In the first 11 weeks of the season, the Panthers ended up 2-8 SU, but they weren’t getting blown out by any means. With the exception of their losses to New York and Denver in the first 11 weeks, the Panthers played all of their opponents to single digit losses or victories. Four of the losses came by a spread of five points or less and two came by two points.
Then the great turnaround happened and the Panthers started playing up to their potential. Cam Newton caught fire, throwing for almost 1500 yards, 10 touchdowns, 2 interceptions, almost 350 rushing yards, and four more touchdowns from the ground in Weeks 12-17. The rest of the team followed, and after looking like one of the league’s worst teams, the Panthers finished the season on a high note, winning five of their last six games, and their last four in a row. While the Panthers have been reloading this offseason, the question remains, “which Panthers team are we going to see in Week 1 of 2013?”
Why the Panthers were so bad through their first ten games in 2012 is a mystery, and to some the mystery of this year is still looming. While the offense has some new additions, the health of Jonathon Stewart is a bit of a concern. Even though their backfield is quite deep, Stewart is by far their best and most versatile running back. If he isn’t healthy to start the season, they could end up being a little one-dimensional on offense.
With the exception of a couple of big games from DeAngelo Williams late in the season, Newton was the leading rusher for this team when they got hot. He cannot sustain that for an entire season. Even though he is far more capable of running the read-option and not getting hurt RG3, he is still taking hits, and no matter how big or built you are, those hits add up. With the additions to their receiving core, I expect more passing from Newton this season. I sincerely doubt he leads the team in rushing yards again this season, although if Stewart isn’t healthy, he might have to.
Don't forget to read our full NFC South Offense Report!
The additions of Ted Gin Jr, and Domenik Hixon are going to be big for this team. Adding them to Steve Smith, Greg Olsen and Brandon Lafell gives Newton a bunch of weapons to throw to this season, hopefully limiting the times he has to take off and run. Although they have been focused more on defense this offseason, the offense for the Panthers should look much more like the team from lat season's final six games. While they haven’t done a lot, and with the injury concerns to Stewart, a solid 'B-' is in order here, with a lot of room for improvement or regression during the preseason.
My Grade: B-Have a different opinion? Share it on our message boards!