Panthers Need To Be Cautious Of Last Year’s Cellar-Dwelling Bucs
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By Danny Cox
The 2014 season for the Carolina Panthers opens up with an NFC South rival, and one that looks vastly improved over last season. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are looking to climb out of the divisional cellar and want to improve upon their 4-12 record from a year ago. New head coach Lovie Smith wants a team that is going to play “hard, physical” and start the season with a win.
Way back in March, Smith already named 12-year veteran Josh McCown as his starter over last year’s primary starter, Mike Glennon. McCown has looked really sharp in training camp and the preseason so Smith’s early decision to start him is looking good.
The Panthers are going to have to contend with a strong set of starting wide receivers in veteran Vincent Jackson and rookie Mike Evans. Even though he’s a rookie, Evans doesn’t play like one and he’s shown great improvement so far in the preseason. The Panthers’ secondary has their work cut out for them as they defend a pair of 6’5″ receivers.
Running back Charles Sims just recently underwent surgery for an ankle injury that will keep him out 12-14 weeks. While he won’t be a problem for the Panthers this time, he may be someone to contend with for their meeting in week 15.
For now, the Panthers will need to keep all of their eyes on a good trio of running backs in Doug Martin, Mike James, and Bobby Rainey. James has been dealing with some nagging injuries, but Martin is a true beast and Rainey showed many flashes of brilliance last season after the Cleveland Browns let him go.
The offense of the Buccaneers is looking much better than last year’s squad, and so is the defense. If the defense can stay healthy, then the Bucs can have one of the most dominating squads in the NFL.
Tampa Bay plays a 4-3 defense, and Cam Newton will need to stay alert in all direction. the Front line is anchored by some big bodies, The strongest rush will come from the left side of the defensive line where Adrian Clayborn and Gerald McCoy reside and look to bowl over anyone in their path.
Linebacker Lavonte David has done nothing but improve game-by-game and will watch the middle of the field. Jonathan Casillas looks to be fully healed from last year’s knee injury and should provide another great line of coverage, especially against tight end Greg Olsen of the Panthers.
The Panthers will need receivers Kelvin Benjamin and Jerricho Cotchery to work hard all day to get free of a strong Buccaneers’ secondary, but they need to avoid free safety Dashon Goldson. He’s a ball hawk who always knows where to be on the field and how to deliver the big hits.
Carolina can not think that this will be a “gimme game” because they are the defending NFC South champions and the Bucs were in fourth place last year. A lot has changed since last year, and there is a new attitude in Tampa Bay with the arrival of Lovie Smith.
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Danny Cox knows a little something about the NFL, whether it means letting you know what penalty will come from the flag just thrown on the field or quickly spouting off who the Chicago Bears drafted in the first round of the 1987 draft (Jim Harbaugh). He plans on bringing you the best news, previews, recaps, and anything else that may come along with the exciting world of the National Football League. Danny is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.