Chris Franklin discusses the Carolina Panthers as they prepare to improve on their interesting 2014 season using all the tools they assembled this offseason
Dec 21, 2014; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) in the huddle in the fourth quarter. The Panthers defeated the Browns 17-13 at Bank of America Stadium. (Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports)
(C+P) — For the Carolina Panthers, last season was unique to say the least. Despite finishing the regular season 7-8-1, the team won the NFC South and a playoff game.
The defense kept Carolina in many games last year, finishing in the top ten in yards allowed per game. However, the offense was inconsistent. Head Coach Ron Rivera will have to hope his offense will be better to keep him off the head coaching hot seat.
The onus of the offense primarily rests on the quarterback’s shoulders. Cam Newton, who recently signed a contract extension, looks to lead his team to a deep playoff run this year.
“I feel like I can get them there [to the Promised Land]. They are not saying anything that I do not feel myself. It feels more comfort in my heart to know guys are on board that are willing to do anything to win” Newton stated at a news conference after inking the five-year $103.8 million contract.
The Panther front office wanted to make sure that their franchise quarterback had the tools necessary to be successful. The team made some changes to the offensive unit. During the free agency signing period, the team added former Raven and Titan Michael Oher to help solidify the offensive line. With their second round pick, the team selected Devin Funchess, another big wide receiver (6’4, 225) to complement standout wide receiver, Kelvin Benjamin. After the draft, they also signed former South Carolina wide receiver Damiere Byrd. With Funchess and Byrd, the Panthers were able to add two young receivers who have the ability to contribute immediately.
The Panthers have the capacity to be very good in the red zone. In 2014, the team was 26th in the league in scoring touchdowns in the red zone. Adding Funchess to an offense that already has big receiving options in Benjamin and tight end Greg Olsen, creates some matchup problems for defenses near the goal line. The trio is reminiscent of the Philadelphia Eagle’s Fire High Gang, a group of receivers in the 70s that had receivers ranging from 6-4 to 6-7. When you factor in Newton having one of the better quarterback ratings in the red zone last season and the ability for him to use his legs, the Panthers can increase their touchdown output. The team also has the capability to take advantage of the new PAT rules. Kicker Graham Gano has been pretty accurate from the 30-35 yard range during his time in Carolina. Conversely, “Riverboat Ron” may go for two a little bit more with his retooled offense.
The running back position is still a murky one. With the team releasing DeAngelo Williams, the team still has veteran Jonathan Stewart and fullback Mike Tolbert. Both still have some talent. However, both missed time last season due to injury. If the same situation occurred this upcoming season, there is the potential to be a problem. One running back who could see time this season and contribute is Cameron Artis-Payne. His running style fits very well with what the Panthers try to accomplish in the running game.
General Manager Dave Gettleman has invested a myriad of resources into the offense. The team and fans in the Carolina region hope the changes will pay off and lead Carolina to success in 2015.