|Carolina is coming off one of its best seasons in history. Expectations are running high among Panthers fans for the 2014 season. So why am I miffed as I sit here typing this post? I suppose it is because of the vitriol spewing from fans and even players from other teams. Take this little quote from the Saints “other” tight end Benjamin Watson: “I will say this about our division, one team I’m not worried about is the Carolina Panthers.” This is a total slap in the face to Panthers fans and the entire Carolina organization.
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There are several examples other teams’ fans will give you as to their “reasoning” for why the Panthers will not repeat their success in 2014. From most, it is the same song and dance: Carolina lost all of last year’s receiving corps, an aging backfield, an offensive line that lost it’s best offensive tackle and failed to bring in an adequate replacement, and there has never been a repeat NFC South champion. One fan, 87hollywoodhorn, did not shy away from explicitly describing how they felt about the Panthers in a Pro Football Talk comment: “Panthers are trash though, I’m confident they will miss the playoffs. They’ll be very vulnerable through the air. So Drew Brees is gonna rack up frequent flyer miles. And their offensive line and receivers are bad too. Honestly though, Scam Newton is gonna get sacked and intercepted so much, all those hungry hounds on the Saints defense are gonna EAT! Rob Ryan oughta be on the sideline beating a dinner triangle as soon as the ball is snapped yelling, Who’s hungry? Come and get it!!!” This an example of a fan of a team but not a student of the game. Speaking all heart with no head. Love the passion but hate the ignorance.
Yes, Carolina lost its entire receiving corps from last year, but it was a group that produced the 29th ranked passing offense, yet the Panthers still managed to go 12-4. Our backfield is older, DeAngelo especially, but the group is healthy for the first time since 2009. I’ll remind you that season “Double Trouble” became the first backfield duo ever to eclipse 1100 yards each. Which brings me to my next point, the offensive line has a question mark at Left Tackle. When it comes to protecting Cam’s blindside, the question mark looms large. But Carolina will return to it’s roots on offense: run, and run some more.
This emphasis on the running game will help to eliminate the potential weakness at left tackle. As unsure as Carolina is at LT, there is confidence in the run blocking ability of who ever should win the battle at Left Tackle. Carolina does have one of the top escape artists in the league that goes by the name of Cam Newton. In addition to being a tremendous escape artist, his improvisational skills are pretty good as well. These two abilities will also help to nullify the questions surrounding our Left Tackle. Aside from the LT position, I argue the offensive line is better with returning starter at guard Amini Silatolu and rookie Trai Turner, who is looking to make a big impact at camp and win a starting position. The addition of these two will rejuvenate the Panthers run game, which was more effective than often credited last season. The run game did lack a little consistency, but nothing Cam Newton could not make up for.
Last season, there were just as many question marks going into the year, around the players, around off season acquisitions, and around starters. This season is no different. We have better talent coming into this training camp than we did last year going into training camp. Dave Gettleman is a savvy evaluator of talent. He did it last year, and I for one believe he has done it again. This team will prove many people wrong, and I for one will make sure they are reminded of their negativity.