Cleat Geeks

HOMER’S NFL ODYSSEY(5): Carolina Panthers

Welcome to Homer’s NFL Odyssey! Like the original hero Odysseus we will journey from NFL shore to NFL shore. Casting a light on each NFL squad and their 2015 fortunes from the perspective of a “Homer”. An upbeat tale of NFL fandom illuminating the chances of the your favorite team in a completely favorable light. This is the ultimate guide to your favorite team told from the perspective of a “Homer”.

 

QB:  Cam Newton is a monster at the QB position. 6’5″ 245 pounds. A great NFL arm with extraordinary strength. What sets him apart is his running ability and the way he chooses to run. This is not a QB who looks for the sideleine when he scampers. This is not a QB prone to sliding. This is a QB that applies the full force if his frame at every point of contact. Carolina wins when Cam is allowed to run his way. Expect to see the return of the Superman’s TD making ability.

RB: Finally we get to see the full potential of Jonathon Stewart on display as he leads the Carolina Panthers solely as the RB1. This is his show now and expect Stewart to take full advantage.  A rare blend of speed and power makes for an elusive and dynamic ball carrier. With the behemoth Mike Tolbert, Jordan Todman and rookie Cameron Artis-Payne in support the rushing attack is versatile and capable of dominating opposing defenses.

WR/TE: 2014 Rookie sensation Kelvin Benjamin returns to lead a young and explosive receiving group. The 6’5″ 245 pound monster is joined by 2015 2nd round draft pick Devin Funchess another big bodied WR at 6’4″ 225 pounds. Forming one of the largest WR tandems in the entire NFL. Pro Bowl TE Greg Olsen is a dynamic and versatile player capable of dominating a game from the TE position. Great large group. Tall ball. Add in Jericho Cotchery, Ted Ginn jr. and Philly Brown with their versatile skill sets and you have an exceptional group of pass catchers.

OL: The Offensive Line is anchored by a host of high draft pick talent and seasoned veterans. Including C Ryan Kalil a 9 year veteran in the center of the OLine.  2009 1st rounder Michael Oher and 2012 2nd rounder Jonathon Martin man the tackle positions.  The guard positions will be filled by 2012 2nd rounder Amini Silatolu and 2014 3rd rounder Trai Turner. Depth is fantastic behind this group of dominant starters. The Panther OLine is a unit capable of mauling any DLine in the NFL.

Defense: This is the teeth and claws of this Panthers team. One of if not the best Defense in the entire NFL. Loaded with stars and playmakers from top to bottom. Starting with the man in the middle, LB Luke Keuchly. The most dominant tackling machine in the game. Joined by stud veteran Thomas Davis and 2015 1st rounder Shaq Thompson Carolina can successfully boast one of the few truly elite LB groups in the league. The DLine consists of talented run stoppers and pass rushers including former pro bowl DE Charles Johnson and 2013 2nd round DT Kawann Short. A versatile group that sets the stage for the LBs to make the plays. In the defensive backfield Panthers have a bevy of talented and rising stars. From CBs Chris Houston and Charles Tillman. Two veteran proven playmakers CBs. The safety positions are a mirror image of the CBs in that veteran playmaking is a staple. Led by Roman Harper the secondary will create some sparks of their own. From top to bottom a dominant top level NFL. The kind of defense a team can get behind and ride to glory.

Coaching: Head Coach Ron Rivera is an old school type. Run the ball, play D. Lace em’ tight and hit them hard. It works perfectly with the roster he has at his disposal. Joined by Offensive Coordinator Mike Shula. Defensive Coordinator Sean McDermott and Assistant HC Steve Wilks. In unison the Panthers have one of the strongest coaching staffs in the entire league.

 

Division Outlook:

The New Orleans Saints finished 2nd in the division, 1/2 game behind the Panthers. Another team that does not appear to have helped itself much in the off-season. A struggling sub par OLine blocking for a rapidly aging QB who took a major dive in production in 2014. Brees found himself throwing flatfooted when contained to the pocket and under pressure. CAR can supply the pressure and has the DBs needed to create turnovers out of those poorly thrown balls. Oft injured Mark Ingram is joined by oft injured CJ Spiller as the main cogs in the run game. A solution to a RB injury issue is not another RB with injury issues. The receivers have weakened substantially with the departures of Jimmy Graham and Kenny Stills. A year older Marques Colston is not about to bounce back. The Saints find themselves dependent on unproven 2nd year WR Brandin Cooks as the main focus of the pass game. Not a great solution for a pass game that struggled mightily in 2014. The defense in NO is horrible and does not belong being referred to as a quality unit even by Saints fan standards. Jordan Cameron is the biggest name on the DLine and is under-performing or an average player as his lack of meanngful impact will show. The LBs are an aging group and suffered miserably down the stretch. The DBs are swollen with big names at safety but alas no one player has managed to curb the susceptibility to the deep ball. A horrible NFL D that can easily be taken advantage of by this CAR offensive attack.

 

The Atlanta Falcons are no longer the threat they once were. Matt Ryan has gone Ice cold in every meaningful game he has played. Without a true leader as a signal caller with the ability to rise to the moment Atlanta is nothing more than an also ran. Freeman? Coleman? Smith? If you have three you have none. A hodge podge of underwhelming, overhyped and overdrafted talent. The Wide Receivers are talented. But Roddy White is aging quickly and dropped off significantly in 2014. Across the field Julio Jones has trouble staying on the field. Hankerson and Hester are poor choices for backup and spot duty.  Hester is aging and is only suitable as a screen target and other simple routes in any NFL offense. Hankerson is another hyped player who never showed the promise. TE is still a weak point. Neither TE signed this season possesses the full package. Jacob Tamme is slow yet aware. Moeaki is talented but lacks awareness and injury prone is a title he has earned. Jake Matthews leads a struggling unimpressive OLine that will surely struggle against premier defensive units like Carolina. The defense does not impress much either. Over-drafted defensive backs. Uninspiring LBs. A DLine void of any real playmakers. The talent of Paul Worrilow and rookie Vic Beasley will not be enough to overcome the lack of verifiable talent around them. A down-trending O. A D incapable of getting stops consistently equates to a non-contending 2015.

So we come to 2014 cellar dweller TB Bucs. With the first pick in the draft TB selected Jameis Winston. A player with good legs, a sketchy arm and character issues. Lacking the maturity to step in and be effective as a rookie signal caller TB O will struggle mightily even with the tandem of Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans at the WR position. No RB solidified as a weekly starter, let alone a difference maker. An unproven 2nd year TE and an OLine oft depleted by injury bug and roster turnover. This offense will not be a formidable concern for the CAR D. The TB D is a unit built mostly with Free Agent additions that have yet to pan out. Beyond Lavonte David at LB and Alteraun Verner at CB this defensive group is unimpressive and incapable of mounting much resistance to an offense the caliber of Carolia’s.

 

2015 OUTLOOK:

Led by Superman the Avenger Panthers have the ability to seize control of the NFC South for 2015 and beyond. The division foes are fading(NO), rebuilding(TB) or just a lot of hype(ATL). The path to the playoffs has few bumps in it. In 2015 the Carolina Panthers will dominate their division and head into the playoffs strong. The entire NFL world from player to fan is aware of what a dominant defense and a ball control offense can do in the post season. Hold tight Panther fans as Superman brings the first Super Bowl home to Carolina.

 

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