I'll say this: The Carolina Panthers return eleven starters on offense, and look to be a dangerous juggernaut to contain. With Steve Smith, Mushin Muhammad, DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart, and the emergence of Mike Goodson, they could cause many a defense to suffer terrifying nightmares.
But through it all, the Panthers look to be very vulnerable on the defensive side. It is true that the Panthers return nine starters from last year's defense, but the gaping hole at defensive tackle up front could cause problems. They should sign a free agent soon, but the best they will be to get at this point is average.
The void at DT was never more evident than the Giants game last year when the Panther—minus Maake Kemoeatu and Damione Lewis—simply could not contain the Giants' strong ground game.
The secondary will also be an issue. Already inexperienced Godfrey recently went down with an injury, and Jon Beason and Thomas Davis—critical cogs of this defense—are also nursing injuries.
If all goes well, they could all be back by the beginning of the season. But we can't afford to be missing any of them for an extended period of time on an already thin defense, full of inexperienced and young players.
We all know what happened during the second half of last season. The defense, save for Beason and Peppers, completely collapsed. They gave up well over 30 points a game, but thankfully the offense turned into a machine and would put up between 28 to 35 points of their own.
The problem is offense alone will never win a championship, even if you look at the greatest offenses in NFL history. This includes the '84 Dolphins, the '81 Chargers, the '87 49ers, the '83 Redskins, the '04 Colts, the '07 Patriots, the '99 Rams, '02 Raiders and the '98 Vikings.
Despite their deadly offenses, they had average defenses and it shows. Only one of those teams (the '99 Rams) actually won the Super Bowl.
Now look at some of the greatest defenses in NFL history. The '85 Bears, the '70's Steelers, the '08 Steelers, the '02 Buccanneers, the '00 Ravens, '69 Chiefs, '72 Dolphins, and the '75 Vikings. Guess what? All but one of those teams came away with a Super Bowl ring.
My point is, the Panthers may outscore teams but eventually someone will figure out that defense and we will be in real trouble.
It really is ironic. For years the cornerstone of the Panthers' success was their vaunted defense. The team had to fiind some way to make up for the offense's shortcomings, but now the roles have been reversed.
For any Panthers fans out there: When you say your prayers tonight, pray we score a lot of points. I mean a lot. Because if things don't change quickly for our defense, we may need all the points we can get.