The Carolina Panthers. Remember how they were around week four last season around this time? 4-0 and in the midst of a winning streak dating back to last season and they were without Kelvin Benjamin for the entire year after tearing his ACL but they were still rolling and winning. I wish I could say the same about them this year, but they haven’t looked good at all and this is a team with the reigning MVP in Cam Newton, the entire receiving core is healthy and the defense still has Luke Kuechly so all should be good, right? Not necessarily. The Panthers this year have lost more games than they did all of the last year. They were 15-1 and the top seed in the NFC. Now, they’re 1-3 and tied for second place in that crazy NFC South. So, what’s been the issue?
Let’s look at their offense first. The offensive line is getting destroyed at the line of scrimmage and they’ve had such a difficult time protecting Cam Newton. He’s known as a runner, but he’s running for his life more so than running for extra yards and extending plays. They gave up eight sacks in their week three loss to the Minnesota Vikings. I’ve also noticed them getting away from the running game. It’s one thing when you have your top receiver back and you have a receiving core that can create mismatches all over the field, but, don’t get away from what’s made you successful. Getting Jonathan Stewart going I think will provide an instant spark for this offense going forward.
Now we can look at their defense. The front seven is still one of the best in the NFL with Kuechly, Thomas Davis and Star Lotulelei holding things down in the front. What they have really struggled with has been the secondary and they’ve had a very difficult time trying to replace Josh Norman who signed with the Redskins during the offseason after talks had ended in April and he became a free agent. As much as we say he’s not the best corner in football, his presence and impact made a huge difference and he’s definitely missed. They have rookie cornerbacks and it takes time for things like this to mesh and gets it together and now that’s the gameplan when you face the Carolina Panthers, you attack their secondary especially if they have a one on one matchup on the outside. You take advantage of that mismatch. Josh Norman was definitely the igniter of that defense. They really fed off his energy.