Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Carolina Panthers review

They won 4 more games than they did a year ago, bringing their total to 6. Not good enough for a playoff spot, but an improvement. Considering the way 2010 played out, 2011 felt like an undefeated campaign.

The one thing that was noticeable all the way back in the preseason was the sense of hope this team brought to the fan base. Fans believed the offense would move the ball, and score. After all, 2010 was about as dismal a year for the Panther offense as could be imagined. Cam Newton brought the belief that anything could get done when Carolina had the ball.

Of course, Newton was only as good as the plan, and players around him, and there were several outstanding seasons had by guys like Steve Smith, Jordan Gross, Ryan Kalil, Brandon LaFell (late), and others. Concocting all the schemes, Rob Chudzinski. A guy I envision in a white lab coat scheming, and planning, and inventing new ways to move the football down the field.

It's nervous time for the Panthers and their fans, with Chud being considered for the Jacksonville Head Coaching post. IF Chud stays, and I think there is a real chance he could leave if the offer is right, Carolina has to find a guy similar to Chud to advance the offense down the road it is on.

The Panthers biggest problem in 2011 was staying healthy. 18 players hit the injured reserve list, a franchise record, among them 5 players that started on defense (which did not include Ron Edwards who was hurt in training camp). I don't care how deep a team thinks they are, that kind of pressure will cause even the best rosters to weaken significantly.

Comparing the 2010 team to 2011 isn't entirely fair, considering the void created by an offense that was worst in the league in many areas. No question this year's team was significantly better, and provided they can stay healthy (the caveat for all NFL teams), they can be a contender next season. In fact, Steve Smith has already proclaimed the Panthers will be a playoff team next season, and there is nothing to suggest he is wrong.

Mike Solarte

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