Carolina Panthers: 3 Rookies Who Must Start the Season Strong

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Carolina Panthers: 3 Rookies Who Must Start the Season Strong
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

The Carolina Panthers franchise is looking to take the next step and become a playoff contender, but the 2012 season has a rough start and Carolina will need its rookies to start strong.

The Panthers went 6-10 last season but there is a lot of excitement around the team, most of which has been created by Cam Newton's extraordinary rookie season.

This season Carolina will look to take the next step and make the playoffs, but its schedule is about as rough in the beginning as it possibly could be.

The Panthers' first four games are against three division rivals and the Super Bowl champions.

Tampa Bay is a team that is looking to use its strong offseason to help continue a tradition of the worst team finding success the next year.

Atlanta went to the playoffs last season and is sporting a high-powered offense that will look to score its way back to the postseason.

New Orleans has had a rough offseason legally, but the team quietly improved through the additions of LB Curtis Lofton and DT Brodrick Bunkley.   

The Panthers already have to face each team in the division, so let's throw in the New York Giants, who just won the Super Bowl.

Luckily, Carolina drafted well and will look to its rookies to help be the difference between a 6-10 team and maybe a 10-6 team.

LB Luke Kuechly will help upgrade the defense, P Brad Nortman will give the defense better field position and DE Frank Alexander will provide a pass rush off the bench, but there are three others who Carolina will especially need in the beginning in order to start the 2012 season strong.  

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