When I think of the 2017 Panthers I am excited and nervous. This team could go 12-4 or 4-12. This team is improved over the 15-1 team of two years ago; however, the team lacks depth in key spots. When Amini Silatolu is your back up left tackle, and your starter is already nursing a sore groin, you have to be a bit nervous. Here are two things to be excited about and two things to be nervous about, Panther Nation.
This team has quickness to go with speed. We’ve had Ted Ginn, Jr. and he can take the top off of an offense. But Cam has also had the tightest windows to throw into in the NFL last season. That is due to none of the receivers being quick and “twitchy” and having the ability to create separation. Enter Christian McCaffrey, Curtis Samuel, and even Russel Shephard. These guys have an element that we’ve missed and badly. These players should help Cam be more efficient and should open the offense up for everyone. Look for Jonathan Stewart to be much more effective due to players not being able to key on his one dimension. Options should, in turn, produce a much-improved offense from a year ago.
Last season this team was way too young in key spots. Spots like corner back, safety and defensive end. The Panthers missed experience and badly. This year, with Julius Peppers, Mike Adams and Matt Kalil coming in and Worley and Bradberry a year older, and the Panthers should be in a much better spot. Experience helps keep players in the right mindset and to stay focused on being a professional. You can’t replace experience but you sure can buy it, and this team invested in some older players this year. This is why I truly believe that our window is closing and this is our time. So staying healthy is the absolute key to this season.
Injuries. In 2015, the Panthers offensive line only had one game where the starting offensive line was not together. Not coincidentally, the team went 15-1. Last year, Michael Oher folded like a cheap beach chair in the end zone vs Minnesota. That is not a knock on Oher; rather, an accurate description. I saw the play as it happened and has never been the same. Neither were the Panthers. Mike Remmers (who is already getting bad reviews in Minnesota) started at left tackle, and Cam Newton was never able to be himself. Also, James Bradberry, Luke Kuechley, Ryan Kalil and Jonathan Stewart all missed significant time. If this type of luck repeats in Carolina in 2017, 4-12 is not unrealistic.
Well honestly I tried to think of a second reason to not be excited about this season and I can’t think of one. Injuries are the only thing that could de-rail the most talented team in Carolina Panthers’ history. Even Ed Dickson can't make me nervous.
Let us know what you are excited about. What is your prediction? I’m sticking with 12-4.