2010 Carolina Panthers: Preview and Predictions
Wins: Redskins, Buccaneers, Cardinals, Falcons, Buccaneers, Vikings, Giants, Saints
Losses: Eagles, Falcons, Cowboys, Bills, Saints, Dolphins, Jets, Patriots
DeAngelo Williams/ Jonathan Stewart
RB, Memphis, Drafted No. 27, five years / RB, Oregon, Drafted No. 13, three years
Williams and Stewart combined for 2250 yards rushing, 17 TDs, and an average of 5.1 yards per carry. The Panthers did not have a reliable quarterback all of last year, so Stewart and Williams had to carry the team in most games. They produced even while constantly facing 7-8 guys in the box, because no one respected their passing game, which ranked second to last in the NFC.
WR, Utah, Drafted No. 74, ten years
Smith had an off year with only 65 receptions, but still had 982 yards receiving and seven TDs. Smith has been frustrated the past few years, because he is often double-teamed and the Panthers have not had a great number two receiver to take the pressure off. Things may be even tougher for Smith now without WR Mushin Muhammed, who recently retired.
Biggest Offseason Addition
QB, Norte Dame, Drafted No. 48, Rookie
Clausen was a guy that almost everyone thought would go top ten and worst case, fall to someone in the top 20. Amazingly, he fell to the Panthers at 48. At worst, Clausen will compete with starter Matt Moore and will make him a better quarterback. I believe Clausen will go on to be the best quarterback in the 2010 draft, so this was a huge steal for the Panthers. They got a first round talented player with a mid-second round pick.
Biggest Offseason Loss
DE, UNC, Drafted No. 2, nine years
Peppers began his career in Carolina and racked up 81 sacks and 30 forced in his eight years with the Panthers. He is an unbelievable athlete that was a nightmare for offenses. The Panthers are losing the two faces of their franchise in Peppers and Jake Delhomme.
Biggest Draft Steal
DE, Mississippi, Drafted No. 175, Rookie
The Panthers draft class was filled with draft steals in Clausen, Pike, Norwood, and LaFell, but Hardy may have been the biggest steal. Hardy has the size and athleticism of a first rounder, yet the Panthers were able to grab him in the sixth round. Hardy was athletic enough to play basketball and some receiver at the college level, and dominated his sophomore year with 18.5 TFL and 10 sacks. If he can get healthy and regain his form, he could be a special player.
Biggest Draft Mistake
I think that the Panthers had one of the best drafts in the NFL. They received a lot of athletes and players who have a lot of upside. Picking up Armanti Edwards in the third round may have been a little bit of a reach, but he is a player who could end up running the wild cat or being like a Antwaan Randel El at receiver.
The Panthers had an excellent draft and had a lot of good value picks. It was the right decision to let Jake Delhomme walk.
The two mistakes I think that they made were not trading Pepper’s last year, and not trying to acquire another receiver through trades. The Panthers knew that Pepper was going to walk after this year, so might as well trade him and get some value for him, right? Peppers eventually walked in free agency and the Panthers were left with nothing (other than a probable third round compensations pick, which is not much).
The Panthers picked up some receivers in the draft, but there were also a lot of chances for them to grab proven receivers via trade. A lot of big name receivers were traded: Anquan Boldin, Brandon Marshall, and Santonio Holmes, but the Panthers were not able to land any of them. Look for the Panthers to get in on the Vincent Jackson trade rumors.
WR, USC, Drafted No. 45, four years
Jarrett has always had the talent to become a number one receiver. He is a big receiver at 6’4,” has great hands, and proved that he could be a playmaker when he was in college.
Jarrett has not lived up to the hype—he has only 33 receptions and one TD in his three years. Things would be a lot easier for QB Matt Moore/Jimmy Clausen if Jarrett emerges as the playmaker.
Name You Should Know
OT, Utah, Drafted No. 8, eight years
Gross had been one of the most consistent starters for the Panthers before he broke his tibia last year, starting every game but one since his rookie year. It should be interesting to see how Gross, who is one of the best tackles in the game, recovers from his first major injury.
LB, U of Miami, Drafted No. 25, four years
To say that Beason is a rising star may be a bit of a misnomer. He has been a pro bowler for the last two years, averaged 140 tackles a year, and now he will be, without question, the best player on the Panther’s defense.
With DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart carrying the ball 400+ times, you have to like your chances as an offense. The only problem is if the Panthers get down, they are going to have to rely on an inexperienced QB who will not have anyone to throw to other Steve Smith.
The defense obviously took a major step backwards after losing Julius Peppers. The defensive line will be the biggest question mark for the Panthers, and younger guys like Everette Brown and Charles Johnson are going to have to step it up. The linebacker crew is very good with Beason, and the secondary is pretty solid with Richard Marshall and Chris Gamble.
Special Teams Outlook
Captain Munnerlyn ended up being a seventh round steal who did a good job last year in punt returns, and Tyrell Sutton is average in the kick return game. At 40 years old, John Kasey is still a very consistent kicker and Jason Baker does a good job of pinning the ball inside the 20.
2010 Projected Record
The Panthers are going to have to rely heavily on their running game this year. Matt Moore looked good last year, but he has only started eight games in his career, and does not have a lot of proven weapons on the offensive side of the ball. The Panthers had a great draft and I think they are moving in the right direction for the next few years, but it would be hard to imagine the Panthers improving on their 8-8 record last year, especially going against the Falcons and the Saints twice.