If you just look at the Carolina Panthers overall record, they do not look very impressive. If you watch them play, you think that they are a team that has a legitimate shot at going to the playoffs.
Rookie quarterback Cam Newton has been playing great football and he looks like he has a lot of potential. With Newton only to get better, it has me thinking about what the Panthers could do to help bring this franchise back to the playoffs.
Here are my top four things that the Panthers need to to to become a playoff contender.
When Carolina made a Super Bowl run in 2003, they had one of the best defenses in the league. They had a ball hawking safety in Mike Minter and Ken Lucas. In 2004,they drafted Chris Gamble who turned out to be one of the league's best young corners.
As we have seen, the term lock-down corner has been thrown around a lot lately, and Carolina doesn't have a true lock-down corner. I believe Carolina needs to get a young cornerback to compliment Chris Gamble.
I know their pass defense has been very well this year (averaging 203 yards per game through the air and ranked sixth overall), but they are still giving up big plays to opposing wide receivers. Carolina is currently sitting in the bottom half of the league with two interceptions which is not very good and they are giving up over 25 points per game.
I feel they need to get a young corner and build the defense around him.
When Carolina lost Julius Peppers, I knew their defense would never be the same. Luckily for them, defensive end Charles Johnson has stepped up and molded into that dominant speed rushing end like Peppers was.
If you look at the best defenses in the league, they have veteran defensive tackles that can stop the run. I know Carolina went and drafted two rookie defensive tackles in the draft, but they need someone to help them grow and mature as players.
Carolina is ranked 31st in the NFL in total yards given up on the ground which is an awful statistic. Until they can get some veteran presence on that defensive line, I do not see Carolina being the playoff team they once were.
Carolina needs to get their running attack back. I know Cam Newton has been playing very well, but remember, he is a rookie, and they can't afford to rely on his throwing abilities. DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart need to get back to downhill running and help out the rookie quarterback.
If you look at the successful Carolina teams in the past, they had a strong powerful running game that opened up big plays for speedy wide receiver Steve Smith.
If Carolina can get the running game going early, it will make defenses bring guys up close to the line which will enable Cam to showcase his arm. I really think Carolina can be one of the most explosive offenses in the league if they can just jump start that two-headed monster running attack.
The heart and soul of the Carolina defense is now out for the year. this happened last year when both running backs, Williams and Stewart, were injured as well.
Carolina needs to have their biggest play-makers healthy which has been very tough for them. I also forgot to mention that Steve Smith suffered a broken arm before the season started last year!
I really think Carolina is just a few healthy players away from making a run at the playoffs. They have the talent on both sides of the ball and they just need to stay healthy. Granted, they are playing in the toughest division in football, but they have shown that they can hang with the best so far this season.
If they can add some youth on the D-line, add a solid corner, get their rushing attack back and stay healthy, this team is destined for greatness!