For the first time since 2008, the Carolina Panthers are relevant, not for tanking the season to get a star player like they did for Cam Newton, but for actually being a decent team. It’s hard to believe, seeing as they haven’t been above .500 since that 2008 season, but with all this recent hype around them, they are improving but still aren’t among the best teams in the league; not yet at least.
First, let’s discuss what the Panthers are doing well and that discussion starts with defense. They are 2nd in rushing defense, allowing 79 yards a game, and they aren’t letting any teams throw the ball either as they are 10th in passing defense, allowing 222 yards a game.
The Panthers running game is doing well too. Even with their starting running back, Jonathan Stewart, out, they have been able to lean on DeAngelo Williams – not to just hold a spot until Stewart is healthy, but to actually be a factor, and he has been leading this Carolina team to the 8th best rushing attack in the league.
So, why aren’t they among the best teams yet? They are missing one key piece – a wide receiver. The Panthers’ passing game is where they need to improve, being in the basement at 29th in passing yards. But “they have Cam!” is what you’re yelling at the computer, but think, who does he have to throw to? Steve Smith – the 5’ 9” 34-year old receiver? Ted Ginn who is by no means a wide receiver that CBs fear?
This is the one position the Panthers need to put them over the top – a young, fast, and flashy receiver to bond with Cam Newton. A receiver like Sammy Watkins or Mike Evans who are used to playing with a high profile QB in Johnny Manziel would be welcome addition. They would add the one threat that would open up the whole field for the running back, regardless of who it is, to running all over the defense, or for Cam to use his legs and get those 15 or 20 yard rushes like he did in college. Plus, it would add a deep threat along with the short passes to Greg Olsen and they would be unstoppable on the offense.
Are the Panthers back? No, but they are coming fast and may be just one receiver away from challenging in the NFC South and for a NFC playoff berth.