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2013 Carolina Panthers Predictions

2013 Carolina Panthers Predictions
The Carolina Panthers are coming off a solid season and the next step now is to make the playoffs. It comes down to the younger players stepping up and that includes third-year quarterback Cam Newton. They haven’t really added much in the offseason and in training camp, they need to find a starting running back and number two receiver. Below is a preview of the Carolina Panthers of the NFC South.

Newton reduced his interceptions from 17 to 12 in 2012 and at one point, threw 176 passes without an interception, setting a team record. New offensive coordinator Mike Shula takes over for Rob Chudzinski, who left to become head coach of Cleveland. He helped install the zone-read package that will likely remain in the playbook. At running back, veterans DenAgelo Wililams and Jonathan Stewart are talented and experienced backs. However, Stewart cant’ seem to stay healthy and Williams is now 30, which is ancient for a running back.Mike Tolbert (5-9, 245) is a powerful back with good hands and is a reliable short-yardage runner. At receiver, Steve Smith hasn’t slowed down, catching 73 passes for 1,174 yards. At 34, he’s still an elite receiver but he needs help. Braond LaFell has shown flashes but he’s not the answer. That’s why the Panthers signed Domenik HIxon from the Giants. They also have tight end Greg Olsen, who had 69 receptions for 843 yards last year. The offensive line missed Pro Bowl center Ryan Kalil, who was out 11 games with a foot injury in 2012. They drafted a guard in the fourth round in Edmund Kugbila, who will challenge veteran Geoff Hangartner on the right side. Veteran left tackle Jordan Gross is back after taking a pay cut. His lack of size becomes more of a hindrance as he starts to lose his athleticism.

The Panthers’ defense allowed just 333.1 yards per game overall last season, which ranked 10th in the league. Coordinator Sean McDermott’s defense should improve against the run (allowed 110.1 ypg last year) with the addition of nose guard Star Lotulelei from Utah and KT Kawann Short from Purdue. They should be able to keep blockers off of star middle linebacker Luke Kuechly, who was named AP Defensive Rookie of the Year after leading the league in tackles. Defensive end Greg Hardy is coming off a breakout season that featured 11 sacks and 23 quarterback pressures, while DE Charles Johnson added 23.5 sacks. Carolina runs a 4-3 scheme with former middle linebacker Jon Beason, moving to the weak side. Thomas Davis plays the strong side and made a great comeback from another ACL surgery. The big issue for Carolina is their back four, as they had to let go of cornerback Chris Gamble due to salary cap concerns. Last year’s fifth-round pick Josh Norman has star potential and will get a chance to play right away. Drayton Florence, at 32, will likely man the other corner spot but that’s a big concern for the Panthers. At free safety, Charles Godfrey is solid but there are concerns at strong safety. Mike Mitchell is a career backup trying to become a starter. That didn’t work last year when they used Haruki Nakamura.

Special Teams:
The Panthers added Ted Ginn Jr., which will immediately boost their return unit. Graham Gano was signed late last year and is an adequate kicker. Punter Brad Norman was inconsistent as a rookie and needs to improve. .

The Panthers are hoping to turn the corner with an improved Newton and a solid front seven. But their secondary concerns and lack of a consistent running back along with a number two receiver, could keep them out of the playoffs-again.

2013 Regular Season Schedule:
Date vs. Last Meeting ATS
09/08/13 SEA L 12-16 10/07/12 L/U
09/15/13 @BUF L 9-20 10/25/09 L/U
09/22/13 NYG L 7-36 09/20/12 L/U
10/06/13 @ARI L 21-28 09/11/11 W/O
10/13/13 @MIN L 21-24 10/30/11 L/U
10/20/13 STL L 10-20 10/31/10 W/U
10/24/13 @TB L 21-27 x 11/18/12 L/O
11/03/13 ATL W 30-20 12/09/12 W/O
11/10/13 @SF W 23-20 10/24/10 W/O
11/18/13 NE L 10-20 12/13/09 L/U
11/24/13 @MIA L 17-24 11/19/09 L/U
12/01/13 TB L 21-27 x 11/18/12 L/O
12/08/13 @NO W 44-38 12/30/12 L/O
12/15/13 NYJ L 6-17 11/29/09 W/U
12/22/13 NO W 44-38 12/30/12 L/O
12/29/13 @ATL W 30-20 12/09/12 W/O


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