“Do you know what “nemesis” means? A righteous infliction of retribution manifested by an appropriate agent.”
That quote is from a scene in the Guy Ritchie classic, SNATCH. It’s one of my favorite scenes in the movie. The words are being spoken by a crime boss named Brick Top to three small time crooks. It’s a powerful statement meant to let the small time crooks know who's in charge. The Carolina Panthers are the Bucs nemesis.
There really isn’t any way around that fact, in my opinion. I’d wager if you asked 10 Buccaneer fans who is the teams biggest rival in the NFC South, over half would say the Panthers. Do you know why? Because they beat the Bucs. A lot. Since the 2002 merger, the Panthers hold a 21-11 lead in the series. The Bucs trade punches with the Saints and the Falcons yearly, but have never found a way to consistently beat the Panthers and have lost eight of the last ten matchups.
So what additions have Carolina made this offseason to improve on a 10-6 playoff season? Lets take a quick look.
-The Panthers cut long time running back Jonathan Stewart and signed Anderson to compliment second year pro, Christian McCaffrey. Anderson will be the back up, but he will still be productive as he gained 1,000 yards on only 15 carries a game. He’s not going to break off many long runs, but he is tough to bring down and will make the tough yards.
-The addition of Jackson infuses the Panthers secondary, which lost their best cornerback in Darly Worley, with lots and lots of speed (4.32 40) and versatility. He can play inside, outside, line up at free safety and is very good in man coverage. He could challenge second year corner back Corn Elder for the outside starting role. Although he's a rookie, Jackson should see the field often at varying positions on the field.
-The former Atlanta Falcon jumped ship and replaces the departed Star Lotuleli. Poe had a solid year in 2017, registering 19 run stops and 37 total pressures. The Panthers had the 3rd best rush defense last season, and Poe’s addition won’t do anything to make running the ball any easier for opponents.
-The future Hall of Famer decided against retirement and signed a one year deal. The ageless wonder had eleven sacks last year. Peppers is all too familiar with the Bucs quarterbacks as he has seventeen and a half sacks over his career against Tampa Bay. His presence on the field will be a challenge for the Bucs offensive line.
-The Panthers lacked speed in their wide receiver core. They went out and traded for Smith to fix that problem and add a deep threat for Cam Newton. Although Smith hasn’t produced like a starting wide receiver in years, his ability to stretch a defense in Norv Turner’s offense will have to be accounted for by the Bucs secondary.
In the NFL, good teams make small tweaks during the offseason in free agency and spend their draft picks on depth or small areas of need. The moves the Panthers made this offseason seem minimal, but they did address some key areas of need. They also changed their offensive coordinator. After firing Mike Shula, the Panthers hired Norv Tuner to replace him, in hopes of improving a nineteenth ranked offense. Turner’s vertical offense matches up well with Cam Newton’s strengths on the field, but it will remain to be seen how well his offensive philosophy will mesh with a talent depleted offensive line. All in all, the Panthers should be a formidable opponent in 2018 and one the Bucs will need to find a way to “eat some W’s” against.
Are the Panthers going to be good again this season? Will the improved Bucs sweep the season series like in 2016?