Ranking the Carolina Panthers' Top Offensive Weapons
After finishing the 2010 season with a 2-14 record, the Carolina Panthers could only get better. And boy, did they get better. The defense, although still lacking in talent, has shown flashes of decency throughout the secondary. The offense has been by far the biggest upgrade, with most credit going to offseason trades and high draft picks.
The Panthers have somehow relit the spark which sent them to Super Bowl XXXVIII back in 2004. Although they won't be competing this year, Carolina is building a franchise with a very bright future.
It can be easy to give credit to a single player for the success of one team; however, there are five on this offense who shine above the others.
5. Jonathan Stewart
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As part one of the "Double Trouble" duo, Jonathan Stewart is the muscle behind the running game. He isn't quite as flashy as the other components of the offense, but he is definitely a major player.
Looking at his three TDs, some eyebrows may be raised questioning of his importance, but watching the games will show you that Stewart is the back you put in on third and three when you need a big first down and not the 20-plus yard speed burst of his counterpart.
Don't look for major stats from this beast; instead, pay attention to the value of his runs and watch the chains move.
4. Greg Olsen
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The Carolina Panthers made big moves in establishing power at the tight end position during the offseason, picking up former Chicago Bear Greg Olsen as well as the New Orleans Saints' Jeremy Shockey.
While both have been terrific, Olsen seems to have taken over as their premier tight end. Averaging 12 yards per reception and adding five TDs, Olsen is showing renewed strength and great potential for the future.
With so much focus on the running game, defenses often forget about him before they are awakened with an explosive play. Look for Greg Olsen to be a major piece of this hot Carolina offense in seasons to come.
3. DeAngelo Williams
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Here is the second half of the aforementioned "Double Trouble," DeAngelo Williams. Receiving a few more carries than his counterpart, Williams is that burst of speed that finds the gaps and makes 20-plus yard runs.
The New Orleans Saints, Houston Texans and Atlanta Falcons have all had to face the agility of DeAngelo and big TD runs. His ability to scope out holes in defensive lines has made him an elite running back with room to grow.
With Williams and Stewart, it's hard to see how much more rushing offense could be created in Charlotte.
2. Steve Smith
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Here's a receiver who needs no introduction. Steve Smith is the Carolina Panther. He has been deeply ingrained in this offense for a decade now, and should stay for a few more years.
Suffering a slump over the last two years, many people assumed Smith would be placed on the shelf until retirement. Nothing could've been further from the truth. Smith is averaging 18 yards per attempt and recently hit the 10,000-receiving-yards milestone. Something has reawakened this veteran, sparking new life in a potential Hall of Fame wideout.
What could have possibly reignited the Carolina Panthers' offense?
1. Cam Newton
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As the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 draft, Cam Newton had his doubters. Many questioned his ethics, and others weren't impressed with his ambition to be an entertainer as well as a quarterback. But no one anticipated that he would spark such interest and renewed faith in the Carolina Panthers.
Not many professional quarterbacks have thrown for 400-plus yards in back-to-back games, but Cam Newton has...in his rookie season. As the season progresses, he is also showing his ability as an elite rusher, breaking the record for most rushing TDs by a QB in a single season (13 at the time of this article).
Game after game, Newton has proven that he can extend plays and create offense on his own will. All season long, he has shattered the mold of the drop-back-and-pass quarterback, mixing in options and an array of other college trick plays.
As long as he can stay healthy, Cam Newton will be a threat to defenses for many years to come.