Carolina Panthers season preview

Last years record: 8-8 (2nd in division)
Coach: John Fox
Key Addition: David Carr at times showed how good a player he could be. Now with a solid offensive line he should be a reliable backup. If Jake Delhomme doesn’t get off to a good start Carr could start early.

Key Loss: The Panthers didn’t have too many losses this offseason. Keyshawn Johnson retired after being released.

Draft: This has the looks of a really good draft for the Panthers. Miami linebacker Jon Beason could have a big impact this season and could possibly start by seasons end. USC receiver Dwayne Jarrett could end up being a great value in the second round as he could start opposite Steve Smith and be a big factor in the redzone. Georgia defensive end Charles Johnson was also a great value in the 3rd round and should get a chance to start in a couple years as Mike Rucker is getting older. The sleeper of the group is Miami(Ohio) receiver Ryne Robinson who was an accomplished college player and could make an impact on kick returns and on 4 receiver sets.

Offense: This offense has potential to be explosive but they have training camp battles at two main positions. Jake Delhomme is fighting for his job as David Carr is younger with a stronger arm. Delhomme though is a better leader and has a good connection with Steve Smith. Running back is also an issue as DeShaun Foster has been injury prone and has underachieved for the most part of his career. The team used a first rounder on DeAngelo Williams last year and showed lots of potential and should win the battle in training camp. The offensive line is solid as Jordan Gross is a solid tackle and Mike Wahle is getting older but is still very effective. The bright spot though is receiver Steve Smith who if he didn’t have nagging injuries to start the season would have had an even better campaign. Either Jarrett or Drew Carter need to step as a number 2 receiver so Smith doesn’t face double teams on every play.

Defense: This defense has potential to be an elite unit as Julius Peppers is a great overall athlete and is a threat to get 15 sacks every year. If Kris Jenkins and Mike Rucker are healthy, it would help Peppers even more as they have a run stopper and another double digit sack threat. If Dan Morgan is concussion free, he could be a very effective player as a leader on the defense. Thomas Davis a former safety turned linebacker has shown signs that he can be a very good player for a long time. The Panthers have lots of young talent at corner with second year Richard Marshall showing that he could be a big time player. Chris Gamble has been a shutdown guy ever since he came in the league and Ken Lucas has lots of talent as a nickel back.

Fantasy studs: DeAngelo Williams RB: Williams is a good sleeper as he hasn’t gotten the starting job but has shown flashes of how good he can be. He is a good receiver out of the backfield and also is a threat to score every time he touches the ball. He should be a no.3 back as of now possibly being a low no.2.
Steve Smith WR: Smith is as good as it gets for fantasy football as he gets you lots of yards to go with double digit touchdowns. If Smith is healthy for a whole year he should definitely have a season similar to the one in ’05. If on your team, Smith is definitely a no.1 receiver.

Prediction: It’s hard to believe a year ago the Panthers were a trendy pick to win the Super Bowl. That isn’t the case this year even though the Panthers have potential to be a very dangerous team. My prediction is 9-7 good for a wild card spot and second in the division.

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