The Panthers Are Insane!
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By: Alec Campbell
It’s often said that the definition of insanity is repeating the same actions and expecting different results. If that is the case, admit the Carolina Panthers to a clinic immediately. The beginning of the NFL season is upon us, and while there are reasons to be hopeful about the future of the Panthers, they are wildly intangible and on the verge of discomforting.
Owner Jerry Richardson was tarred and feathered last year for putting a lackluster team on the field. Besides refusing to let his head coach walk, I praised his foresight. He recognized a bad team and saved money in an uncapped year when he knew a lockout was imminent. A classic example of the unfortunate dichotomy between the game of football and the business of football. This year, he can’t be defended. Even with all that money saved, and now spent, he’s essentially fielding the same team and many of them got contract extensions.
DeAngelo Williams is back with a new 5 year $43 million deal despite a movement to trade his expiring contract for a proven wide receiver or defensive back. With Jonathan Stewart and an emerging (and cheaper) Mike Goodson also in the backfield, Williams was expendable, tradable, and probably not entirely critical to the Panthers future success. I now move to trade Stewart.
From a receiving standpoint, the team was able to secure two productive tight ends in Greg Olsen and Jeremy Shockey and they have been a tremendous crutch for Cam Newton so far. The wide receivers, however, are the same if not worse. Steve Smith is there, but with the season ending injury to David Gettis, there are no proven threats to relieve the pressure on him and there’s been no effort to fine one. He’ll be doubled up all year again. The inability to pass in this league only trickles down.
Richardson gave Charles Johnson a 6 year $72 million extension after a career year in 2010 in which he notched 12 sacks. The team desperately needed a prominent pass rusher, and he has the potential to be just that. Then reality hit. Johnson has been non-existent this pre-season tallying only 1 tackle and 0 sacks. To his credit, the lack of depth on the defensive line has presented double-teams, but perhaps some of that money would have been better spent on another strong defensive end to play on the opposite side of the line. Instead, the rest of the defensive line returns 2nd year players in Greg Hardy and Eric Norwood. The team will also try to groom a couple of rookie defensive tackles.
Jeff Otah is the only adjustment to the porous 2010 offensive line. Otah finally returns from a 2009 knee injury and is widely regarded as the saving grace for the buffet busters. Many thought he would be back by week 3 or 4 last year. However, his inability to get back on the field even in pre-season action evokes great skepticism. Rivera claims it was part of the plan for recovery, my gut tells me he’s done. Maybe not this week or next, but I would be willing to bet he doesn’t make it through the season. In short, no money or effort was expended to insure the stability of an already bad offensive line.
Thomas Davis returns to the linebacking corps after missing all of last season with a knee injury. Another player coming off an injury to accompany the same group of backers from a year ago. The defensive backs are unchanged. Combined, these two position groups couldn’t stop a nose bleed during the preseason.
Yes, there is a brand new, specimen of a quarterback in Cam Newton. Yes, there is new head man roaming the sidelines in Ron Rivera. Yes, there are two new tight ends in Greg Olsen and Jeremy Shockey. But outside of that, most of the position groups remain the same, or even less qualified than last year. Rivera and Newton have been steadfast in their confidence to get the job done. On the outside they seem to embrace the challenge, but only they are truly aware of their comfortability.
It was easy to fall subject to the optimism of Cam Newton and the new coaching regime but we all have to temper that optimism and learn to be satisfied with something other than wins. This is a 4 win team at best and with the contracts extended this year, it may be a tough climb for seasons to come. But such is the nature of pro sports, where the inmates run the asylum.
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