Scott Fowler

Talk about wide receiver, offensive line could be a cover for Panthers GM Dave Gettleman

For all the chatter about whether the Carolina Panthers will pick an offensive tackle or a wide receiver with their first pick in the NFL draft on May 8, I wonder if general manager Dave Gettleman won’t surprise us all and pick a defensive player again.

Gettleman kept making side comments Tuesday about how you can’t win in the NFL with an “average” defense. He is a defense-first guy. He has a former linebacker as his head coach. He is paying defensive end Greg Hardy exorbitant money but let his top four wide receivers walk from last year. His first two picks last season – his rookie year as a GM – were both defensive tackles. Both played very well.

The Panthers are far from an average defense. They were No. 2 in the NFL last year. Only Seattle – No. 1 and the eventual Super Bowl champ – was better. But I could see Gettleman doing it again, even though Carolina’s offense absolutely has to get better for this team to win.

•  Gettleman, a champion of the colorful phrase, broke out a new one Tuesday. After “hog mollie” became the Panthers draft term of choice of 2013 – Gettleman used it regularly to describe excellent big men on the offensive or defensive lines – he mentioned a “blue goose” this time. When I asked Gettleman what he meant by a “blue goose,” the general manager gave the example of Merlin Olsen.

The idea, obviously, is that a “blue goose” is a hall of fame type player. But Gettleman showed his age a bit with that reference, picking a deceased player whose heyday as a defensive tackle was about 50 years ago. I’m sure Panthers owner Jerry Richardson got it, but Gettleman might want to try one with a little less dust on it when he breaks it out again on draft night.

•  I also enjoyed Gettleman’s thoughts about the Panthers’ draft needs: wide receiver, offensive tackle and a “connor.”

A Connor? He had to say it a second time before I understood. He wasn’t talking about former Panthers linebacker Dan Connor. He was talking about a cornerback.