Saturday, August 29, 2015

2015 NFL PREVIEW - Carolina Panthers

CAROLINA PANTHERS                         

2014 Record:  7-8-1 (1st in NFC South)

HEAD COACH: Ron Rivera

New Players in 2015 - DB Kurt Coleman; DB Charles Tillman; WR/KR Ted Ginn, Jr.; OL Jonathan Martin; OL Michael Oher; LB Jason Trusnik; RB Jordan Todman.

OFFENSIVE RANK in 2014 -  16th in NFL (346.7 ypg)

DEFENSIVE RANK in 2014 -  10th in NFL (339.8 ypg)

Offense:  Quarterback Cam Newton is back after passing for 3,127 yards and 18 touchdown passes with 12 interceptions. Newton also ran for 539 yards (5.2 ypc average) and scored five touchdowns. Derek Anderson (701 yards with five TD) is the backup.
Jonathan Stewart (809 yards, 4.6 ypc average and three TD) is the primary back along with Mike Tolbert (fullback), Fozzy Whittaker and Jordan Todman.
The wide receiving corps got a major shakeup in camp as top wideout Kelvin Benjamin was lost for the season with a knee injury. Benjamin had 73 receptions for 1,008 yards with nine touchdowns last season.
The Panthers will look to Ted Ginn, Jr. (14 receptions with Arizona and a punt return for TD), Corey Brown (21 receptions, 296 yards, two TD), Brenton Bersin (13, 151, one TD), rookie Devin Fuchness (Michigan) and Jerricho Cotchery, who had 48 receptions for 580 yards and one score. The tight end is Greg Olsen, who led the team in 2014 with 84 receptions for 1,008 yards with six touchdowns.
Up front on the line is center Ryan Kalil, guards Andrew Norwell and Trai Turner and tackle Michael Oher and Mike Remmers.

Defense:  Ends Charles Johnson (8 1/2 QB sacks) and Kony Ealy (four sacks) will start along with tackles Kawann Short and Star Lotulelei. Mario Addison (6 1/2 sacks), Wes Horton, Colin Cole and Dwan Edwards will be on hand as well.
The linebacking unit has All-Pro Luke Kuechly manning the middle and he is flanked by outside backers Thomas Davis and A.J. Klein. Backing up will be rookie Shaq Thompson (Washington), Jason Trusnick and Adarius Glanton.
The secondary will feature cornerbacks Charles 'Peanut' Tillman, who comes over after a long successful stint with the Chicago Bears, and Josh Norman, who had two interceptions. The safeties will be Roman Harper (four INT) and Tre Boston. Backups include Josh Norman, Melvin White, Kurt Coleman and Colin Jones

OUTLOOK FOR 2015 -  Quarterback Cam Newton is the unquestioned leader of the offense and when he is healthy, he is among one of the better quarterbacks in pro football. He is a danger with his running abilities as well as his arm.
Carolina's offense will likely be challenged as they go along without Kelvin Benjamin at wide receiver, but they do have a slew of players who are certainly capable of doing the job. They need a big season from RB Jonathan Stewart, who led the team in rushing a year ago.
The defense slipped somewhat last season, giving up some big yardage plays after a monster 2013 season when only Seattle was better on defense.
Luke Kuechly leads the defense at middle linebacker as the Panthers tallied 40 QB sacks a year ago while ranking tenth overall, giving up 340 yards per game. They can also get after the football by forcing turnovers, as they had a plus-three in that category.
Head Coach Ron Rivera shouldn't have to sweat it out on the proverbial "hot seat" entering the season as the team has made the playoffs for two straight years now.
The Panthers look to be a .500 (or possibly better) team this year as well, which just might be enough to win the NFC South division again. A 9-7 record could be in store for Carolina, which if it's good enough to get them into the post-season once again, they could make some noise.
It will depend on how far a healthy Cam Newton and the offense can go as they try and overcome injuries and possible uncertainties with the running game.

Week 1 - at Jacksonville Jaguars
Week 2 - vs. Houston Texans
Week 3 - vs. New Orleans Saints
Week 4 - at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Week 5 - BYE WEEK
Week 6 - at Seattle Seahawks
Week 7 - vs. Philadelphia Eagles
Week 8 - vs. Indianapolis Colts
Week 9 - vs. Green Bay Packers
Week 10 - at Tennessee Titans
Week 11 - vs. Washington Redskins
Week 12 - at Dallas Cowboys
Week 13 - at New Orleans Saints
Week 14 - vs. Atlanta Falcons
Week 15 - at New York Giants
Week 16 - at Atlanta Falcons
Week 17 - vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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