Panthers by the Numbers: 2013 Stats Carolina Must Improve in 2014
To keep it short, the Carolina Panthers had a great season in 2013. They improved in many aspects, but their most prized performance came from their defense. Their offense was good, too, but it was truly their defense that carried them as deep into the playoffs as they went.
That all being said, there are still some serious improvements to be made by the Panthers.
Improving their passing attack with Cam Newton is one of their more pressing issues, and bandaging that will begin once free agency opens.
They also need to improve the single crack in their defensive armor, the secondary. They allowed opposing quarterbacks to be entirely too efficient against them, and that will need to be resolved if they are to take another step forward in 2014.
Statistically, there isn't a whole lot to be mad about with the Panthers—but they do have moves that they must make.
Opponents' Completion Percentage
Although they boasted a staunch defense that was one of the league’s best, the Carolina secondary could clearly use an upgrade. The Panthers’ opponents had the third-highest completion percentage in the NFL last year, nailing 66.6 percent of their passes.
Carolina must remedy this thoroughly; the Panthers may opt to target someone in free agency. If not a veteran defensive back such as Dunta Robinson or Kerry Rhodes, then they’ll definitely draft someone on the second or third day who will be expected to contribute.
Keith McGill is an interesting prospect to consider as he’s a talented guy and stands at 6’3” and 211 pounds—he’s very physical and is great in coverage. McGill is just one defensive back the Panthers could consider during the draft, but they will have a number of other choices who would fit in just fine and help them right away.
Plain and simple, the Panthers need to protect Newton better. They gave up 43 sacks on the quarterback in 2013, as well as 62 quarterback hits. Newton (and consequently the entire offense) would greatly benefit from being upright more and would also be able to make more plays happen for them.
The less he gets sacked, the more rhythm they have as an offense and the more points they can put on the board.
They will unfortunately be without Jordan Gross from here on out but are in a good position to draft his replacement when May comes around.
If they can solidify their line a bit and keep Newton clean, then they will become a much more effective offense thus making them a more balanced team.
Punting Inside the 20-Yard Line
Carolina’s punter, Brad Nortman, is certainly a respectable punter in this league, but he had an iffy year in 2013. The Panthers only pinned their opponents inside their own 20-yard line 25 times in 2013, 21st-worst in the NFL.
Fortunately, they have a great defense that can defend against a short field, but giving it that task each game will take its toll.
Carolina only had five touchbacks last year on punts, which ranks it in the bottom half of the league. The defense would surely benefit with their backs against the wall all the time, boosting their defensive output.
Carolina’s offense as a whole was an underwhelming unit at times last year, and it didn’t help that it was often faced with driving down a long field. The Panthers averaged just 21.9 yards per return last year, 24th-worst in the NFL.
While you can put some of the blame on the offense for its lack of production at times, it definitely would’ve posted better results if it had been given better starting field positions.
Ted Ginn didn’t do a bad job last year, but he will need to improve his 23.9-yard average (16th out of 23 returners with 20-plus returns). If Ginn can get some better blockers and make some more magic on his own, the Panthers will be better prepared to provide much more assistance to the offense.
Passing Yards Per Game
Newton clearly made progress in 2013, but he will need to continue that development if he is to be considered an “elite” NFL quarterback.
Newton was the 29th-ranked passer in passing yards per game (190.2) and barely broke 3,000 total yards passing last year after passing for 3,800 or more the past two seasons. His numbers suffered from not having too many weapons, a problem that will be fixed this offseason.
The Panthers have been very open about their desire for more talent at the wide receiver position and will more than likely use the draft to improve the depth at wideout. They will probably use their first-round pick on a tackle now that Gross has retired, meaning they’ll target a receiver in the second round.
One of the viable options for them will be Brandin Cooks, a smaller, speedster of a receiver who’s stock has risen with his impressive showing at the combine. Allen Robinson is another reasonable choice; he’s a big-bodied receiver who could develop into a great red-zone target sooner than later.
Adding more weapons will surely help Newton’s numbers, inflating his averages from the get-go and keeping Carolina’s offense running smoothly.