The Carolina Panthers were one of the surprise teams of last season. They went from being a 7-8-1 team in 2014 to a 15-1 Super Bowl contender in 2015. So, what should we expect from these guys this season?
Will Cam Newton continue to evolve his game as he looks to become the NFL’s best QB?
Can the defense continue to play at the level they’ve been playing at?
Will the Panthers make a return trip to the Super Bowl this season?
Let’s find out!
Record Last Ten Seasons: 15-1 (2015), 7-8-1 (2014), 12-4 (2013), 7-9 (2012), 6-10 (2011), 2-14 (2010), 8-8 (2009), 12-4 (2008), 7-9 (2007), 8-8 (2006)
Last Playoff Appearance: Super Bowl 50 vs. Denver Broncos
Last Playoff Win: 2015 NFC Championship vs. Arizona Cardinals
Super Bowl Titles Won: 0
Passing Leader for 2015: Cam Newton (3,837 yards, 35 touchdowns, 10 interceptions)
Rushing Leader for 2015: Jonathan Stewart (989 yards, 6 touchdowns)
Receiving Leader for 2015: Greg Olsen (1,104 yards, 7 touchdowns)
The Head Coach:
Overall Record (as a head coach): 47-32-1
Record With Team: 47-32-1
Previous NFL Jobs: Chicago Bears Defensive Quality Control Coach (1997-1998), Philadelphia Eagles Linebackers Coach (1999-2003), Chicago Bears Defensive Coordinator (2004-2006), San Diego Chargers Linebackers Coach (2007), San Diego Chargers Defensive Coordinator (2008-2010)
My Grade: B+
(Depth Charts will change as training camps progress obviously….)
Player Grade Guide:
Blue = Elite Player
Green = Really Good Player
Orange = Average Player
Pink = Meh
Red = NO THANKS
Gray = Rookie
QB: Cam Newton
RB: Jonathan Stewart
FB: Mike Tolbert
WR: Kelvin Benjamin
WR: Ted Ginn
TE: Greg Olsen
OC: Ryan Kalil
OG: Trai Turner
OG: Andrew Norwell
OT: Mike Remmers
OT: Michael Oher
DE: Kony Ealy
DT: Kawann Short
DT: Star Lotuleilei
DE: Charles Johnson
LB: Luke Kuechly
LB: Thomas Davis
LB: Shaq Thompson
CB: James Bradberry
CB: Daryl Worley
SS: Tre Boston
FS: Kurt Coleman
vs. @ Denver Broncos (September 8)
vs. San Francisco 49ers (September 18)
vs. Minnesota Vikings (September 25)
vs. @ Atlanta Falcons (October 2)
vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (October 10)
vs. @ New Orleans Saints (October 16)
vs. Arizona Cardinals (October 30)
vs. @ Los Angeles Rams (November 6)
vs. Kansas City Chiefs (November 13)
vs. New Orleans Saints (November 17)
vs. @ Oakland Raiders (November 27)
vs. @ Seattle Seahawks (December 4)
vs. San Diego Chargers (December 11)
vs. @ Washington Redskins (December 19)
vs. Atlanta Falcons (December 24)
vs. @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (January 1)
The Carolina Panthers were definitely the surprise team of last season. Sure, some people expected the Panthers to be good last year (I picked them as a playoff team personally), but no one expected them to be as good as they were. That’s not usually what happens to expectations when you lose your #1 wide receiver in the pre-season to a knee injury. However, the Panthers came out and absolutely smashed their expectations. They were well en route to a potentially undefeated season before the Atlanta Falcons served them up their first loss all the way back in week 16 of the NFL’s regular season. The Panthers didn’t fold up shop and go home after that disappointing loss though. They got back up, dusted themselves off, and got all the way to the Super Bowl where they were destroyed by the Denver Broncos. But that was last year. It’s a whole new year in Carolina. Gone is star corner back Josh Norman. In his place is a bunch of scrubs and two rookies who will battle to replace him. Can the Carolina Panthers once again smash people’s expectations and make a return trip to the Super Bowl?
Offensively, the Panthers are more than fine. They were the NFL’s best offense last season and unless everyone plans on playing defense like the Denver Broncos did in Super Bowl 50, they will be one of the NFL’s most high-powered offenses once again. Cam Newton has evolved into one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks and with Kelvin Benjamin back this season, his numbers should continue to increase. The rest of the Panthers wide receiver core is not very good, but I still have high hopes that Devin Funchess will figure it out eventually. Carolina also has Jonathan Stewart, Greg Olsen, and an offensive line that may not be one of the league’s best, but was pretty good last year up until Von Miller ate them alive. I fully expect the Panthers offense to be ranked near the top of the league once again.
Defensively is where things start to get interesting with this team. It all starts and ends with the sudden departure of star corner Josh Norman this past off-season. This move literally felt like it came out of nowhere and was easily one of the most shocking moves of the off-season. The Panthers probably made the right move in letting Norman walk, but his departure leaves some gigantic holes in the secondary. Who’s going to step up and take Norman’s place? As of right now, word is that the rookies Daryl Worley and James Bradberry have a step up in the competition and if that’s the truth, it could be a long year for Carolina in the secondary unless one of those rookies catches on immediately. It’s a good thing the Panthers have three REALLY good linebackers and a defensive line that is good, but not great. Part of me expects the Panthers defense to take a step back this season considering Norman’s departure and all, but when you have Luke Kuechly, Thomas Davis, Kawann Short, and Charles Johnson….how bad can you really be?
So what should we expect from the Carolina Panthers this season? I honestly think we’ll see a lot of what we saw last season. The Panthers are a pretty well-built football team on all sides of the ball and are talented enough to not only win the NFC, but also take home the franchise’s first Super Bowl title. With you have one of the NFL’s best QB’s, a good defense, a good head coach, and a division that isn’t exactly going to set the world on fire…..you should be having Super Bowl dreams. It’s only right.