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2013 NFL Preview: Carolina Panthers

by Photo of Kenneth Teape

Is this the year that Cam Newton and the Panthers come full circle and make a run at the playoffs?

2013 NFL Preview: Carolina Panthers

The NFL Season is getting closer and closer. The Baltimore Ravens took home the Super Bowl last year, but this next season will surely come with plenty of surprises. It's time to get ready for the start of the year by taking a look at all 32 teams to gauge where they are, starting with the worst and ending with the reigning Super Bowl Champs. It's the CHARGED.fm 2013 NFL Preview, and today we're previewing the Carolina Panthers.

Last Season:

2012 was another step in the right direction for the Carolina Panthers. A 7-9 record is nothing to write home about, but it is a sign of continued improvement under head coach Ron Rivera. It was a rough start for the young Panthers team as they started the season 3-9. The record was poor but the play was not; of the nine losses, there were only two that saw the Panthers lose by a considerable amount. Of the remaining losses, two were by two or less points, one was in overtime and four others were by six or less points. The last four games of the season they had some convincing victories, ending 2012 and heading into 2013 on a four game win streak.

The Panthers stats all equal out to a team that would end the season right in the middle of the pack. Their offense overall was 12th in the NFL, ranking 16th in passing with 230.3 yards per game and ninth in rushing with 130.5 yards per game. The problem for the Panthers was they couldn’t score, tying for 18th in the NFL with 22.3 points per game.

The catalyst behind the offense is the ageless wide receiver Steve Smith and quarterback Cam Newton. Newton has revitalized Smith’s career. He looked like a shell of himself just two seasons ago but has put together two big receiving yards seasons and there is no sign of that not changing this year. Greg Olsen has emerged as a reliable option as well for Newton out of the tight end position as well. The problem for the Panthers passing game is that they were unable to find a reliable and consistent third option, let alone second or third wide receiver behind Smith.

Check out some highlights from the 2012 season of Carolina's Superman quarterback:

The run game is successful because of the dual threat that Newton is. DeAngelo Williams is capable of keeping opposing defenses honest but the real threat in the running game is Newton. Jonathan Stewart has yet to live up to the expectations the Panthers had for him since making him a first round pick in 2008. He struggled to stay on the field last season because of injuries.

The defense for the Panthers last season was serviceable; not great but did not hurt them in the long run. They were hard to watch up front even though they gave up 22.7 points per game, equaling a -6 point differential on the season; just another example of just how close this team was to the median and average in the NFL.


Key Losses (New Team): James Anderson, LB (Chicago Bears); Sherrod Martin, S; Louis Murphy, WR (New York Giants); Ron Edwards, DT; Mike Pollack, G (Cincinnati Bengals); Andre Neblett, DT (Tampa Bay Buccaneers); Antwan Applewhite, DE; Jason Phillips, LB (Philadelphia Eagles); Kenny Onatolu, LB; Gary Barnidge; TE (Cleveland Browns)

Key Additions (Old Team): Drayton Florence, CB (Detroit Lions); D.J. Moore, CB (Chicago Bears); Chase Blackburn, LB (New York Giants); Domenik Hixon, WR (New York Giants); Mike Mitchell, S (Oakland Raiders); Ted Ginn, WR (San Francisco 49ers)

Players Re-Signed: Dwan Edwards, DT; Captain Munnerlyn, CB; Derek Anderson, QB; Jordan Senn, LB; Ben Hartsock, TE

Players Drafted: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah; Kawann Short, DT, Purdue; Edmund Kugbila, OG, Valdosta State; A.J. Klein, ILB, Iowa State; Kenjon Barber, RB, Oregon

Outside of tackle machine Luke Kuechly the Panthers were awful upfront and addressed that early and often in the offseason. They brought in run stuffing Lotulelei, the best run stopper in this draft class. He is capable of filling gaps and opening up holes for the linebackers to do their jobs. Short will add good depth up front and can spell Edwards, whom they re-signed. Blackburn can come in and help patrol the middle of the defense; his re-addition two years ago to the New York Giants is what spurred their second Super Bowl run behind the Eli Manning-Tom Coughlin combination. 

The Panthers got some help at corner by bringing in Florence and Moore but there were some options available in the draft that would have helped out as well. It was not a glaring need, but the Panthers still are without a legitimate second receiver or third option in the passing game behind Smith and Olsen. Barner is a complete running back though and should help in both the running and passing game.

Season Outlook

The Panthers, much like their division counterparts in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, look like a team positioned to make some noise at the end of the season in the playoff picture. Ron Rivera has done a great job as head coach and he has seen an increase in wins from the previous season both years at the helm.

For that trend to continue this season, Newton will have to continue improving as a quarterback. He is as athletic and dangerous a dual-threat quarterback as anyone in the NFL but saw a drop in his passing stats across the board from his rookie season. He did have less passing attempts, which will hurt his numbers, but his passing percentage did drop even with lesser attempts. He did cut down on his turnovers, going from 17 interceptions in 2011 to 12 in 2012. As long as he continues developing his game as a passing quarterback this offense will be fine as the run game is what makes the Panthers go.

This is a team that should see improvement again this season with another year of experience under their belts. It would not be shocking to see them in the playoff hunt come December as they are riding as much momentum from the end of last season into this one as any team in the league. If they have just a handful of breaks last season here and there this is easily a .500 team at worst.

Let CHARGED.fm find you the best sports tickets all season long!

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