Last season was rough. It can be blamed on a Super Bowl hangover, critical injuries, loss of competitive drive, or even all of the above. I would personally direct it to poor offensive line play, which can be attributed to the devastating losses of All-Pro center Ryan Kalil and a cornerstone left tackle in Michael Oher, leaving the O-line in shambles. Nevertheless, it is a new year, and there is plenty to be excited about. With minimal losses, key additions, and a beloved player of Carolina Panthers past returning home, the 2017-18 stage is set.
This offseason reared some free agency losses such as CB Leonard Johnson and LB A. J. Klein, and in Klein’s case, he simply would not have had the desired playing time behind the Panthers’ current linebacker core. The “loss” of offensive tackle Mike Remmers will be a positive for the team, although I admittedly may be slightly bitter and biased from his Super Bowl 50 performance.Ted Ginn Jr. had a role in the Panthers offense with unreal speed to stretch the field on passing downs and big play ability in special teams to add another dynamic. On the other side, it seemed as if Ginn Jr. was dropping routine passes week in week out, and unfortunately, is now a topic of conversation whenever his name is mentioned. Love him or hate him, his departure leaves a void in the Panthers’ aerial assault that needs to be filled.
Mike Adams, a two-time Pro Bowler on the Indianapolis Colts has been added to a young, growing secondary that needs a veteran presence. His ability to cause turnovers is much-needed since the team recorded a -2 turnover ratio last year compared to +20 in the previous season on their way to a Super Bowl appearance. On the offensive side, wide receiver Russell Shepherd was signed in theory to play the slot. Matt Kalil, offensive tackle and brother of Panthers center Ryan Kalil, was signed in order to bring consistency to the left tackle position that was severely lacking last season.
The name that highlights this year’s free agency is undoubtedly Julius Peppers. The linebacker/defensive end hybrid is set to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but in the meantime he will bring his skill set to an already talented defensive line. At the age of 36, he played in all of the Packers’ 19 games last season including playoffs, and recorded 8.5 sacks proving the veteran can still play at a high intensity. Plus, the nostalgia of welcoming back such a beloved player adds even more to this season’s narrative.
A piece of continuity on the offensive line, experience to the secondary, and overall leadership and inspiration gives genuine hope for this organization for the near future. Then by adding the upcoming draft with an advantageous opportunity at eighth overall, the Panthers are poised for a major comeback and it starts with the divisional battles. In recent years, the NFC South has been considered the easiest division in the league, but that is rapidly changing. Luckily, the Carolina Panthers are ahead of the competition and will soon reclaim their throne.
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