Flashback 2004 Draft – And for the 28th pick in the NFL 2004 draft, the Carolina Panthers choose Chris Gamble from the Ohio State University.
What?! Gamble? Why in the world did the Carolina Panthers choose Chris Gamble as their first round pick? I knew they needed help in their secondary but Gamble is too much of a wildcard. He hasn’t played the position long enough.. yada yada yada.
This was the first initial reaction from many Panther fans that day, including two guys that ran a Panther fan website (the Freakzone or something it was called back then). Many were questioning the decision to draft Gamble as their first pick and especially to be used as a cornerback. However, Gamble has proven many wrong. Although he has still made his share of rookie mistakes, Gamble slowly but surely has shown that he belongs in this league and has given hope to Panther fans of having a true shut down corner type for the future.
In 15 games played so far, Chris Gamble has 69 tackles, six assists and six interceptions. Chris started off slow in September, only having six tackles but quickly improved to 20 team tackles and 22 team tackles respectively. In December already, Chris has six tackles and three interceptions. One of the biggest things that Chris has improved on is his awareness of the reads and coverages.
One of the knocks, according to NFL.com, on Chris prior to the NFL draft was “On defense, he relies too much on his speed to recover (allows too much cushion on underneath routes, but can mirror the receiver on deep patterns) … Must do a better job of reading the quarterback, as he can be fooled by play action and misdirection …Shows decent hands for the interception, but looks to run before properly securing the ball (resulting in drops) … Not a consistent wrap-up tackler (seems to want to hit, but lunges too often) … Needs to add strength, as he is generally pushed around when asked to step up in run support.”
From an observer’s point of view, Chris has missed a few opportunities to grab a few picks and early on in the season he did play back further than most would like, relying on his speed to help him. This may in part be because of the cover 3 defensive scheme the Panthers are playing this year. But over the past few games, Chris has seemed to become more comfortable with the position and teams aren’t picking as much on the rookie as would be expected. Still, as rookies go, Gamble has proved his worth.
Time will tell whether Gamble will become the true “breakout” star for the Panthers secondary but his play this year has earned him the spot in the starting cornerback role and the trial by fire Chris is getting by going up against some of the NFL’s top receivers will only make his awareness that much better.
As far as being a Gamble, the word to the wise when John Fox is scouting out talent – Never bet against the house!