Last year, the Panthers’ offensive line was a weak spot. It was plagued with injuries, including Jeff Otah’s season-ending injury to his knee and Travelle Wharton’s problems with turf toe. However, the other four players played well. They all need to improve their play in order for the Panthers to win in 2011.
The Panthers also had a shortage of pass rushers. This was especially troubling last season and led to the team’s first round pick being traded to Miami. The Saints have won 10 of the last 15 matchups. The defense of the Panthers is solid but not exceptional. Multiple positions can be played by several players. One key position is running back.
The Panthers finished last season at 6-10, good enough for third in the NFC South. Their quarterbacks, Newton and Smith, all had Pro Bowl potential. The 18th NFL team, the Panthers, had a lot of talent. They didn’t fare very well in the playoffs. The team lost to the Dallas Cowboys, ranked as the league’s best defense, and the team had to reorganize and hire a new general manager.
Cam Newton is another key addition to the 2011 Panthers roster. After a successful college career, he has become the face of the franchise. Although Newton isn’t as skilled as Clausen he’s still a far cry of Vince Young and will make a significant impact on the Panthers’ offensive line. He is also smarter than Vince Young in 2006 and has the ability to make plays with his feet.
Johnson, the sixth most productive NFL linebacker last year, is another player worth watching. He had a great preseason, and looked impressive despite being injured. He’ll likely retain his starting strongside linebacker role, but the question is whether he’ll be motivated to repeat his 2010 performance. It’s not uncommon for defensive linemen to be given large salaries that make them more difficult or impossible to replace.
The quarterback position is a big question mark for Panthers. They missed a great chance to draft a franchise quarterback in Kerry Collins last year. If the coaching staff is serious about drafting a veteran, he must find a way to replace Collins with a veteran quarterback. He’ll also need to be healthy and be able to deliver the ball to Nortman on time. But the quarterback position is also an issue, with four of their first six opponents being 10-6 or better.
Last Sunday’s loss to the Panthers ended their season. The Panthers needed to get on track after a disappointing season. To that end, they faced the New Orleans Saints, a team that had won the Super Bowl three times in the past two seasons. Newton threw a touchdown pass to Steve Smith for a 54-yard touchdown. But the game ended with a failed extra point attempt from Olindo Mare, and the Panthers needed a win to get their season back on track.