Panthers need to get swagger back after humbling season

Panthers need to get swagger back after humbling season

Postautor: Angel92 » 7 lip 2017, o 09:38

If 2015 was a wild party for the Carolina Panthers, then 2016 was the messy hangover. One year after riding Cam Newton’s MVP performance to a 15-1 record and Super Bowl appearance, the Panthers crashed and burned, finishing with a 6-10 record and dead last in the NFC South.
It was a harsh reality check for a team that once took the league by storm with its fun-loving, dabbing ways. Injuries and questionable offseason moves (such as taking Josh Norman off the franchise tag) exposed a flawed roster thin on depth. Newton in particular was banged up all year and couldn’t carry the team on his back like he did in previous years. The defense also didn’t play up to its usual standards and now has to adjust without coordinator Sean McDermott, who left to take a head coaching job in Buffalo.
Despite three straight division titles before last season, the team is facing more uncertainty than usual heading into Ron Rivera’s seventh year. With the Atlanta Falcons cemented as contenders, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on the rise, and the New Orleans Saints always lurking as a threat, Carolina is at real risk of being the odd man out in the NFC South.
Cam Newton needs help, for real this time
At his best, Newton is one of the most uniquely talented quarterbacks in the NFL. His combination of size, strength, running ability, and arm power makes him hard to game plan for. In years past, the Panthers have been able to get away with less-than-stellar weapons and let Newton carry the offense by himself.
That might not be the case anymore. Last year, a makeshift offensive line betrayed Newton, who absorbed 36 sacks and once again played through a variety of injuries, missing one game with a concussion. Of course, Newton isn’t totally blameless for his poor season — he set a career low with a 52.9 completion percentage, threw just 19 touchdowns to 14 interceptions, averaged only 6.4 yards per attempt, and had a 75.8 QB Rating. He also wasn’t the running threat he usually is, rushing for a career-low 359 yards.
Now 28 years old, Newton has taken a lot of punishment over the years and sat out most of the offseason while recovering from shoulder surgery. While he should be healthy in plenty of time for the season, the Panthers need to make a serious effort protecting him and surrounding him with quality weapons, or else risk his body breaking down for good.
For his part, Newton seems to have learned some lessons from last year’s struggles.
"The thing I have to realize is my job is not necessarily to always be the playmaker," he said, via "I have to give other people opportunities to make plays. That's the hardest thing about maturation, especially for me.”
Fortunately, the Panthers are finally taking real steps to upgrade the skill positions.
Offense is both younger and more versatile
The Panthers used the No. 8-overall pick on Christian McCaffrey, a do-everything running back who rewrote the record books at Stanford, setting the NCAA’s single-season record with 3,864 yards from scrimmage in 2015. He’s a perfect complement in the backfield to Jonathan Stewart, who turned 30 in March and hasn’t played a full 16-game season since 2011. McCaffrey also gives offensive coordinator Mike Blaine Gabbert Womens Jersey Shula a ton of playcalling options with his ability to play receiver and return kickoffs and punts.
In addition to McCaffrey, the Panthers added Curtis Samuel in the second round to give the receiver corps some much-needed speed, and potentially replace Ted Ginn Jr. as the primary deep threat. The current plan is for Samuel to play in the slot position, but he also has ball-carrying skills and, like, McCaffrey, could end up lining up all over the field to create defensive mismatches.
Carolina also returns reliable tight end Greg Olsen, fourth-year receiver Kelvin Benjamin, and Devin Funchess. Returning from a torn ACL that erased his 2015 season, Benjamin didn’t look quite like his rookie-year self, managing 63 catches for 941 yards and seven touchdowns with a poor 53.4 catch percentage. He also drew attention for his weight in the offseason, but those concerns should be mostly blown over if Benjamin shows up to training camp in shape. Now two years removed from the injury, Benjamin should be much closer to full health, which will only help Newton in the long run.
Funchess has been a disappointment as a 2015 second-rounder, but the converted tight end remains an impressive athlete and it’s possible he can flip the switch in his third season.
How much did the offensive line really improve?
Carolina’s line was gutted by injuries last year. Michael Oher lasted just three games before a career-threatening concussion, and center Ryan Kalil got shut down by a shoulder injury after eight games, forcing the team to shuffle around players to positions they weren’t familiar in. The result was a line that Pro Football Focus ranked 17th, noting that fill-in left tackle Mike Remmers “was simply out of his depth.”
Oher is still out with concussion Steve Atwater Authentic Jersey symptoms, and it's looking increasingly unlikely he'll be a factor next season. To that end, the Panthers drafted second-round tackle Taylor Moton, who's expected to make an immediate contribution despite making the jump from Western Michigan to the pros.
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Re: Panthers need to get swagger back after humbling season

Postautor: coach123 » 7 lip 2017, o 11:53

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