2017 NFL Preseason Outlooks: CAROLINA PANTHERS
CAROLINA PANTHERS (NFC South)
2016 record: 6-10(1-5 in division)
KEY ADDITIONS: LB Julius Peppers, (R) RB Christian McCaffrey, (R) WR Curtis Samuel, FS Mike Adams, WR Charles Johnson
KEY DEPARTURES: DC Sean McDermott, WR Ted Gin Jr., WR Philly Brown, OT Michael Oher, FB Mike Tolbert, DE Kony Ealy
2016 SEASON RECAP
In 2016 the combination of Kelvin Benjamin and Greg Olsen tallied up 143 receptions, 2,014 receiving yards and 10 TDs. Thats a solid receiving tandem but a down year by former MVP Cam Newton (3,509 pass yards, 19 TDs and 14 INTs) made it hard for them to turn their numbers into wins. RB Jonathan Stewart missed 3 games early in the year and the team never seemed to bounce back from it.
The biggest difference from the Panthers in 2015 and 2016 was the big play. They lived on it in 2015 but couldn’t muster that explosion they are accustomed to. The shift in the division was evident by the rise of the Falcons and the fall of the Panthers. Carolina went from 5-1 in the division to 1-5 in just 1 year. The won 9 less games than in 2015.
2017 SEASON PREVIEW
This season, the Panthers hope to get back to the team they had in 2015. Their success in this division remains in the hands of Cam Newton. Just months removed from having shoulder surgery on his throwing arm, Cam must be anxious to play with his new offensive weapons. Rookies Christian McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel bring speed and versatility to the offense that will give Cam better options when trying to escape pressure from defenses.
The changes they made to defense weren’t major but might be enough to dominate the NFC South once again. With the return of Luke Keuchly from injury, signing of Julius Peppers, and Captain Munnerlyn, the Panthers seem like their goal was to add veterean experience to their defense. It would be too easy to predict that the Panthers improve on last year’s pitiful record, so I’ll go a step further and say that they will battle it out for the NFC South #2 spot and possibly a Wild Card ticket to the playoffs.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
QB Cam Newton, TE Greg Olsen, WR Kelvin Benjamin, (R) RB Christian McCaffrey, LB Luke Kuechly
2017 RECORD PREDICTION
9 – 7