With another season of questions on the rise, what can we expect from the Panthers in '08?
Well, let's start with the positives.
The team returns with all of it's stars once again: Jake Delhomme, Steve Smith, Julius Peppers, etc. Delhomme appears healthy and reports even say he's better than before. They even managed to pick up a couple new stars like DJ Hackett (from Seattle), Dan Conner (draft pick from Penn State), and the promising Jonathan Stewart (draft pick from Oregon). The offensive line looks better and more experienced and has added star Tackle Jeff Otah. Reports say camp is going well and Stewart is becoming a stand out running back. Though most doubt he'll be any better than last season, Peppers promises to be better and with the history he's had, I believe he'll show up to play and put last season behind him.
Now the negatives.
Carolina has a good balance of young and old players. The question is, what will the rookies do? Will they stand out and lead the team to be NFC South Champions? Or will they buckle under the pressure? Steve Smith is out for the first two games against two opponents who can easily roll over the Panthers. John Fox is on the edge of unemployment and GM Marty Hurney is right there with him. Fox needs to prove himself in the season ahead if he wants to continue coaching Carolina. Injuries plagued the Panthers throughout the 2007 season and in a sport like football, it could just as easily happen this season. Muhsin Muhammad is back and personally, I think they're wasting their money. He's gotten older and had a very poor showing during his tenure with Chicago.
So, what do we know? We know that they have several new players who each have the skills to be great. We know that Jake is back and at the moment appears 100 percent. We know that they have a coach with a need to prove himself. The Panthers are ready to play and, more importantly, ready to win. What does the 2008 season hold for the Carolina Panthers? My answer: 12-4 and a trip to the playoffs. With Fox's attempt to return to the strategy that got him to the Superbowl, the Panthers are primed for a shot at the big time with the only thing in their way being? Anyone? Anyone? Ken Lucas's nose.