The Carolina Panthers finished the 2014-15 NFL Season 7-8-1 and lost to Seattle Seahawks in the NFL Playoffs. Even though the season ended in a somewhat high note by winning the NFC South, the Seahawks let the Panthers know that they still needed to improve to reach the next level.
What were some questions that needed to be answered this offseason for the Panthers?
1. How will the Panthers improve their offensive line to protect Cam Newton?
The Carolina Panthers offensive line was a disaster during the first seven weeks last season. The Panthers had to continually shuffle their line using the combination of Byron Bell, Nate Chandler, Andrew Norwell, Ryan Kalil, Trai Turner, and Mike Remmers. The offensive line allowed Cam Newton to be sacked 38 times last season. Which put him in a tie with Jay Cutler for 8th in the league. By week eight the Panthers were finally able to find the right line combination that could block for Cam Newton and the run game.
But, the Panthers still needed to improve their line so what did Dave Gettleman do? He signed tackles Michael Oher, claimed Jonathan Martin, and drafted Daryl Williams. Let's face it anyone is better than Byron Bell at left tackle. Michael Oher is a Super Bowl Champion, experienced starter, and Gettleman believes that he is the answer. Jonathan Martin was ridiculed by teammates in Miami and was brought over mainly for competition, and depth. Daryl Williams is a competitive player, who is tough, and powerful. Because of this I really think that Gettleman improved Cam's protection.
2. Are the Panthers going to get Cam Newton some more weapons on offense?
The Panther's offense struggled last season and it showed on the scoreboard by only averaging 21.1 points per game. What was the problem? Cam Newton needed more weapons on offense. He only had two reliable options and they were first year wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin, and Pro Bowl tight end Greg Olsen. Newton threw for a total of 3,127 yards and Benjamin, and Olsen combined for 64.5% (2,016 receiving yards) of the yards. After those two players the roster was pretty thin when it came to offensive fire power. It only consisted of receivers Jerricho Cotchery, Philly Brown, and Jason Avant.
It was pretty evident that Cam needed some more weapons on offense. Because of this Dave Gettleman was busy this offseason, and added some key players on offense. He drafted wide receiver Devin Funchess in the second round and signed Ted Ginn Jr., Jarett Boykin, Stephen Hill, and Damiere Byrd (UDFA). These receivers bring size, speed, mismatches, and home run abilities. This offense already looks like it will be better this coming season.
3. Who will replace DeAngelo Williams?
Franchise leading running back DeAngelo Williams was released this past offseason because of his health concerns, and expensive contract. The plan is for Jonathan Stewart to be the starter going into the 2015-16 NFL Season. He is very capable of handling the workload, and earned the starter role over the last five weeks of last season. He rushed for 486 yards, and ran for 123 yards in the playoffs.
If Stewart gets hurt or needs help, the Panthers do have some other options at tail back. Currently the Panthers back field consists of: Fozzy Whittaker, Jordan Todman, Cameron Artis-Payne, Darrin Reaves, Mike Tolbert, Brandon Wegher, and Lee Ward. I believe that CAP will be the number two tail back on the depth chart to start the season because he is physical, athletic, and dominated the SEC. Not all of these running backs will make the 40 man roster but it looks promising.
Do these moves make the Carolina Panthers better?
By, Justin Raymond
Follow Me On Twitter @JayRay19