|No more street clothes for Kelvin Benjamin, how will his team respond to his return?|
Previous Season Record: (15-1)
Key Acquisition(s): Paul Soliai
Key Loss(es): Jared Allen, Brad Nortman, Josh Norman
What a year the Panthers put together. They begin the season without their best wide receiver because of a camp injury, and proceed to have the best offensive season in Carolina Panthers history. Cam Newton won MVP and was the League’s most dominant offensive weapon. It all ended in tears in the Super Bowl. There wasn’t much turnover on either side of the ball, this will essentially be the same squad as last season’s. Kelvin Benjamin will be back, and Ted Ginn Jr. will become the number 2 receiver again. TE Greg Olsen had a career year, becoming a welcomed security blanket after Benjamin’s injury. The offensive line made dramatic improvements, particularly at the LT position. Michael Oher was a dramatic improvement for Cam’s blindside, despite the way the last game played out. And despite Newton’s star power, this is still a running team—they ranked 1st in rushing touchdowns and 2nd in yards. Look for Cameron Artis-Payne to have a few breakout performances over the course of the season.
|New faces in new places, Norman is gone. What will that look like for the Panthers?|
This side of the ball had one large change, with the surprising departure of cornerback Josh Norman. The team responded by drafting 3 defensive backs. Bene Benwikere has been returning from injury most offseason, and will be ready to take on the number one corner responsibilities. The team added defensive line talent with Olivier Vernon, which will perhaps allow more pressure without the need of blitzing—the team blitzed more last season to makeup for a lack of pass rush, even scooping an elder Allen midway through the season. With fewer blitzes, the secondary will have more bodies to overcome deficiencies.
Prediction: This team should be good (not 15 win good) but should win the division and be on the short list of Super Bowl contenders. It’ll be interesting to see how, or if, the Super Bowl hangover will affect this team as it has past champion runner-ups.