Luke Kuechly and the Panthers look to bounce back after their stunning first-to-worst plunge in the NFC South
Their climb was rapid. Their fall was even steeper.
Now, the Carolina Panthers find themselves at the base of the NFL mountain once again, trying to secure a foothold with a “Greatest Hits” mix of old and new players.
The “old” is not that old, but quarterback Cam Newton turned 28 in May and will be entering his seventh NFL season. Newton took a couple of Carolina Panthers Jerseys
steps backward in 2016, suffering a career low in completion percentage as the Panthers stumbled to a 6–10 record after making the Super Bowl with a 15–1 team the year before. Besides the inherent pressure of attempting to return to his Most Valuable Player form of 2015, Newton has the additional burden of coming back from March surgery on the partially torn rotator cuff in his throwing shoulder.
On the other hand, he will have more weapons on an offense that too often looked stale and slow in 2016. Dynamic rookies Christian McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel will get on the field quickly as the Panthers try to insert more speed and elusiveness.
The Panthers do have a few advantages that could lead to a bounce-back season. Their schedule is slightly easier in 2017, and they have acquired a couple of veterans who played in Charlotte before and should fit right in again in defensive end Julius Peppers and cornerback Captain Munnerlyn. Left tackle Matt Kalil became the most expensive — and the riskiest — free-agent gamble in
Cheap Jerseys Carolina history when he joined brother Ryan on the Panthers in a five-year, $55.5 million contract. The Kalil deal ended up being one of the last made by Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman, who was fired by owner Jerry Richardson on July 17. Now the focus will turn to head coach Ron Rivera, who needs to avoid two disappointing seasons in a row.
Score more points. This has become the Panthers’ offseason mantra after the offense was average at best in 2016 and failed time and again in the clutch. After a 2015 season in which Carolina finished No. 1 in the NFL in scoring (31.3 ppg), the Panthers dropped to 15th in 2016 (23.1 ppg). And given that Carolina lost six games by three points or fewer, the goal this year is to once again top the 30-points-per-game threshold.
The Panthers had what they called a “position catastrophe” on the offensive line last season, and in the season finale they had four players Cheap nfl Jerseys playing out of position. They are trying to avoid that in 2017 partly by throwing huge money at Matt Kalil — a contract that shocked many because of its sheer size — to protect Newton’s blind side. Michael Oher was limited to three games last season due to injuries and severe concussion-related symptoms. While Oher would be the Panthers’ first choice to be the right tackle, veteran Daryl Williams was decent last season in a battlefield promotion and can play both tackle spots. Second-round draft pick Taylor Moton has the size needed and also could be a factor. Center Ryan Kalil will call the shots for the line as usual and tease his younger brother as warranted. Guards Trai Turner and Andrew Norwell are solid run blockers.
At running back, bruiser Jonathan Stewart returns but is nearing the twilight of his career at age 30 and in his 10th year in the NFL. McCaffrey, the heir apparent, is a far different type of back who is more elusive and better in space but not as effective in between the tackles. Fullback Mike Tolbert was released as the Panthers plan to go more to three-wide sets and let their new slot receiver, rookie Curtis Samuel, run a lot of the deep routes that Ted Ginn Jr. used to before he bolted for New Orleans.
Wide receiver Customized Jerseys Kelvin Benjamin has not been able to achieve the separation he needs to from defensive backs, and his on-and-off battles with weight are part of the problem. He has a lot to prove this season. Tight end Greg Olsen is a consummate pro and has made the Pro Bowl three years in a row. His sticky hands have made him Newton’s favorite target. Devin Funchess has been a poor man’s version of Benjamin, which is not a compliment. Like Benjamin, Funchess badly needs to show improvement in 2017. Damiere Byrd is undersized but very fast and could surprise.