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Southern Landscapes: Carolina Panthers

In an attempt to put our hatred of the Carolina Panthers aside, let us objectively look at their team make-up in the third and final part of our Southern Landscapes series. The Carolina Panthers look to rebound from a season where John Fox barely hung on to a thread and the Panthers were forced to finally get rid of Jake Delhomme. Not to mention a recent (near) disastrous injury to Steve Smith in which he broke his arm in a flag football game. However, a lot of turnover on the team could be a good thing for the Panthers. While many starters will not be returning, they have been able to make some very meaningful upgrades.

Schedule:

9/19  1:00PM @Carolina

11/14   1:00PM  @Home

Key Additions:

Jimmy Clausen, QB (Drafted): Clausen could be a future starter for the Panthers if Matt Moore doesn't work out, but for now provides a viable option in case of injury or terrible play.

Tank Tyler, Louis Leonard   DT  (Trade): The addition of Tyler and Leonard are huge because the Panthers lost 3 starters on their defensive line. They may not be elite Tackles, but should be able to come in and fill the role until a better upgrade is available.

Eric Norwood, Jamar Williams (LB) (Draft, Trade):  The selection of Eric Norwood in the 3rd round of the draft is turning out to be a great pick already, and Norwood hasn't played a snap in the NFL. Starting ROLB, Thomas Davis, tore his 2nd ACL of his short career after maybe pushing his rehab back too early. Eric Norwood may not be expected to start immediately, but he will see significant playing time.

Brandon LaFell, Armanti Edwards (WR) Drafted - Both are excellent draft picks on paper. They boost a depth chart at WR that was almost as bad as the Bucs. With Steve Smith going down (though he should be back for the season) both rooks will have ample opportunity to prove themselves worthy of that 2 spot. Dwayne Jarrett is awful. BMoyer at CatScratchReader said this of Jarrett

He is starting to sound more like Mike Williams 2.0 or Keary Colbert 2.0 instead of Lynn Swann 2.0.

Key Losses

Julius Peppers, DE - Peppers was without question one of the biggest Free Agents this off-season in the NFL. Peppers will now suit up for the Chicago Bears. The question here will be whether or not Everette Brown or Charles Johnson can be reliable replacements.

Mushin Muhammed, WR (Retired) -Mushin had a very underrated career as he was a solid WR for 14 seasons. He provided leadership and a reliable option. The youth movement in Charlotte will be a good one, but Panther fans will miss Mushin.

Jake Delhomme, QB - I say this with some hesitation. It's a key loss because he has been synonomous with the Carolina Panthers for the last seven season. However, Jake's play for the last two years has left Carolina fans urging management and HC John Fox to make a change. That change finally comes.

Na'il Diggs - Diggs, whose somewhat underwhelming career, has continued to see a decline in production, was cut after last season.. Diggs was serviceable for sure, but with the depth that the Panthers had at LB, they will be able to play around with their lineup and find, what I believe to be, an upgrade.

Strengths

On defense, the Carolina Panthers strength is their linebackers. They have (had) depth to support any injuries or lack of production and have some promising young players. They also have options. Do they move Beason to the outside and start Dan Connor in the middle? Do they use James Anderson and Jamar Williams on the outside? OR can rookie Eric Norwood legitimately compete for a starting position? In any case, they will be very good. Gamble and Marshall make a very formidable CB tandem. Playing in a more traditional Cover 2, Gamble is a top 10 CB in this league. He is often overlooked because he doesn't have sexy numbers, but that's not always a bad thing for a Cornerback.

On offense, their strength is two fold. Their offensive line is very solid. That, couple with their backs, make for a very productive running game. I am not usually a huge fan of a two-back system, but Carolina has made it work. In the two games the Bucs faced off against them last year, the Panthers ran for over 450 total yards of offense.

Inexperience; It's typically a bad thing. I would say in this case though its necessary. Adding depth with youth and ridding a quarterback that continually declined is a step in the right direction. Matt Moore, Tony Pike and Jimmy Clausen, the rookie wideouts, depth on the line, etc could result in a rejuvenated Carolina Panthers.

Weaknesses

On defense there is no more obvious weakness than Safeties and Defensive Tackles. If Sherrod Martin is their opening day starter, they have huge problems. Panther fans may disagree with me here, but Martin didn't have the footwork necessary to get any real time at CB and was outplayed by a 5th rounder. He's fast and definitely has the athleticism but only had one real break out game. He's an Elbert Mack with more athleticism and height to play safety. Charles Godfrey will start at SS and brings more speed with slightly more talent. Neither Safety is at all productive against the run (however, they keep them in the traditional 2 quite a bit, so this may not be fair).

Their Defensive Line is a shadow of what it was last year. Charles Johnson will likely get the nod at the End to replace Julius Peppers. Everette Brown will also see some significant playing time. Brown was able to make the most out of his few snaps last year, and then decided to drop FSU's weight loss program of old and gain 15 lbs (where he should be to play in the NFL). However, but should be about 80% of what a healthy Peppers could be. Is that enough? They also have 2 new defensive tackles after releasing and trading both of their starters from last year. Tank Tyler and Louis Leonard are both kind of unknowns. My guess is they will be incredibly mediocre at best. For John Fox to get production out of his defense he will have to rely on these 4 guys to step it up.

How The Bucs Can Beat Them

Kellen Winslow. The Panthers ranked 22nd against TE's last season. If they can get Winslow behind the LB's, these undersized safeties will have a nightmare on their hands. It is the classic way of beating a Cover 2. The Defensive Ends absolutely have to get jams on the Tight End and the OLB's have to keep them underneath.

Stop the Run. Stop the Run. STOP. THE. RUN. If the Panthers have more insanely efficient running games against us, I may call for an overhaul of the defen.....errr. Crap, that didn't work either. Seriously, make Matt Moore beat us. If he does, I'm fine with it. Bring Sean Jones up. Play man. Do something to stop the run. Hopefully McCoy, Price and Miller can handle their guards and get some sort of push. If not, the Bucs will absolutely lose...for the 4th time in a row.

Common sense tells you that beating the Panthers is the key to not finishing last in the division. Now I invite you to get back to utterly hating the Panthers.

For excellent Panther coverage, head over to Cat Scratch Reader