The Carolina Panthers have an extremely difficult task this offseason. Is Cam Newton the long term answer at Quarterback? Where do the Panthers go at Wide Receiver? How do they fix their aging offensive line? How do they fix the secondary? So many questions need to be answered in Charlotte but we will start with what caused the Panthers to have the season they did.
Lack of Quality Receivers
Letting Kelvin Benjamin go seemed like the right decision for both sides and drafting DJ Moore would have been the perfect replacement for his ability. Well…. it took Moore until about halfway through the season to find any kind of form and the leading receiver this season was a running back. Devon Funchess only managed 549 receiving yards and no other receiver besides Moore had over 500 receiving yards. I do not believe the Panthers have a number 1 receiver on the roster currently and that needs to change in order to help my next point.
Is Cam Newton the Long Term Answer?
Since his 2015 MVP season, Cam Newton has looked like a shell of that form. This season has been the most productive when it comes to touchdown passes, and averaging 14 interceptions a season (close to one a game!). His rushing numbers have stayed consistent, but the fact that he has to average about 600 yards a season on the ground for the Panthers to be successful is criminal. A lack of receivers is obvious and the emergence of McCaffery has helped, but the amount of abuse Cam has taken on his body looks like it has taken a toll on his throwing stats.
Defense is Getting Old and Injured
Carolina finished right at average in overall defense, but that was with 2 of their top 4 tacklers being over the age of 35 in Mike Adams and Thomas Davis. The shinig light of the defense, Luke Kuechly, has now had multiple concussions in the NFL and Julius Peppers looks like he is about to retire. The defensive line averages over 30 years old, which will tells me that they will begin to regress sooner rather than later. This defense is going to have to get much younger next year in order to keep pace in the most competitive division in the NFC.
The retirement of Ryan Khalil is the huge hole that needs to be filled on the offensive line. Shaq Thomson has done fairly well showing that he could attempt to fill the shoes of Thomas Davis, but they need Jermaine Carter or David Mayo to step up and fill that gap Davis will leave in the next or two. It is a very strong defensive line class so Carolina should be able to find some youth there, but filling a gap like Khalil will leave will be much tougher. Finally, Carolina will need to make a major decision on whether Cam Newton is the answer long-term. He has only thrown for over 30 touchdowns in one season and has only averaged 21 touchdowns per season in the seven seasons not including 2015. Should the Panthers be looking to move on? Only time can tell, but the Panthers have multiple needs and a division that is only getting stronger each year.