State of the Offense:
There is almost as much uncertainty about Cam Newton entering this season as there was last. Last year Newton disproved all of his doubters, but this season will be different because defenses now have a lot of tape to study and gameplan for him. The Panthers have made some slight adjustments to the offense by bringing in rookie Amini Silatolu to start at left guard, Louis Murphy to help as a receiver and Mike Tolbert joins a crowded backfield. Newton will likely be passing the ball a lot more this year as Tolbert arrives as a goal-line specialist back.
State of the Defense:
Jon Beason, Thomas Davis and Ron Edwards are all hoping to be fully healthy this year after missing large chunks of 2011. Edwards missed the whole of last season but is almost certain to start Week 1. Davis and Beason could be eased back into action to form a group of four quality linebackers with James Anderson and rookie Luke Kuechly. Only three of those players can start so health is likely to be a determining factor. The Panthers’ secondary will be looking for better displays from last year, but will also be hoping to get better support from a more talented front seven.
When you have an elite quarterback, there is no question that he is the best player on the team. It’s just the way of the modern NFL era.
The Panthers don’t really have one glaring weakness. They need players to step up at different spots such as at defensive tackle and safety. It is well documented that the Panthers need more receiving options for Newton behind Steve Smith, but Greg Olsen from tight end and Jonathan Stewart from running-back give him options also.
Mostly it’s just health, but if the Panthers can get the very best out of Luke Kuechly, Jon Beason and Thomas Davis, their defense as a whole will take serious steps forward. The offensive side of the ball is essentially set, what defense the team can throw together will determine their success this season.
Cian Fahey writes for Irishcentral and the Guardian. You can follow him on twitter @Cianaf