The Panthers are a young, tough team, and John Fox is capable of leading them to the playoffs as he enters the final year of his contract.
Julius Peppers headed to the Windy City, but I’m still a believer in Carolina’s ability to be recognized as one of the better teams in the NFC.
Longtime Panther Brad Hoover will be missed in the community and locker room, but second-year fullback Tony Fiammetta looks ready to assume his role.
On offense, I believe they’re absolutely fine with Matt Moore as their quarterback, but he needs another dependable receiver besides Steve Smith. Muhsin Muhammad is a class act, but 14 years in the NFL have taken their toll. Dwayne Jarrett is another USC bust at receiver.
The other positional need is that of depth along the offensive line—especially at guard.
On defense, they really missed the run-stuffing play of Maake Kemoeatu when he was lost for the season after tearing his Achilles tendon in the preseason.
Linebackers Jon Beason and Thomas Davis are excellent, but they might consider adding a fast outside linebacker.
They are without a fifth-round pick after exchanging it for former Kansas City Chiefs defensive tackle Tank Tyler, a third-round pick in 2007. He’s a nice run-stuffer and should only improve.
Last year’s third-round pick, Corvey Irvin, spent last season on injured reserve, but he projects as another run-stuffing tackle with enough strength to collapse the pocket.
Everette Brown and Charles Johnson head into the season as the starting defensive ends. I like Brown’s chance to take a big step forward in his second year, but he alone won’t replace the pressure in the backfield generated by the departed Peppers and possibly soon-to-be departed Tyler Brayton.
Their secondary is tough and underrated, but as with most teams, it could use a bit more depth.
After trading their 2010 first round pick last year to San Francisco, Marty Hurney and his staff will wait until midway through the second round to make their first pick unless he somehow moves up—something he’s done the last two drafts.
Because of the unpredictability of what’s available once they make their initial pick on Friday night, I won’t say one position of need is sure to be filled with that pick. However, I am comfortable predicting their first two picks (Round Two and Round Three) will be defensive end and wide receiver—in either order.