Last year all eyes in the NFL universe were focused on the state of North Carolina and the growing city of Charlotte thanks to the 15-1 Super Bowl runner ups.
The three time defending NFC south champs took the nation by storm with a ferocious defense and high octane offense led by a charismatic league MVP. After claiming the best season in franchise history the Panthers fell just short in the big game and making league history.
After such a record breaking season it’s scary to fathom that this team is just scratching the surface on their overall potential. Sure critics bring up the loss of star shutdown corner Josh Norman but the franchise didn’t lose anyone else. When you consider the fact that the rest of the core group is back along with a stout incoming draft class, it is reasonable to assume the Panthers may be deeper and more talented than last season.
The defense returns three pro bowlers and added more depth at all three levels of the unit. Carolina’s front seven was already arguably the best in football and GM David Gettleman added another hog molly in the first round. Vernon Butler will be a great addition to the talented D-line he’s a big body with even bigger upside who can help erase running lanes, and create nightmares alongside pro bowler Kawann Short.
The linebacker group returns one of the best duo’s in the game with Thomas Davis and Luke Kuechly covering every inch of the field. Shaq Thompson will also return after a promising rookie season last year. With those three guys alone most teams would be thrilled and when you add in super sub AJ Klein and last years ACC defensive player of the year Jeremy Cash this unit looks primed to be a force once again this upcoming season.
It seems every off season the knock on the Panthers has been the secondary unit and a lack of talent in that area. After all pro corner Josh Norman decided to take his talents to D.C. analysts are talking more of the same. “Without Norman, the Panthers’ cornerback unit goes from one of the league’s most feared to one of the weakest.” said Espn writer Mike Clay.
But this year’s unit could be the most effective in recent memory what they lack in established star power they make up for with great depth and upside. Rising stars Bene Benwikere and Kurt Coleman will be depended upon to carry the load and ease the youth movement.
Instead of attempting to draft one replacement for Norman Carolina decided to go with a committee approach. Rookie corners James Bradberry, Daryl Worley, and Zack Sanchez will be relied upon early to contribute and provide depth at the position. Although he comes from a smaller school Bradberry has drawn the most hype of the three and has drawn comparisons to Norman, he will take over his number 24 this season as well.
Cam Newton will lead the revamped offense into battle this year and he will be happy to have his number one receiver back. Kelvin Benjamin was impressive in his rookie campaign posting a 1,000 yard season and would’ve been a major contributor to this years Super Bowl run had he not torn his ACL in training camp. With the return of Benjamin, and a more seasoned Devin Funchess to pair with pro bowl tight end Greg Olsen the reigning MVP should light it up once again. The addition of undrafted rookie Keyarris Garrett should provide Newton with another weapon to unleash. Garrett lead the NCAA in receiving yards last season and triumphed through past injury issues to accumulate a stellar career at Tulsa University.
The backfield returns leading rusher Johnathan Stewart who was solid in his first year as the feature back he fell just short of a 1,000 yards on the ground. Stewart was a little banged up last season so the Cats will look to second year man Cameron Artis- Payne to shoulder some of the carries, he showed flashes of serious potential with limited touches last season.
Overall majority of the Panthers core group have yet to hit their primes which is a scary thought. This team will return this year with more experience after playing in a Super Bowl and a revamped roster, the target will be on their backs in the NFC as everyone will be gunning at the defending champs.
Ex-Panthers Owner Jerry Richardson Fined $2.75 Million
The National Football League has announced a fine levied on former Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson after finding allegations of workplace misconduct were substantiated.
Per the announcement, most of the funds from the fine will be used to support “organizations dedicated to addressing race and gender-based issues in and outside of the workplace.”
Richardson owned the Panthers from the time of their inception up until their sale earlier this year. The 81-year old announced his intention to sell the team following the scathing report from Sports Illustrated’s L. Jon Werthem and Viv Bernstein exposed sexual harassment and racism allegations against Richardson.
Panthers’ Torrey Smith Said NFL ‘dropped the ball’ With New Anthem Policy
Carolina Panthers wide receiver Torrey Smith is not a fan of the leagues new rule that requires players to either stand during the national anthem or stay in the locker room, saying that the league has “dropped the ball”.
Smith believes that the new policy could have a negative impact as he believes that it can lead to more problems and more protests.
“When you see reactive policy … I always think that’s a problem,” Smith said on Tuesday, according to ESPN. “Especially when the message has been changed and guys aren’t against the military and they’ve been protesting for what [Colin] Kaepernick originally started, against [police] brutality.
“It almost makes it seem like a guy like Kaepernick and Eric Reid and guys who started it originally, like what they did was in vain, like they were villains. That’s not the case.”
“You’re disappointed but not surprised,” Smith said. “At the end of the day, the league is about money, it’s a business. To try to silence those guys when they’re trying to do the right thing for our country, I don’t know what to say about it.
“It could stir things up, which is a problem. Because you’re stirring things up because you’re being told to be quiet, when it could have been done together to figure out what we can do to move forward and what would be best for the players.”
David Tepper Expected To Sign Purchase Deal For Panthers
Current Pittsburgh Steelers minority owner David Tepper is exepcted to to sign a purchase deal that will make him the new owner of the Carolina Panthers, a move that have been rumored for some time, according to ESPN’s Seth Wickersham and Adam Schefter.
The report indicates that the total sale price for the Panthers franchise will be $2.2 billion which will set a record for the highest sale price for an NFL team, surpassing the $1.4 billion pricetag that the Buffalo Bills were sold for back in 2014.
The deal would be expected to be approved at the owners meetings in Atlanta on May 22, and will need approval from the NFL financial committee and then three-fourths approval from the 32 owners to finalize.
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