The Preliminary 2011 NFL Off-Season Preview: Carolina Panthers
Welcome to the first of my off-season preview series. We begin with the Carolina Panthers.
It is a sad time in Carolina. They are the worst team in the NFL, and are filled with holes. They also got rid of the mediocre John Fox as head coach, and he is replaced by Ron Rivera, the former defensive coordinator of both the Bears and Chargers. However, they have a few bright spots, most noticeably the dynamic running back duo of Johnathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams. Andrew Luck's decision to return to Stanford really hurt Carolina. Hopefully, Jimmy Clausen will step up and lead the Panthers out of the cellar. Still, the future does not look bright. The Panthers need a strong draft and maybe sign some new talent. However, it has been done (See Rams, St. Louis).
Carolina's Off-season Needs
1) Quarterback: Poor Carolina. They were all set to start a new regime with Andrew Luck, and he decided to go back to school. Now , they're stuck with Jimmy Clausen. Clausen did have a lack of support, but he made subpar reads and looked uncomfortable in the pocket. He better shape up.
2) Defensive Tackle: Carolina has absolutely nothing at defensive tackle. Neither Nick Hayden nor Derek Landri are good enough to get it done in the trenches.
3) #1 Wide Receiver: Steve Smith is no longer a number one receiver. He relied on speed for most of his career, and is starting to burn out. Whoever the quarterback is, he'll need a number one receiver to go to.
4) Right Guard: After Jeff Otah's injury, the Carolina offensive line fell apart. An offensive guard is needed.
5) Right Defensive End: It may be too early, but Everette Brown's 4 sacks were alarming, especially because they came at the end of the season.
6) Tight End: The Panthers have lacked a solid tight end.
7) Cornerback depth: If Richard Marshall isn't resigned, depth will be needed at cornerback.
Carolina's Major Free Agents
1) Ryan Kalil, C: Kalil is a Pro Bowl center who is one of the very few bright spots on the Carolina team. He will be re-signed
2) DeAngelo Williams, RB: It was surprising that Carolina did not trade Williams for someone else last season. If they do not end up keeping him or getting someone for him, they will look even more foolhardy.
3) Charles Johnson, DE: Johnson is one of the most dominant young defensive ends in the NFL. He has to be a priority and be re-signed.
4) James Anderson, OLB: Anderson is a solid linebacker who should be re-signed.
5) Thomas Davis, OLB: Another solid linebacker, but has injury problems. Still, he should be re-signed
6) Richard Marshall, CB: Marshall complained about not getting an extension last season, and struggled this season. He might not be re-signed.
Possible Free Agents To Sign
Kevin Kolb: Both Vick and Kolb are UFAs. I doubt the Eagles will sign them both. Carolina may decide that Kolb is a better choice than giving Clausen a second campaign as a starter.
Braylon Edwards/ Santonio Holmes: Due to budget restrictions, either Holmes or Edwards may not be re-signed for the 2011 season. Both have been good #1 receivers and could replace Smith.
Randy Moss: Maybe he has one more year.
Carl Nicks: Nicks may not be a Saint next year. The Saints recently made Jahiri Evans the highest paid guard in football. If Nicks is signed, it will almost certainly mean the release of Saints left tackle Jermon Bushrod. The Saints may favor Bushrod.
Ray Edwards: Edwards is a solid defensive end who is not on the Viking's top priorities list for resigning. He may hit the market and become a target for Carolina.
Potential Draft Picks
1st Round: Nick Fairley DE/DT: Carolina lacks an inside force on the defensive line. Fairley can fill this hole and dominate.
Cam Newton QB: After Luck's decision to go back to school, Newton is now the best quarterback in the draft. He lacks in certain areas, but his arm strength and intangibles may lead Carolina to take him with the first pick.
A.J. Green WR: Green is the front runner for the Panther's first pick. He is a dominant receiver who could succeed Steve Smith as the Panthers #1 receiver for the next decade.
Da-quan Bowers DE: Bowers is a dominant end who can generate the pressure that Everette Brown couldn't.
3rd Round: Marcus Cannon OT/G: Cannon could come up and fill in at right guard.
Benjamin Ijalana OT/G: Like Cannon, Ijalana could become the new right guard.
4th Round: Jabal Sheard DE: If a defensive end is not picked earlier, Sheard may step up and bring some pressure.
Jarvis Jenkins DT: The Panthers need help on the defensive line
5th Round: Virgil Green TE: Virgil Green could develop into the top tight end the Panthers have always lacked.
6th Round: Matt Szczur WR/RB: Szczur is a Wildcat weapon who could add some explosiveness to the Panthers offense.
7th Round: Carl Johnson OT/G: Johnson could be developed to augment the offensive line.