Carolina Panthers were part of the Top 10 in 2014, but came up short in the end. It’s hard to think Carolina could surpass that performance in lieu of losing Kelvin Benjamin for the season and making little off-season moves to improve an offense that struggled the season before. Carolina did, however, and made a run at the Super Bowl in the process. Ultimately, they fell short in the end, but it was a magical run still.
In 2016, it possible for this team to be even more magical and make another run at a Super Bowl, or will they fall back down to Earth?
The Carolina Panthers are a very good team who everyone doubted, even when they were 15-1 and making their playoff run. Few, however, will speak out against them this year. Without that chip on their shoulder, that us against the world mentality, will they play with enough edge to do it again? More importantly, do they have what it takes to win it all? Even though 15-1 is a bit of a stretch, but if Carolina can have it their way 14 – 2 or 13-3 is a real attainable and reachable goal to secure the number one seed in the NFC.
In 2015 Cam Newton had his first professional MVP season, tallying a career-high 45 touchdowns. He did this impressively with only having 15 TDs through week nine. With basically no receivers to speak of and Ted Ginn as your number one receiver, he still wasn’t going to let that stop him from having a breakout season. Now he gets his big weapon back, Kelvin Benjamin; this mammoth of a receiver, 6’5 240 pounds, tallied 1008 yards and nine touchdowns in his rookie season. Add him to an overachieving wide receiver group and second year receiver Devin Funchess, and Cam Newton’s numbers can be even better than what they were last year. Cam would have two huge bodies to throw to, and other than the pedestrian play-calling in Super Bowl fifty-one, Mike Shula showed he can orchestrate a high scoring offense. If Shula can replicate can come back and have the same game plan as he had last year, this offense may be unstoppable.
The question that everyone should be asking “is it possible” for Cam Newton to be them better than his MVP year, and the answers to that is YES HE CAM! Cam Newton still can work on a lot of nuances of the game and the position. He leans at his physical superiority at times to make up for what can be poor eye discipline and footwork that manifested in a 60% completion rate, granted receivers had tons of drops and a good chunk by his #1, Ted Ginn. If Cam can improve his accuracy by 5 percent, I really don’t see anyone stopping him or Carolina. With Dave Gettleman probably looking to add one or two more pieces to the offense, there’s telling what the offense would be capable of. Jonathan Stewart is getting up in age and CAP (who they really like) is unproven, they might feel like upping the ante and drafting Stewart’s replacement early. Carolina needs a strong running game if they want to replicate last season’s success.
The defense, despite being very good, has yet to be dominant. Carolina has one of the best linebacking corps in the league. They’re fast, they can cover, and they can lay the wood on you. Thomas Davis is getting up in age but is still playing like he’s in the prime of his career. They may target another linebacker in the middle rounds for more depth to prepare for AJ Klein's potential departure in 2017 and Davis’s inevitable mortality. The secondary is more solid than in past years, but still has a major hole at safety and possibly even the nickel. With the signing of Brandon Boykin, Carolina may hope he’s a long-term answer, but they won’t figure that out until 2017. One of the biggest needs for Carolina, which could really turn a good defense into an elite defense, is defensive end. They have a great interior with Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short. Short is showing he might be ready to take that next step from being really good to becoming elite. Kony Ealy showed his capability towards the end of last year, most memorably his Super Bowl performance in which if Carolina had won it would have been Ealy instead of Von Miller as MVP. If Ealy can keep that momentum going this season, Carolina may have found one of their future ends. This is where I think they will go in the draft, as well. Defensive end is one of Carolina’s most pressing needs, and a good pass rush could definitely turn this defense into elite.
Special teams needs an overhaul because there’s nothing special about it. Carolina hasn’t been good on special teams since Steve Smith use to return punts. Ted Ginn is a good punt returner but he’s getting old, and they need a game changer. The coaching staff needs to regroup. In the Super Bowl they played tight and didn’t do the normal things they do best. Shula didn’t run the read option like he had in the regular season. The coaching staff will be just fine. They don’t need to over-think things and do what brought them to the dance. Carolina from top to bottom is one of the more talented teams but they are not one without weakness. If Carolina even wants to sniff the Superbowl they have to improve. Cam Newton already claimed that you haven’t seen the last of them they will be back. Despite the poor press conference, I think Carolina might have an even bigger chip than they did last year. With a few additions to this team whether it was through free agency, the draft, or people coming back from injury they might be more motivated, and more dangerous than ever. So Panther fans we might not go 15 and 1 but there is a good shot with our defense and our strong running game, and most definitely the MVP we might as well say Super Bowl 51 here we come!!!!!!!!!!!!
By: Brandon Herbert