Help for Cam Newton and the Panthers: 4 Goals to Accomplish This Offseason
After drafting Cam Newton with the first overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, the Carolina Panthers stock seems to be rising. A star quarterback, a solid first round draft pick and some smart acquisitions in free agency could boost the Panthers into the playoffs.
Here are a list of things that I believe the Panthers management and Head Coach Ron Rivera need to make in the best interest of long-term success.
Draft Dre Kirkpatrick, Fletcher Cox or Melvin Ingram
There is no doubt that the Panthers need some defensive help.
Last year their weak defense allowed 46 touchdowns, had a mere 31 sacks, an embarrassing 14 interceptions and they finished in the middle of the pack in terms of tackles.
While these three players are not yet elite players, all are considered to be solid picks at this point in the draft. Kirkpatrick may be a bit of a reach, but I believe his potential is incredible. He played for one of the best defenses in the NCAA and can be the centerpiece of the Panthers defense.
I believe Kirkpatrick is the best choice in terms of the Panthers current needs. Their secondary would begin to take the shape of a playoff-worthy, pass-denying force.
The other two players are similar in an odd way. Both Cox and Ingram can anchor the Panthers defensive line, in an attempt to replace the once formidable Kris Jenkins and Julius Peppers.
Many analysts place Cox as the optimal choice for the Panthers. But his quick rise to the top concerns me. Melvin Ingram has always been a top pick. I am fine with either pick, but would favor Ingram.
Thomas Davis and Jon Beason should be at full health. If Charles Johnson can continue his quick climb to all-pro caliber, a defensive line draft pick could create an excellent run-stopping force.
Trade Jonathan Stewart During the Draft
Jonathan Stewart has been great for the Panthers. He has continually proven that Jon Fox wasn't a total idiot drafting a running back in the first round two years in a row. But, Fox is no longer the head coach in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Cam Newton has taken the helm at quarterback. Ron Rivera knows it is wise to build an offense around Newton's spread style.
Unfortunately, Stewart is not part of those plans.
The Panthers will have trouble trading away DeAngelo Williams and his large, over-sized contract. Therefore they are committed to the aging scat-back.
Williams will fit much better into Newton's spread style because he can catch the ball well out of the backfield. A $ 5.25 million commitment to Williams in 2012 doesn't help matters.
The Panthers should get rid of Stewart during the draft in order to acquire an offensive lineman. Taking Reilly Reiff with a mid to late first round pick sounds excellent to me.
If a draft pick isn't in the package for Stewart, the Panthers need to make sure they are either protecting Cam, getting weapons for Cam, or getting a good defense together so Cam won't have to be on the field so much.
Practice as Often as Possible
With a shortened NFL season last year, practice time was limited before the season. This problem plagued the Panthers as they struggled to play well early in the season.
This goal is simple. The Panthers need to go out of their way to make sure Cam Newton, his receivers and running backs get as much time together on the practice field as possible.
If Newton can develop some chemistry with another receiver besides future Hall of Famer Steve Smith, the Panther passing game will be dangerous. The normal-length off-season provides the perfect chance.
Get to work Cam.
Add Talent at Wide Receiver
I don't care whether it is a 2nd or 3rd day draft pick. It could even be a free agent, like Braylon Edwards.
Get some more talent at wide receiver.
For years, Steve Smith has been the only top-level talent in Charlotte. That needs to change. Braylon Edwards was a first round pick. I believe the Panthers should give him a shot. They could do it for cheap and potentially get great results.
Cam Newton can't throw to himself.