With the Carolina Panthers' (6-10) season in the books, it is time to start discussing their needs for the 2012 season as they look to build upon their successes and disappointments of 2011.
The Panthers significantly upgraded their quarterback position by selecting surefire NFL Rookie of the Year, Cam Newton, with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft.
Newton, along with a rejuvenated Steve Smith and a revitalized running attack, improved the Panthers' 32nd-ranked offense from a year ago to the 5th-highest scoring unit in the league and the 7th-ranked overall offense.
Across the line of scrimmage, though, the Panthers' injury-marred defense did not fare so well, finishing 27th in points allowed per game and 28th in total yardage.
The Panthers' special teams were even more atrocious than the defense with kicker Olindo Mare missing key field goals, punter Jason Baker's coverage team allowing three touchdown returns and punt returner Armanti Edwards ranked dead last among regulars at his position.
However, with head coach Ron Rivera's track record of building great defenses and with offensive coordinator and head coach candidate Rob "Chud" Chudzinski likely to return for another season in Charlotte, the Panthers should be able to put together a 10-win season in 2012 and challenge for a Wild Card spot in the 2013 NFL Playoffs.
Here is a look at four key positions the Panthers will need to upgrade in the offseason in order to continue their rise from NFL doormat in 2010 to respectability in 2011 and a possible playoff bid in 2012.