So, which Carolina Panthers team should we expect to see in 2013? The Panthers that were moving and grooving well enough in late 2012 to finish at 5-1? Or will we see the Carolina Panthers who stumbled at the gate, winning only a single game in the first half-dozen? The answer for Panthers fans is hopefully the team they saw finish strong. Carolina will find out, along with the rest of the NFl, when the Panthers get rolling in 2013.
Of course Cam Newton is at the center of the offense and in 2013 those plans will be be coming from the mind of Mike Schula, who got the nod when his predecessor took off to coach the Cleveland Browns. Under Schula you can probably expect to see Newton stay in the pocket more and run less. While his athleticism screams for him to be turned loose in the running game, prudence dictates that Newton should be protected as much as possible and only turn on the jets when it becomes absolutely necessary. Once again the Panthers will be hoping for another solid season out of Steve Smith but let’s be real here, Smith is getting older and the tank has to be running dry. What Carolina really needs is for Smith to begin to step back and for Brandon LaFell to begin assuming the #1 role. It would be nice to have Ted Ginn settle into something usable also.
Of course the Carolina Panthers are still able to settle into a running game with Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams. When the Panthers get good defensive line play they are able to run the ball against any defense. The question in 2013 is how well that line will be able to perform with no outstanding talent in front.
What Carolina can depend on is having a good defense. This is a unit that made a major leap last season and could provide the foundation for winning in the future. Luke Kuechly manned the middle well enough to make Rookie of the Year on defense. With a solid defensive line, teams have had trouble gaining anything on the ground. Defending the pass might be a little tougher as the Panthers secondary is basically some middle level talent trying to find an anchor.
The Carolina Panthers could give some teams trouble in 2013. Winning the NFC South though, will be a huge challenge.Eric Drouant