5 Stats the Carolina Panthers Need to Change in 2014

1.             29th in Passing: The non-existent air attack of 2013 will have to be improved upon if Carolina hopes to repeat as NFC champs against the high powered New Orleans “Ain’ts” and the big body Tampa Bay “Sucs.”  Carolina averaged only 190 yards/game in the air last year.  This wasn’t because of inconsistent quarterback play either.  Cam Newton completed 61.7% of his pass attempts with only 13 INTs. Carolina was simply one dimensional in 2013, and that dimension was the defense.  Carolina’s defense will keep the Panthers in games this season, but the offense will need to win some as well.

2.             43 sacks allowed: Look, I know we have a quarterback that has that never say die attitude who often holds the ball a little longer than needed (i.e. the back to back sacks which stalled a 60 yd 3rd quarter playoff drive that could have put them back in the game against the 49ers), but 43 sacks and 62 knockdowns?  A lot of that is on the offensive line. Recently, C3 talked with two Indianapolis Colts beat writers about Andrew Luck and Cam Newton, and they praised Luck’s ability to accomplish what he has with a line, as one described, “like a sieve” in front of him.  Carolina’s line may not have been as leaky (the Colts allowed 32 tackles and 102 hits on the QB), but it was still pretty porous. Clearly, both the Colts and the Panthers could benefit from stronger quarterback protection.  If Cam was a mere mortal, these stats would been far worse.  The Panthers offensive line will need more continuity in 2014 if the Panthers hope to repeat as division champs.

3.             Last in offensive plays 20+ yards: Carolina ranked 32nd in offensive plays for more than 20+ yards and 6th in plays for 40+ yards.  Explosive plays don’t equate to victories, see 2011 when Carolina led the league in big plays and tallied only four victories.  Backed by a shutdown defense, Carolina’s offense meandered to 12 victories in 2013 without any offensive explosiveness. With a modest run game and an inadequate passing attack, defenses will press relentlessly.  There needs to be a legitimate downfield threat to soften up the defense and help to facilitate a strong run game. The big play could continue to be elusive for the 2014, however.  Tiquan Underwood was brought in to take the top off, but the only thing we are sure of his at this point is that he has a high top.  Maybe a guy like Tavarres King can surprise us and fill this type of role. If you don’t have the personnel, however, offensive coordinator will have to get more creative and manufacture some of this explosiveness.  Or maybe, Cam can just throw it to himself.

4.             1.5 Red Zone TDs per game:  Discounting Graham Gano’s golden leg, the Panthers only scored an average of 1.5 TDs from inside the twenty per game.  Denver, on the other hand, averaged 3.1 TDs from inside the twenty each week.  Understandably, there should be a disparity between Peyton’s potent Bronco’s and the Carolina Panthers slow and steady offensive approach.  TDs, however, win games—not field goals.  Carolina at New Orleans last year is a prime example. Cam led the Panthers downfield twice in the 1st quarter, having to settle for only field goals.  Jumping to a 14-point lead would have squeezed the jugular.  Instead, Brees manufactured an early 2nd quarter drive to take the lead and never looked back.

5.             1-3 in All Black Uniforms: The Panthers all black are the hottest in NFL history!  Carolina’s 1-3 record wearing them isn’t.  The Broncos smoked the Panthers at home in 2012 the first appearance of the all black uniform. Dressed all in black again, the Panthers fell to Philadelphia in the uniform’s 2013 preseason appearance.  Deangelo Williams helped to prevent an all black losing streak with a 74 yd TD run against the Jets late in the season. Then in a much anticipated and celebrated home playoff game, the Panthers took the field daunting the all black gear. Like those uniforms, Charlotte was electric. The result, not so much.  In a quick and disappointing bounce from the playoffs, the Panthers finished the season with an all-time record of 1-3 while wearing black.   These uniforms are too cool to be 1-3.  Cam and the boys need to add an all black helmet in 2014 and move that record to 4-3 after primetime matchups against the Eagles, Steelers, and Saints.  The Eagles game is on the road, so they will have to be in white.  Maybe instead, we welcome Megatron and the Lions to Carolina with a black out to give the boys an opportunity to get that all black record above .500.