So I was online the other day, watching Carolina Panther YouTube videos as I was crying and eating ice cream waiting for the season to start, when I decided I wanted to order our divisional 3-peat shirt.
After about a half hour of searching, I realized that I couldn’t order that shirt yet, which led to another tub of ice cream! But here are three reasons why we will be able to order those shirts very, very soon!
1.) Panthers Have Owned the South
In the Cam Newton era, the Panthers have gone 14-10 against teams in the NFC South, including a 9-3 record over past two seasons. You have to think about the circumstances in which the Panthers earned that record. They did it with a very young Cam Newton, a struggling offensive line and an inconsistent secondary. With other teams in the NFC South losing a lot of key pieces to their offense and defense, there should be no reason that the Panthers shouldn’t continue their success within the division.
2.) Improved Secondary
The front seven for the Panthers have been tops in the NFL, however, the secondary for the past couple seasons has been a mystery. In the second half of last season, we had young players step up and take on the role of an everyday player that helped Carolina go on a late season run to make the playoffs. Josh Norman, aka Lake Norman, solidified himself as a great CB and perfect fit for the Panthers, while other young players such as Bené Benwikere and Tre Boston portrayed their work ethic, showing that they are willing to learn and become better every single day. And who better to teach them than veterans such as Roman Harper and Charles Tillman. The secondary has come a very long way from 2012, and if the secondary can play anywhere close to the level they played at in the second half of last season, they will be a force to be reckoned with. Remember, defense win championships!
3.) Added Weapons
The Panthers in my opinion have had a much better offseason than many will assume. For instance, the offensive line got some veteran leadership in Michael Oher and even some old teammates playing together again which will hopefully take some of the heat off Newton. I mean, lets be honest, things can’t seem to get any worse, right? Newton has been hit 587 times since 2011, the most by any QB. Russell Wilson has been hit the second most since 2011, with 317. So an improved offensive line gives Newton more time to make decisions in the pocket.
The dynamic wide receiving core is potentially one of the best in years. Kelvin Benjamin is a star, and once he is back healthy, he should have no problem putting up the same and even better numbers than he did in his rookie campaign. With the addition of Devin Funchess from the University of Michigan, some of the pressure will be taken off of Kelvin, as Funchess is a big target that can also help with Newton’s tendency to throw high at times, but this year, missing high may not be such a problem as in previous years. If Funchess can be another Benjamin for the Panthers, there may be talks of how they look like a young Steve Smith and Muhsin Muhammad. Corey Brown proved to be our speedy deep threat last season, and now with Ted Ginn back in Carolina, the fast just got faster. As for Greg Olson, well… he’s Greg Olson, a pro bowler and too consistent for him to have anything less than what we have come to expect from him. The Panthers for years have won games from running the ball effectively and relying mostly on the defense. How nice would it be to be able to win both offensively and defensively?
I personally think this is going to be the best Carolina Panthers season in recent years, which is hard to imagine because the 12-4 season was just so fun for all of us. But better things are coming. Newton is healthy with a playoff win under his belt, the defense is ready to create chaos and new players have already shown great work ethic in OTA’s. Things in Carolina are looking bright, and you should be excited.
You won’t be able to find any 3-peat shirts just yet, but don’t worry, they're on the way!
By Michael Hernandez
Follow me on Twitter at @SidelinedMike