Friday, August 12, 2011

2011 Season Preview: Carolina Panthers

2010 Record: 2-14

2010 Rankings:
Total Offense - 32
Passing Offense - 32
Rushing Offense - 13
Scoring Offense - 32
Total Defense - 18
Pass Defense - 11
Rush Defense - 23
Scoring Defense - 26


The Panthers had a ton of needs going into the draft, but none bigger than to find a quarterback. Having seen Jimmy Clausen play last year, he just wasn't going to cut it. Cam Newton is a polarizing figure, but the Panthers needed someone that could complete a pass under center. Of the 3 quarterbacks that started games for the Panthers last year, none of them had a completion percentage over 56%. The Panthers did a good job this offseason of retaining the guys they needed to, such as running back DeAngelo Williams, who will benefit tremendously from the return of former Pitt tackle Jeff Otah. Regardless of who is under center, the Panthers are going to have to lean heavily on the run game.


The Panthers did bring back DE Charles Johnson, who finished 7th in the league with 11.5 sacks last season. They addressed the interior of their defensive line in the middle of the draft, taking big bodies Terrell McClain (South Florida) and Shaun Fua (Stanford). As should be expected of a team that finished last in the league, most of their free agents did not return, but in addition to Johnson they also brought back LB James Anderson, their leading tackler from last season. LB Jon Beason was a Pro Bowler and Dan Connor (Penn St alum) finished 8th on the team in tackles despite playing in only half the games last season. The Panthers added some free agent depth to their secondary which finished 11th in the league. The only big loss is CB Richard Marshall who finished 2nd on the team with 3 interceptions. With McClain and Fua anchoring the middle, the Panthers run defense should be a little better this year, but we're not convinced their pass defense is a top 10 unit, particularly having to face New Orleans, Atlanta and the ever-improving Tampa Bay twice a year.


At first glance, it seems like there's no way that Carolina can compete in this division. But let's remember something: this is the NFC South, where the team that finishes last always sees a marked improvement the following season. Since the division was formed in 2002, the last place team came back and won the division the following season every year until 2008 when the Falcons came up just short behind Matt Ryan. Last season, the Buccaneers didn't follow suit either, but they went from 4-12 to 10-6 and challenging for a playoff spot. So while empirical evidence on the team may be against them, the history of the division is on their side. We're not saying Carolina is set to compete with New Orleans or Atlanta top the division, but behind the "Double Trouble" tandem of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, they could run a ball control offense that enables them to stay in games and have a shot to win at least 6 or 7 this year.

While we're on the topic of the Panthers, we highly recommend reading this: A Three Act Play on the History of Teal

If the Panthers were a Beer, they would be:


It looks like beer, it smells like beer, it tastes like beer, but it doesn't get you drunk. In other words, it's like drinking pee and not getting any of the worthwhile side-effects that at least make the experience enjoyable. Am I describing drinking O'Douls or watching the Panthers play? I don't know, but the analogy works both ways. 

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