Follow Up To The Carolina Panthers Problems
Revisiting the Panthers
This is a follow-up to a hub that I posted after the Carolina Panthers went 2-14. If you would like to view that hub you can view it here. Since I last posted about the Carolina Panthers, drastic changes have taken place. The team has basically gone through a major face-lift, resulting in the team it has now. A couple notable additions and subtractions have been made. Some of the obvious additions are: Cam Newton, Luke Kuechly, Greg Olsen, Joe Adams, Mike Tolbert, Ron Edwards, Antwan Applewhite and Haruki Nakamura. This group of players have had a great effect at their respective positions. Some notable subtractions are Travelle Wharton, Dan Connor, Jeff Otah, Tony Fiametta, and Everette Brown. The team is still trying to become a more solid group but there are many young players, who will make mistakes, and there are many players still adjusting to new plays and coaches.
I thought I would go through some of the problems that the Panthers faced and how they fixed them. If they didn't fix them, I may give an opinion on how to fix them.
The first problem I mentioned was that there is no leader at quarterback. The teams quarterbacks were Tony Pike, Jimmy Clausen, Matt Moore, Brian St. Pierre, and Keith Null. Out of this group only one is still with the Panthers, Clausen. Only two of these five players are even on an NFL roster, Matt Moore in Miami and Clausen in Carolina. Neither one of these guys are starters either. Matt Moore is currently the second option for the Dolphins, behind Ryan Tannehill, and Jimmy Clausen has fallen to third on the Panthers depth chart behind Cam Newton and Derek Anderson. Even though Matt Moore started for 12 games in Miami this stat shows that they had a depletion in talent there. They also had no leadership either. To solve this problem the Panthers dropped Moore, Pike, St. Pierre, and Null. They added Cam Newton and Derek Anderson. By adding these two quarterbacks they added exceptional skill and leadership/experience. Cam Newton has shown his football prowess by breaking multiple records while Derek Anderson has proven to be great at helping Newton through some of the more experience driven portions of the game. This problem is solved.
The next problem was the offensive line being porous and injury riddled. This one is pretty basic, get the players healthy. The offensive line went through some minor changes but is still very solid. The starting five from left tackle to right tackle are Jordan Gross, Amini Silatolu, Ryan Kalil, Geoff Hangartner, and Byron Bell. In 2010, the Panthers saw many injuries meaning that they had to constantly move people around on the offensive line. After releasing a few people the Panthers now have a solid group that could be their core for years to come. A notable change to the line came when starting right tackle Jeff Otah was traded to the New York Jets. He failed his physicals and was returned to the Panthers, who in turn released him. Travelle Wharton was also released, mostly to clear up cap space, and is now on injured reserve for the Cincinnati Bengals. The few addition were Amini Silatolu, Byron Bell, and Geoff Hangartner. Amini Silatolu was a second round steal for the Panthers. He was overlooked by many because he came from Midwestern State, in the Division II Lone Star Conference. Byron Bell was added as an undrafted free agent in 2011 and has proven himself as a great lineman. Hangartner played for the Buffalo Bills for a little while before returning to the Panthers and has quickly made an impact blocking for the Panther's talented backfield. This problem is solved.
The next problem was that Steve Smith needs help at the wide receiver position. The Panthers have experimented with a few different options to help Smith out. They have had multiple receivers including Legedu Naanee, Louis Murphy, Joe Adams, Armanti Edwards, Brandon LaFell, David Gettis, Kealoha Pilares, and more to make an attempt at pulling the heat off of Steve Smith. NaaNee has moved on but the others have stayed. Gettis is nursing an injury but Adams, Murphy and LaFell have all become weekly aspects of the Panthers game. Adams is mostly used for special teams and could possibly cause the release of Armanti Edwards and Kealoha Pilares. LaFell and Murphy are now the number two and three receivers respectively. This problem may not be solved yet but LaFell is making his case to be the future Steve Smith while Murphy has shown flashes of brilliance and is willing to make a lot of those over the middle catches. This problem is currently pending on this seasons results.
A big problem that faced the Panthers is that they have not had a solid pass catching tight end since Wesley Walls. The Panthers have actually decided to completely redo their tight end position. They let Dante Rosario and Jeff King walk, currently playing for the Chargers and Cardinals respectively. They replaced these two with pass catching tight ends. They brought in Jeremy Shockey for one year and traded for Greg Olsen. Even though Shockey is now gone, he did come in and help Greg Olsen. Olsen was already good, but having a young quarterback spreading the ball around helps him get open even more. When I mentioned this problem before I thought that it would take a couple years to solve but the front office solved it with a steal of a trade. He was obtained for a third round pick and has already showed great ability. This problem is solved.
The spotty play of a poor defensive line was another big problem. The defensive line has since seen a nice overhaul. The Panthers bailed on Everette Brown, letting him sign with the San Diego Chargers and then move on to the Detroit Lions. They made a huge upgrade by gaining defensive ends Thomas Keiser, Antwan Applewhite, and Frank Alexander. They have also added defensive tackles Dwan Edwards and Ron Edwards to clog up the middle. This group looks a lot less like a rag tag group of men pushing against brick walls (which is what it looked like before). Instead, having these four and Charles Johnson makes the defensive line more solid and a lot more potent. In the first 2 games of the 2012 season, the defensive line has not lite up the scoreboard but have been able to cause more pressure and create more stops. This problem may be fixed but is still a question mark if you ask me. This problem still a work in progress.
The last problem I talked about with the Panthers was their lack of a shutdown defensive back. This problem may take years to fix. The Panthers have made strides at obtaining solid performers in the defensive backfield but have yet to grab the one explosive player that quarterbacks avoid at any cost. They do have multiple bright spots with the additions of Josh Norman and Haruki Nakamura. Charles Godfrey and Chris Gamble has began to step up there games too. If this group of backs had just one more great player, they may easily turn into the best defense in the NFL. That is a bold statement but a true one. The Panthers have solidified their linebacker position and have their defensive line on track. Once the backfield joins in the opponent's quarterback wont be able to throw for 300+ yards every game and they will turn to running the ball into a group of players including Luke Kuechly, Jon Beason, Thomas Davis, and Charles Johnson. This problem remains unfixed.
As I mentioned in the other blog, turning a team around takes time and effort, and a little luck. I was actually down on Cam Newton but now I have seen how great he can be. The Panthers are doing a lot more than what you can see statistically though. Instead of running out and grabbing everyone of the top players or highest profile players, like many teams have decided to, they have gone deeper and snagged great leaders and teammates who are willing to help out their younger cast. If the Panthers are able to keep up this trend they could easily be Super Bowl bound. It may not be this year, a Ryan Kalil predicted, but it could be soon.
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