Even though The Carolina Panthers went 12-4 in the regular season last year, and lost to the San Francisco 49ers in the playoffs, coach Ron Rivera and his staff know, that a return visit to the 2014 post season lies on the shoulders of their young Quarterback, Cam Newton. So as they approach draft day next month, do they spend their first pick at 28 on some help up front to protect Newton, some wide-receivers that he can throw to, or some much-needed defensive back help?
I know that fans are concerned with the condition of the receiving corp after the Panthers lost Steve Smith, Dominick Hixson, Ted Ginn Jr. and Branden LaFell during free agency, but I really don’t see the Panthers pulling the trigger on a Wide-Out in the first round, even at the 28th pick.
They were able to add a couple of wide-outs through free agency as well as two veteran tight ends. A list of off-season signings is available at FanSided’s NFLMocks site: Editor Sayre Bedinger has done a great job in analyzing the teams holes, and needs.
S Thomas DeCoud (Falcons)
TE Ed Dickson (Ravens)
DT Colin Cole (re-signed)
WR Jason Avant (Eagles)
QB/WR Joe Webb (Vikings)
CB Antoine Cason (Cardinals)
WR Tiquan Underwood (Buccaneers)
WR Jerricho Cotchery (Steelers)
TE Mike McNeill (Rams)
QB Derek Anderson (re-signed)
CB James Dockery (re-signed)
OT Byron Bell (tendered)
TE Richie Brockel (re-signed)
OT Gary Williams (re-signed)
K Graham Gano (re-signed)
Panthers Team Needs
1. Offensive Tackle
With Jordan Gross now retired, the Panthers have a hole at left tackle that needs filling. They also could upgrade at right tackle.
1a. Wide Receiver
With Steve Smith and Brandon LaFell gone, the Panthers need a few new receivers and have gone to FA for some, but they need some top picks in there to compete.
The loss of Captain Munnerlyn to the Vikings opens up a spot for Carolina at the CB position, where they definitely had some guys over-achieve last year.
5. Running Back
The Panthers were ranked 29th in the league last year in passing, and the 192.2 yard per game average speaks to why it was possibly time to change the targets for Newton, and bring in some new blood.
With Cam Newton coming off of ankle surgery during the off-season, and his penchant for deserting the passing game when he gets under pressure, I think what they need to do, is concentrate on some help up front. The Panthers spent two picks in 2013 to beef up the defensive line, so it’s time to spend some cash on protecting their franchise Quarterback.
Although there were very few college Senior receivers available this year, a lot of underclassmen decided to test the waters in the NFL, and have put their name in the pot. That takes some of the pressure off, as there are bound to be some young receivers for the Panthers in the later rounds.
Panther’s General Manager, Dave Gettleman along with Coach Rivera said in a press conference after the Divisional loss last season to the 49ers that the 2014 roster would be a work in progress.
“Everybody’s on the outside looking in,” Gettleman said at the January 14 press conference, speaking generally about the tough decisions he and other general managers around the league face. “When a team makes the decision to let a legitimate quality player walk out of the door, the first thing you do is sit there and you say, ‘What are they doing?’ The fact of the matter is that there’s stuff behind closed doors that we don’t know about. I don’t care what team it is or what sport it is – you don’t know all the facts. Unless you know all the facts, all you’re doing is speculating. That’s all it is – pure speculation.
With the toughening schedule after the successful 2013 season and with the Panthers facing the AFC North this year, a good draft with at least two NFL ready rookies is a must, and that means they need to hit a home-run with the first two picks. Not only will they face the likes of the Pittsburg Steelers, and Baltimore Ravens, the list of NFC opponents will include The Chicago Bears, The Green Bay Packers, and the Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks.
So whatever it was that went on behind closed doors that caused the mass terminations, it tells me the Panthers were unhappy with their current squad, and are planning on a complete re-tool in the passing game. Since Cam Newton will not be going anywhere soon, it looks like they are convinced the receivers had to go.
The 2014 NFL Draft schedule courtesy NFL.com
The 2014 NFL Draft returns to primetime, with the first round taking place Thursday, May 8, followed by the second and third rounds on Friday, May 9. Rounds 4-7 will be held Saturday, May 10.
You can follow Les on Twitter @Spin_47