The Carolina Panthers may not be the NFL's highest scoring team in 2012, nor will they have the league's most efficient offensive unit, but they will have the most exciting offense in the league this season.
The Panthers finished finished fifth in scoring, third in rushing and seventh in total offense in 2011, and they are primed for a top-five overall performance again in 2012.
Running the football and producing big plays are the Panthers' bread and butter, and Carolina's offense executes with more flair, gadgetry and excitement than any other team in the NFL.
The Green Bay Packers or New England Patriots will lead the league in scoring, and Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and nearly a dozen other quarterbacks will pass for more yards than Cam Newton, but no team in the NFL will deliver more highlight-worthy plays than the Panthers.
Innovative Chud We Trust
Other than Cam Newton, the most impactful addition to the Panthers' offense in 2011 was offensive coordinator Rob "Chud" Chudzinski.
Chud is widely considered one of the most innovative offensive minds in the NFL, as well as a leading candidate for a head coaching job in the next couple of seasons, and he showed a penchant for mixing in the occasional trick play to the his playbook last season.
Carolina had a top-10 offense in 2011 after having the worst offensive unit in the NFL in 2010, and Chud's play-calling and creativity helped the Panthers make this unprecedented jump without the benefit of offseason mini-camps or OTAs due to the NFL players' strike.
Without the distraction of a lockout, it is a different story in 2012, and the Panthers have had the opportunity to install an overwhelming amount of new material courtesy of their offensive coordinator so far during their offseason preparations.
Following practice at a mini-camp in early June, Panthers starting left tackle, Jordan Gross, told the Charlotte Observer's Joe Person that mini-camp was high-level preparation for an in-season install.
“I’ve already been through one (notebook), and I’m working my way through my second. It’s hard to make people realize how much we’re putting in and how complex what we’re doing is. That’s just going to lead to us being a more attacking offense and giving defenses a lot to handle.”
Some have implied the possibility of a sophomore slump for Newton, Carolina's second-year quarterback, because coaches have had an opportunity to study his game film from 2011 and make adjustments in how they defend the Panthers' offense.
But with Chud dictating the action, chances are that opposing defenses will see looks and plays that have only yet been imagined by the Panthers' incumbent offensive guru in 2012.
Athleticism at QB
Cam Newton was the NFL's breakout star in 2011.
The NFL Rookie of the Year broke records with his right arm and both legs, passing for 4,051 yards and 21 touchdowns and running for another 706 yards and 14 scores.
At 6'5" and 248 pounds, Newton may be the only football player on the planet with the size, speed and athleticism to play quarterback, wide receiver and defensive end in the NFL.
And just imagine what he will accomplish behind center in his second year after having an entire off-season practicing with his teammates and coaches for the first time.
The game will slow down for Newton in 2012, and though his passing and rushing yardage totals will be down in his sophomore season, his overall production will improve with more total touchdowns (32 passing, eight rushing) and weekly appearances on SportsCenter's Top Ten.
The Carolina Panthers have track-star speed at wide receiver in Steve Smith and a healthy David Gettis.
At only 5'9" and 185 pounds, Smith is pound-for-pound the NFL's most gifted receiver and he shows no signs of slowing down at the age of 33.
Gettis, who missed his second NFL season after catching 37 passes for 506 yards in his rookie season with a torn ACL, is a burner who plays faster than his 4.51-second 40-yard sprint at the 2010 NFL combine.
Brandon LaFell has earned the Panthers' No. 2 receiver position as an intermediate threat and possession player, but as long as Gettis is healthy and has not lost a step, the Panthers will have one of the NFL's best dual threats in the deep-third of the field this season.
I promise you that Newton will be more than happy to air it out.
Run, Panthers, Run!
Carolina has the best backfield in the NFL.
DeAngelo Williams may be the league's most underrated back, but with a career average of 5.1 yards per carry, he is the most likely Panthers player other than Steve Smith to break off a big gain of 20 yards or more on any given play.
Jonathan Stewart is more of a bruiser than the slighter Williams, but Carolina's 235-pound tailback matched his stablemate with a 5.4 yards per carry average in 2011.
Stewart has no qualms about delivering a blow to any linebacker or safety in his path, but he too is nimble enough to get around would-be tacklers with an assortment of stutter steps and spin moves of his own.
With the addition of fullback Mike Tolbert, who led the San Diego Chargers in rushing in 2010, and the persistent running threat that Cam Newton presents from the quarterback position, the Panthers could easily lead the NFL in rushing touchdowns in 2012.
It's All About the W's, Baby
Making SportsCenter and Inside the NFL's highlight reels notwithstanding, the only thing that matters to Chud, Smitty, Cam and the rest of the Panthers is winning football games.
I expect Carolina to win 10 games and challenge for the NFC South title or a wild card berth in 2012.
One thing is for certain, though; you will want to set a season pass to record the Carolina Panthers' games, because you never know what you are going to miss.
Jimmy Grappone is a Featured Columnist covering the NFL and the Carolina Panthers for Bleacher Report since 2008.
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