The Carolina Panthers were, by many respects, considered to be the at the top of the NFC. Now after a 1-5 start, that’s all but a pipe dream. They simply have not played up to even the most modest expectations, especially when you consider that they’re sitting at the bottom of the NFC South.
While you’ll generally pin this on injuries, the dreaded “Super Bowl hangover”, or a combination of these things – we’re here to address some of the glaring problems with Carolina.
The Panthers defense was the stalwart of the NFC last year. They consistently ranked in the upper echelon, anchored by a scary defensive line that gave opposing QBs fits when the Panthers blitzed. They didn’t have the pure pass rushing talent that the Broncos did, but they could still get a great push and bring the QB down.
This year, they’re getting a lackluster performance out of the Missouri standout in Kony Ealy and a tired and old Charles Johnson. Their only bright spot, Kawann Short, has been receiving more double teams that he can handle. If the blitz doesn’t get there, the QB has all day. Since it hasn’t, they’ve been getting lit up.
This brings in Josh Norman. The outspoken defensive back did a bunch of work for the Carolina Panthers in the secondary. He was especially important when the blitz didn’t get there, as he could lock down opposing team’s number 1 receiver. They let him walk to Washington for nothing, and as a result, they’re filled with a gaping hole that Julio Jones walked through on the way to a record-breaking day.
The offensive line has never been great. It has been serviceable enough for Cam Newton to extend plays with his legs – as he does. With the injury to Michael Oher, who isn’t really all that amazing, the Panthers had to move Mike Remmers to the left tackle spot and bring in Daryl Williams to shore up the line. The results have not been good, resulting in Cam Newton to try to escape a jailbreak situation. While the QB can escape more than he should, he has never had to escape a collapsing pocket nearly every play.
If you factor in their offensive scheme, one predicated on slow-developing vertical attacking, you’re going to see Cam on the ground much more often than you’d expect.
Cam & Co
Let’s not completely exonerate Cam here. He’s never been known as a pocket passer and his questionable throwing mechanics are well on display here. What’s troubling is that he seems to have regressed a bit, as his decision-making have led to some head-scratching interceptions as well as a concussion that simply shouldn’t have happened in Atlanta. Still, he was once again expected to lead one of the best offenses in the NFL.
The linebackers, while still extremely talented, have made some uncharacteristic errors. I’m a huge baseball fan and their performance has been similar to the Mets baseball. Luke Kuechly has been as sure of a tackler has ever, but he hasn’t been able to stay within his gaps. Thomas Davis has had the same issues, none more embarrassing than what he showed against Atlanta against both the Freeman bootleg and a man assignment against DiMarco.
The most troubling about these errors is that they’re not necessarily scheme problems, but personnel ones. While we may see some flashes of greatness as the season progresses, this certainly does not seem to be a team that can contend for a playoff spot.