Each offseason, every NFL team focuses on at least one area in need of an upgrade. So what aspect of the Carolina Panthers looking better these days?
Training camp begins later this month for all 32 NFL teams. So that means another preview series from End Zone Score. Dating back to early March, we have taken time to look at each club’s best offseason addition. We even dabbled into some pertinent and historical numbers and previewed an up-and-coming player for each franchise.
Contrary to popular opinions, no team in the league is perfect. That’s why there’s a constant search for talent when it comes to this game. Each club has done its best to bolster its roster. So in this instance, we are going to take a glance at each franchise and pinpoint the department in which it made the most strides this offseason. We have looked at the AFC East, NFC East, AFC North, NFC North and AFC South. We have also previewed the Atlanta Falcons, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New Orleans Saints. So we wrap up the NFC South with some thoughts on the Carolina Panthers.
When you win nine fewer games than the previous season, there’s a lot of responsibility to pass around. Such is the case when it comes to the Carolina Panthers. The team went from 15-1 and NFC champions to 6-10 and last place in the NFC South.
The defense was erratic in 2016, most notably in a secondary with a number of young cornerbacks. However, the offense was problem-plagued as well. Quarterback Cam Newton (looking healthier these days after offseason shoulder surgery in March) had his issues and the Carolina ground game slumped a bit. After totaling 500 points and 54 offensive touchdowns in ’15, the Panthers’ offensive unit managed only 37 offensive visits to the end zone and Ron Rivera’s team scored only 369 points. And a team that turned over the ball only 19 times during its Super Bowl season committed 29 turnovers this past year.
Help is on the way via a pair of rookies in the backfield. There’s all-purpose performer Christian McCaffrey (Stanford), as well as sixth-round fullback Alex Armah (West Georgia). Add free-agents wideouts Russell Shepard (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) and Charles Johnson (Minnesota Vikings) and 2017 second-rounder Curtis Samuel (Ohio State) to the tandem of Kelvin Benjamin and Devin Funchess. There’s a new left tackle in five-year pro Matt Kalil (Vikings) and possibly a new starter on the right side in rookie Taylor Moton (2b-Western Michigan). All told, this is a Carolina attack that will offer a lot more versatility. The threat of McCaffrey as a receiver out of the backfield combined with downfield threat Greg Olsen from the tight end spot should be fun to diagnose.
The Carolina Panthers know something about reaching the playoffs. It was something they managed to do for three straight year before last season’s debacle. The recent firing of general manager Dave Gettleman has made for an ugly few days. But this is a team that has added a lot of significant pieces, particularly on the offensive side of the ball. Look for Rivera’s club to bounce back nicely and be right back in the thick of the NFC South race.