Analyzing the NFC South-Carolina Panthers Edition

 

This is the second in a series of four articles in which I will analyze the the top 5 game changing moves that each NFC South team has made to date and how it will affect their chances at a Super Bowl run. 

Keep in mind, however, that I truly am a Saints fan; but I am just reporting the facts objectively and placing each team on an equal playing field.

Today, the Carolina Panthers are on the board.

In 2009 the Carolina Panthers had high expectations after being able to retain 20 of their 22 starters from the 2008 season, a year in which they went 12-4.

However key injuries they suffered on the defensive line with, coupled the loss of Ma’ake Kemoeatu, along with the imploding of Jake Delhomme, led to a depressing 0-3 start. 

With Jake Delhomme throwing more intercpetions then touchdowns and opposing teams gashing the Panthers run defense,  they struggled to get any momentum going into the 2009 season.

Towards the end of the year, however, the Panthers rattled off three straight wins against the Vikings, Giants, and 2nd/3rd string New Orleans Saints.

These 5 game changing moves in the 2010 off season, however, may or may not give the Panthers an edge for the upcoming 2010-2011 season.

1. The loss of Julius Peppers to the Bears: Peppers, who was a Second-Team All Pro player and a Pro-Bowler in 2009, was the only force along the Panthers defensive line. 
 
Peppers recorded 10.5 sacks, 5 forced fumbles, and two interceptions in 2009 along with a touchdown.  No other Panther player recorded more than 5 sacks. 
 
In the 2009 campaign, the Panthers recorded a total of 31 sacks, including Julius Peppers stat line.  Take away Peppers’ 10.5, and the Panthers only accumulated 20.5 sacks in 16 games.
 
The Pussycats, who are now without Peppers, are relying on second-year pro Everette Brown to step in and have an impact in his first year as a starter along with Tyler Brayton.
 
If the Panthers cannot get after the quarterback in a division with the likes of Drew Brees and Matt Ryan, they are in big, big trouble.
 
The pass rush must be addressed prior to the beginning of the 2010 season either via trade or free agency. 

2. A season-ending ACL tear for OLB Thomas Davis: Thomas Davis, who was emerging as one of the better defenders on the Panthers’ squad early in 2009, tore his ACL early in the season in 2009. 

Just days into mini-camp this off season, Davis re-tore that very same ACL in no-contact drills. 

What a disappointing way to lose your entire second season after recording 71 tackles, 1.5 sacks, and 2 interceptions in 7 games during the 2009-2010 season.

The Panthers also let Na’il Diggs, their other starting linebacker, go to the St. Louis Rams this off season.  This means the Panthers will have two new starters at their linebacking corps in 2010.

While Jon Beason, their Second-Team All Pro MLB, naturally mans the middle of that defense, the Panthers are considering moving him to the weak-side of the defense.

This would then allow Dan Connor, who is most effective at MLB, to then play the middle of the field. 

James Anderson and the Panthers new acquisition from the Bears, Jamar Chaney, would then compete for the remaining strong-side linebacker spot.

But whatever happens, the linebacking corps will be considerably weaker than it was when Thomas Davis was on the field. 

3. Drafting Jimmy Clausen: Once upon a time, Jimmy Clausen was a projected top 10 pick in the draft.

Surely the Panthers never dreamed that when they were picking in the second round, they would have Jimmy Clausen, the allegedly “most pro ready quarterback in the draft,” who virtually fell into their laps.

After Jake Delhomme single-handedly made the Panthers season implode, they finally inserted Matt Moore into the lineup late last season, who went on to accumulate a 4-1 record to end the year.

If Matt Moore was that effective, you must be wondering why the Panthers drafted Clausen at all.

Here is the answer:  Clausen has more potential.  He has a higher ceiling than Moore, who went undrafted, does. 

Furthermore, should Matt Moore somehow epically fail at the beginning of the 2010 season, John Fox will have a guy he can fall back on and trust. 

He could then insert Clausen into the lineup and see if he yields any better results, the ultimate insurance policy.

Clausen, who ran a similar type of offense at Notre Dame, is in position to succeed in Carolina.  He already knows most of the terminology because of experience in Charlie Weis’s pro-style offense at Notre Dame, and he has a great running game and offensive line in Carolina that he can use as a crutch.

The Panthers were lucky they landed this kid.

4. Steve Smith breaks his arm playing flag football: How on earth does an NFL football player who is regarded as one of the toughest players in the game break his arm playing flag football with a bunch of teenagers?

Ask Steve Smith of the Carolina Panthers.

Smith, who is the only proven wideout on the entire team, will not be there for Matt Moore or Jimmy Clausen during the upcoming training camp. 

Muhsin Muhammad, last year’s number two wideout, has now retired. 

Dwayne Jarrett, who is the current number two wide receiver, has been a bust ever since he was drafted out of USC.

Brandon LaFell, Armanti Edwards, and David Gettis are all rookies who will probably not light the world on fire in their first year in the league.

Steve Smith was the one receiver that Moore and Clausen should have been able to count on; but with his injury, neither quarterback will be able to develop a rapport with him. 

This means that the Panthers passing game, which was already very anemic, has just taken another step back

That’s not what you need if you have playoff aspirations in a league that now relies so heavily on the pass.

Way to go, Steve.  Really smart.

5. The retention of head coach John Fox: Before I say anything, let me address the picture above of John Fox.

That will be the look on his face when the Saints wail on his pathetic team.

Alright, that’s enough roasting for today.

Prior to the end of last season there were rumblings that Bill Cowher would replace John Fox as head coach of the Carolina Panthers in 2010.

That would’ve been a terrible move because Fox already had “his guys” on the team and well established his own system of running the football and playing sound defense.

If another head coach came in and changed the system, the personnel that he put in place with the team would struggle to adapt to the new schemes. 

Fox is also one of the most disciplined head coaches in the league and will stick to the game plan even when things are not going right.

That’s what you look for in a head coach, and the Panthers would have been foolish to let him go.

The Panthers have already suffered some key injuries throughout the off-season that have really put question marks around their chances at a playoff berth. 

 However, if they can somehow navigate through all of these injuries and make the playoffs, they would be a very dangerous team to face in the postseason.

Topics: Carolina Panthers, Jimmy Clausen, John Fox, Julius Peppers, New Orleans Saints, Steve Smith, Thomas Davis

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  • UNCMattyt

    As an avid Panthers fan I believe your assessment it a little flawed. First with the acquisition of Jamar Williams (not Chaney) from the Bears, the little time he did see on the field with the Bears he showed he could be a playmaker. I don’t believe we would have traded Harris to them otherwise. If anything the LB depth on the Panthers is one of the strengths on the defensive side of the ball. If Connor or Williams are to take over LB it will not be that much if any of a drop off.
    2nd) Smith is projected to be back by mid-preseason. So there are no concerns from most of the fan base about this. He could have very well tripped down the stairs and broke his arm. Please don’t suggest that he is not one of the “toughest receivers in the NFL” he has burned the Saints for years. Very few people could take a hit like he did with the Giants last year and still hold on to the ball for the TD. But this is not about trash talking. So I digress.
    3) Yes losing Peppers will hurt. I would be lying if I said otherwise. But there is some very good talent behind him. Our defenses were made to get him involved the most so of course the #’s will be one sided. If there is a drop off I don’t believe it will be that significant.
    4) Matt Moore has shown that he can give us all we need. A passing attack that will keep 8-9 men out of the box, to open up holes in the line for our backs to exploit and if defenses do stack the box he has shown the ability to put it down field and spread it around(unlike Delhome) and also not turn it over (also unlike Delhome). I see Clausen as insurance. Let me preface this by saying I am a huge Moore fan, Have been since I first saw him play in ’07 but As well as Moore played last year, there must have been a reason that he could never move up the depth chart. Be it a poor showing in camp or just not as vocal a leader as other QBs. So if any of that should show its head during the season, we have at least one of the highest touted back-ups in the league.
    5) I obviously don’t know what the plan is for the future of John Fox. Considering the way Jerry Richardson has not signed any of our big contract guys to extensions, such as Deangelo Williams, Kalil or Thomas Davis (not sure how the injury will affect that) even the GM does not have a contract, but the word is he is here to stay. I’ve personally come to the conclusion that Fox will be resigned once the result of the CBA is known. I simply think JR is being very cautious with his money. Of course that is just one fans opinion.
    I can’t wait for this season!!! Go Panthers!!!

  • Amit Bajaj

    My mistake. It is Jamar Williams. But, how has he shown any promise with the Bears with Lance Briggs and Pisa Tinoisamoa in front of him on the depth chart? What is your evidence for that statement? Secondly, Pat Yasinskas of ESPN reported that the Panthers traded Chris Harris because they believed he was too one-dimensional and could only stop the run. They believe Sherrod Martin, who took the place of the injured Charles Godfrey at FS, can make the transition to SS. Secondly, you said that if Connor or Williams take the place of Davis, there will not be much of a drop off. Davis recorded 1.5 sacks, 2 INTs, and 71 tackles in only 7 games; whereas Connor, who has only recorded 34 tackles in his 3 year career, and Williams have limited experience.

    Smith is projected to be back my the beginning of the season, not mid pre-season. If this is the case, then yeah, he will be playing. But the difference is, he will not be there for Moore or Clausen during training camp. Training camp is where quarterbacks and receivers work together on routes and develop a rapport with eachother so that they may have good timing during the season. The Panthers quarterbacks: Moore, Clausen, Pike, and Cantwell have a total of 8 NFL starts…that’s the least in the league. And your comment that he could have broken his arm falling down stairs-it would be pretty sad for an NFL player to fall down a flight of stairs.

    There will be a major dropoff with the loss of Peppers. Tyler Brayton, who turns 31 in November, is known as a run stopper. He recorded only 5 sacks last year, and 9.5 sacks in the last 4 years. Clearly not potent as a pass rusher. Charles Johnson has potential, but he is undersized at 6’2″ while Everette Brown is a second year pro. The Panthers traded a first round pick for him; and unless he has the production of a first round pick, he will not have warranted a first round pick.

    I agree, Moore has shown potential; but i believe that this will be Clausen’s team very soon. The guy has a lot of grit and can make every throw on the field.

    John Fox is a really good head coach and the Panthers would make a mistake changing coaches and going into a rebuilding phase while they already have good core players like Deangelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart, Jon Beason, Thomas Davis, Ryan Kalil, Jordan Gross, and Chris Gamble. I believe they will struggle this year, however, because of their lack of pass rush. They simply cannot beat Drew Brees and Matt Ryan unless they can rush the passer.

    Good luck to you guys on your season.
    Saints gonna win it all again!

    WHO DAT!!!!

  • Jamar Williams

    Jamar Williams started 2 games last year and amassed a total of 24 tackles. In 1 game against STL he had 13 solo tackles. He put up nice individual numbers and the Bears won both games. That would qualify as showing promise. The evidence is there, but it’s not the readers responsibility to provide the author with the correct information. It is the author that is responsible for publishing accurate facts. A little research goes a long way. Do your job so we don’t do it for you..or you could just be fired.

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