CHARLOTTE -- Carolina Panthers coach John Fox hates assessing his players at midseason.
I have no such compunction.
As the Panthers take off today with a 6-2 record, the news has been mostly good. So too, the mid-term grades look better than you might have thought.
I grade on a curve. Playing above your level is worth a bump. Talent alone doesn't get you an A; you have to earn it with play. But if you lack skills, you're not ever getting the highest marks.
Also, not everybody gets a letter grade. Some of these guys haven't done anything, so why whack them? We'll grade them on pass-fail, give them a certificate of participation, and move on.
A look at the entire roster's marks to this point, in alphabetical order.
LB James Anderson: Hard to get mad at him because he's not that good, but hard to figure why they cut Donte Curry once to keep him. I know, because they drafted him. Grade: D.
P Jason Baker: Still quite good at what he does, but his dropsies led to one of his three blocks. He's key to a field-position team. Grade: B.
TE Gary Barnidge: Camp injuries stalled his chance to compete for more playing time, and the opportunity was there. Still is. Grade: D.
LB Jon Beason: If he doesn't start going to Pro Bowls soon, the system should be looked at. Simply everything you want in a player, leader. Grade: A+.
OL Mackenzy Bernardeau: This was his developmental year, so he's auditing this class. Has some potential, but he's buried on the depth chart. Grade: Pass.
DE Tyler Brayton: Lacks physical gifts, but gives consistent, high effort, so his grade's higher than it should be. Grade: C.
G-T Jeremy Bridges: There's something to be said for knowing your role and playing it well. A steady safety net. Grade: B+.
LB Donte Curry: The new Hankton. They made a mistake deactivating, cutting him early. Leads team in special teams tackles despite missing three games. Grade: B+.
LB Thomas Davis: The light has officially come on. He's a linebacker now, and a very good one. Grade: B+.
QB Jake Delhomme: Had one awful game, one merely bad one and six very good ones. He's healthy, and delivering what they needed most last year (leadership, not touchdowns). Grade: A.
LB Na'il Diggs: Nothing flashy, but he's smart and effective, gets his job done on defense and special teams. Grade: B-.
CB Chris Gamble: He could always cover, but is tackling better now. Folks, he's going to make a pile of money somewhere. Grade: A.
DT Gary Gibson: You feel bad giving him a lower grade because he works so hard, but he's limited physically. Grade: C-.
FS Charles Godfrey: Gifted enough to run himself back into plays he didn't recognize. Once he figures it out, look out. Grade: B-.
RB Nick Goings: Respected elder's whiffed on blocks in offense, special teams. He's hanging on by a thread. Grade: D.
LT Jordan Gross: Early run of false starts has ebbed, and now he's playing the same above-average football he always does. Grade: B+.
WR D.J. Hackett: Like Rod Gardner, he helped them win one game, so acquiring him is not a total wash. Wonder if he knows about Wally Pipp? He better. Grade: D.
C-G Geoff Hangartner: There's a physical drop-off when he enters a game, but he's smart, steady enough to get you through tough times. Worth keeping long-term. Grade: B+.
SS Chris Harris: His pace of creating turnovers has slowed considerably, but he's still so much better than what's been there before. Grade: B-.
FB Brad Hoover: More than anybody, he needs a day off. Is actually getting better as he ages, as he learns to play fullback. Grade: B.
WR Dwayne Jarrett: He's starting to get it and starting to fit in. They see his potential as a big receiver who's not afraid to go over the middle. Grade: C.
DE Charles Johnson: Drafted him young and were willing to wait. It's starting to pay off. He'll never be a Mike Rucker, but he might be pretty good. Grade: B-.
LB Landon Johnson: If you thought he was Will Witherspoon, sorry. He's a poor man's Chris Draft with a rich man's contract. Grade: D-.
KR/PR Mark Jones: Walked in the door utterly functional and has improved since then. Might finally be close to healthy again. Grade: C-.
C Ryan Kalil: It's clear that he's stouter than he looks, and he gives another dimension when on the field. Grade: B.
K John Kasay: Now that all he has to do is kick field goals, he's merely perfect at it. And the resident capitalist gets a new contract to boot. Grade: A.
DT Maake Kemoeatu: Every good defense needs a big guy in the middle. He's occupying blocks, and getting occasional penetration. Role filled. Grade: B.
TE Jeff King: He's never going to be a yards-after-catch guy, but can now do something besides fall down. A solid, if not overpowering, blocker. Grade: C-.
LS Jason Kyle: Have you heard his name on TV? No? Good. Still gets his share of tackles, too. Grade: A-.
DT Damione Lewis: Will never be a great run defender but can get upfield and rush QBs. He's responding to the pressure of starting. Grade: B.
K Rhys Lloyd: Good, but not as good at his one thing as Kasay. Grade: B.
CB Ken Lucas: Best thing he did was get punched in the face. Former loner now part of the team, and since he belongs, he's playing with more confidence. Grade: A-.
CB Richard Marshall: He has the attitude, and the toughness, and when he gets his technique refined, he could be special. Grade: B.
QB Josh McCown: Has shown the ability to take knees well. That's a great thing for a backup to know. Grade: C.
WR Kenneth Moore: Midseason acquisition might one day be a good slot receiver, return man. Grade: Pass.
QB Matt Moore: Took a step back in the preseason before breaking leg. McCown leapfrogged him and isn't giving the spot back. Grade: D.
WR Muhsin Muhammad: Wasn't worth the 2005 money, but they're glad to have him back now. Grade: A-.
T Frank Omiyale: Stepped in when needed and played well. Has upside. Grade: C.
RT Jeff Otah: When on the field, he's been strong. But does he have bad ankles? Grade: B.
DE Julius Peppers: Has been merely great, but not quite dominant. Grade: B+.
TE Dante Rosario: Did he leave after the San Diego game? Seems that way. Grade: D+.
S Nate Salley: They kept him over Terrence Holt for a reason. A steady special teamer, backup. Grade: C-.
LB Adam Seward: Wants to go play in a 3-4. Will get his chance soon. Grade: D.
WR Steve Smith: Citizenship grade causes a minor dip, but he's been excellent since returning to field. Grade: A-.
RB Jonathan Stewart: Took time trusting toe. Now may have hit wall. Gets stuffed more than you'd think. Grade: C.
DE Hilee Taylor: Might become what Stanley McClover never did -- productive. Grade: C-.
S Quinton Teal: Hanging on as a special teamer, but he's got some talent. Grade: C-.
RG Keydrick Vincent: Old head of the O-line has been durable, strong, helpful to the kids around him. Grade: B+.
DT Darwin Walker: Has been OK as a backup and has shown occasional evidence he was once a great pass-rusher. Grade: C-.
CB Dante Wesley: Adds to special teams. Best news is he doesn't have to play defense anymore. Grade: C+.
LG Travelle Wharton: When he's on the field, they run with power. That's why they gave him all the money. Grade: A-.
RB DeAngelo Williams: Has grown up in more ways than one. It's his ball now, and he shares it with Stewart nicely. Grade: B+.
CB C.J. Wilson: Should thank Ricardo Colclough daily, offer a ride home. Grade: Pass.