The Carolina Panthers tied their best season in the history of the franchise in 2008 by finishing the year with one of the best records in the NFC at 12-4. The Panthers success was ignited by one of the best tandems at running back in DeAngelo Williams and Jonathon Stewart.
Williams received the bulk of the work load turning 273 touches into an impressive 1,515 yards and 18 scores. Stewart added with 836 yards and 10 touchdowns as well making the Panthers one of the premier rush offenses in the league.
Carolina ranked 3rd overall in rush offense while also just eclipsing the top 10 overall offense wit 349 yards per game. The Panthers cruised through the regular season winning the NFC South. However, the Panthers failed to come up big again when it mattered most in the playoffs.
Carolina has historically been superb on the defensive side of the ball, but last season there was more questions on defense than on the other side of the field.
The Panthers ranked nearly dead in the middle of the league allowing 331 yards per game and had a lot of troubles stopping the running game allowing 4.5 yards per carry. The Panthers defensive struggles were highlighted against the Arizona offense in the opening round of the playoffs losing 33-13.
Despite the disappointing season ending, the Panthers were still among the top teams in the NFC. Carolina will look to build off a lot of momentum from last year’s impressive run and make another run at a Conference Championship.
One of the major areas of concern heading into the off-season was if Carolina could keep superstar Julius Peppers in town. Many thought that Peppers tenure was over after it was rumored that he felt like he was not being used effectively. However, Carolina franchised Peppers on a 1 year deal worth 16 million dollars and at least Carolina will have him on their defensive front for at least one more season.
Carolina also kept OT Jordan Gross happy with a 6-year deal after Gross made the Pro Bowl last season. The Panthers used their first pick to select DE Everette Brown in the 2nd round of the NFL Draft.
Brown was definitely a steal at this point in the draft and could likely fill in for Peppers if he is to depart after the upcoming season. Brown is very athletic with a lot of quickness of the end that should develop him into a solid pass rusher.
The Panthers also drafted Sherrod Martin in the 2nd round as well. Martin is a guy who can adapt to defenses very well, and since the Panthers have had questions in the secondary, we think he find a way to be used.
Carolina also draft defensive lineman Corvey Irvin to fill some need on the line. However, Irvin is not exactly proven after only starting one year at Georgia, but he does possess great size and strength. It is safe to say that Carolina was in desperate need of strengthening the defense and it will be interesting to see if they can see any improvement.
2009 Preview -
The Carolina Panthers success last season came on the ground, and they will likely target those efforts again this season. The Panthers own one of the best offensive fronts in the NFL. However while all the starters are back, the Panthers lost many of their backups making them thin at the position.
The passing game is led by Steve Smith who is perhaps one of the biggest playmakers in the league. Smith consistently finds way to turn nothing into something and has carried the passing attack for years.
Jake Delhomme returns under center again this season after falling apart at the end of the 2008 season. Many people feel that Carolina will never be a championship team with Delhomme at quarterback and we would have to agree.
Defensively, Carolina is a working progress. Everette Brown could really surprise some people as he fits well in this type of defense, but expect it to take a few weeks before he gets a lot of playing time. The Panthers must be better against the run this season. The defense tends to get to the quarterback well against the pass, but simply has to do a better job every down.
2009 Prediction -
Carolina will be in the midst of a wide open race in the NFC South this season. The Panthers will also have to overcome a brutal start to the season against Philadelphia, Atlanta, and Dallas. The Panthers can not afford to get off to a slow start.
We really think this could be the big year for Jake Delhomme, and we mean that in all the wrong ways. Delhomme has consistently fallen apart in the big games over the past few seasons and we think it will become a problem for the majority of the new season. Unfortunately, the Panthers have a tough hill to climb.
Pick - 9-7 tied for 2nd place in NFC South - Visit BangTheBook.com for all your football betting needs and for NFL picks and team previews.