the defensive line. But Jenkins' role (and his future with the Panthers) seems to be at a turning point.

The defensive tackle has missed 27 games over the last two seasons with injuries, and so far in training camp he has been in and out of practices with lower back issues. Jenkins just turned 27 Thursday, so he has youth on his side. But unless he returns to Pro Bowl form this year, his base salaries get pricey over the next few seasons: $3.2 million in 2007, $2.95 million in 2008 and $3.7 million in 2009.

And while Jenkins' weight issues didn't seem to be totally out of whack (he looked like he was in the neighborhood of 330), Fox didn't seem to be holding his breath for the aforementioned best-case scenario.

"No doubt, it's a big year for him," Fox said of Jenkins. "That's why we went out and signed Damione Lewis and Maake Kemoeatu. We're ready either way with Kris."

  • One guy who really seems to be delighted with the pickup of wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson is offensive coordinator Dan Henning. While the buzz has been about the schematic complement Johnson provides opposite Steve Smith, Henning has been thrilled with all the extras Johnson offers – good blocking, veteran leadership and even a little chip on his shoulder.

"On the field, he's got a confrontational, competitive attitude," Henning said of Johnson. "Just like the attitude that Steve Smith brings to us – that feeling of we're going to win, it doesn't matter what we have to do. Some guys bring talent, and some guys bring talent-plus. Keyshawn brings talent-plus."

  • Speaking of Johnson, quarterback Jake Delhomme said he and Smith had an extended conversation about the new receiver when it became clear he was coming to Carolina. The vital part of it, Delhomme said, was allaying some of the fears about team chemistry.

"I asked Steve, 'Do you know him at all?' and Steve said he didn't and that he really didn't know what kind of guy Keyshawn was," Delhomme said. "That was kind of the concern.

"But sometimes the media will paint a perception of someone where you might think you know them, but you really don't. So that's what I told Steve. I said, 'Hey, we don't know what kind of guy he really is. Look at how the media sometimes portrays you. And to me, you're a little puppy dog.' He just kind of laughed about it, and he said, 'Yeah, you're right.' "

  • You hear a lot of good things in the organization about rookie Brett Basanez, an undrafted quarterback from Northwestern. Despite having to deal with the recent death of Wildcats head coach Randy Walker, Basanez apparently has been very eager and engaging on and off the field. He also looks like he has the physical tools to stick around.

Basanez has good mobility and seemed to throw a cleaner and more accurate ball than last year's fourth-round pick Stefan LeFors. The 6-foot-2, 210-pound Basanez has better size than LeFors, too.

It will be interesting to see what happens in the preseason games as the two battle for the No. 3 quarterback spot. Even if Basanez loses out, it would behoove another franchise to pick him up and send him to NFL Europe for a season.

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