Whether it's the offense or defense, this team is struggling to execute. On both sides of the ball, there are glaring needs that should be addressed in the 2013 NFL draft.
Here are a few players who could help Newton and the Panthers in the years to come.
Star Lotulelei, Defensive Tackle, Utah
The Panthers are having major issues stopping their opponents from running the ball. Through five games, this team has allowed 637 yards on the ground (No. 25 in the NFL) and four touchdowns, and opposing running backs have yet to fumble the ball a single time.
The Panthers defense is also allowing 25 points per game and has only forced five turnovers in five games.
As it is on offense, the key to building a strong defense in the NFL is to bring in guys who dominate the trenches.
Right now, Ron Edwards and Dwan Edwards—the team's two starting defensive tackles—aren't getting the job done. According to Pro Football Focus, R. Edwards is their No. 56-ranked defensive tackle and D. Edwards is their No. 69-ranked defensive tackle—out of 76 total players.
Running backs are getting into the second level far too often on these guys, and the Panthers desperately need a stud to man the middle of their defense.
Lotulelei is a beast. At 6' 3" and 320 pounds, he moves with the agility of a tight end and has the power of a Mack truck. He is a player who will demand a double-team most of the time, and he's just as dangerous as a pass rusher as he is as a run stuffer.
His presence in the middle of this defense would make life exponentially easier for Luke Kuechly and the other linebackers, and if he's available when they pick, the Panthers would be foolish to pass him up.
Bacarri Rambo, Safety, Georgia
No offense to Haruki Nakamura and Charles Godfrey, but they're so bad that they wouldn't even make it on half the active rosters in the NFL.
The Panthers need secondary help in a big way. Nakamura isn't athletic enough, instinctive enough or strong enough to cover the middle of the field at the free safety position, and Godfrey is a complete liability in both the running game and as a cover man at strong safety.
According to PFF, Nakamura is the No. 63-ranked safety in the NFL, and Godfrey is the No. 72-ranked safety—out of 76 total safeties (involuntary shudder).
At 6' 0" and 210 pounds, Rambo is a physically gifted athlete with a mean streak and a nose for the football. In 38 career games at Georgia, he has hauled in 13 interceptions, defended 39 passes, forced three fumbles and taken three interceptions back for touchdowns.
WalterFootball.com's scouting report on Rambo reads:
Rambo really can do it all. He is a tough run defender and an instinctive coverage safety who has a real presence in all levels of the field...Rambo is a real ballhawk who does a good job of reading a quarterback's eyes. He jumps routes and has a real burst to close gaps between his landmark and receivers. There aren't many safeties that have Rambo's ball skills and ability to create interceptions.
The Panthers desperately need a guy like Rambo roaming around in their secondary to keep teams from abusing them through the air.
Tyler Eifert, Tight End, Notre Dame
Greg Olsen is doing a fantastic job for the Panthers this year, and this isn't an indictment against him.
Rather, introducing Eifert to this lineup would only further Olsen's effectiveness, and the two of them would complement one another—much like we've seen from Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez for the New England Patriots.
Eifert isn't expected to be taken until the bottom of the first round, so the Panthers could either trade down and pick up more draft picks, which certainly couldn't hurt this team, or they could trade back up into the first round to land him.
Either way, landing Eifert would do wonders for Newton's development as a quarterback.
At 6' 5" and 252 pounds, Eifert is another of the new breed of tight ends entering the NFL the past few years in the same mold as Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham. He runs well for his size, has excellent leaping abilities and possesses fantastic hands.
He's the kind of player who would make everyone around him better due to the fact that teams would need to double-team him or risk getting burned over the top.
Finally, Eifert would make Newton's life a whole lot easier in the red zone, as his height and leaping abilities would be even more of a threat in confined quarters.
The Panthers have many needs.
These players are but a few who could make an instant, positive impact for this team.
For now, it's going to be interesting to see if Newton and his team can pull out of the funk they're in and improve their position in the standings.
If not, I expect to see the Panthers picking in the top five in the 2013 NFL draft.
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