One thing we will try to make a regular feature on the blog this year is an early-week look at that weekend’s opponent.
This week, that means the Carolina Panthers and former Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Cam Newton (above in an AP photo).
As a way of getting to know the Panthers, I’ll pass along a few links and notes about the team:
— Here’s Carolina’s latest depth chart and note that one player with local ties — running back Jonathan Stewart of Oregon and Lacey — is not on it after being placed on the physically unable to perform list;
— Here are some of the latest news and notes on the Panthers from the Charlotte Observer;
— This was an interesting story from the Observer a couple of days ago with some telling quotes from Panther players about how confident the team is heading into the Seattle game.
Included was this from cornerback Josh Norman:
“I guess they’re the poster boy of the NFL right now. They’re doing a lot of really good things. But so are we. … It’s going to be a great matchup.”
And this from defensive end Greg Hardy on defending Russell Wilson:
“He’s a great quarterback. He’s got some good blockers. But you know how we get down. We’re bringing it for four quarters. We’re going to tire him out. He can run all he wants. Eventually we’re going to catch him.”
“There’s a lot to like about the talent on this squad. Cam Newton is a superstar quarterback going into his third season, and his continued development should vault the offense forward several notches. The defense features a potentially dominant front seven, led by another young blossoming star in Luke Kuechly, which should cover up for some question marks in the secondary. They finished the year on a four-game winning streak, which inspired hope for the following season. For all those positive signs, though, there is one big weakness that can’t be ignored, and for that reason we’re subjectively skeptical of our objective optimism. It’s not the lack of depth at receiver that has us worried, nor the shaky status of the secondary, though those are certainly viable concerns. In fact, it’s not a player that has us worried at all. It’s the head coach. Through two seasons, Ron Rivera has done little to show that he’s capable of managing an NFL team on Sundays, and that will likely be the reason Carolina comes up short again this year.”
— Lots of good stuff here on the Panthers from the guys at Pro Football Focus, who make the same point as a lot of others — that this is a team that could finish anywhere from 4-12 to 10-6;
— ESPN’s NFL Nation Carolina page has lots of info on the Panthers;
— ESPN’s coverage includes this good assessment of Carolina’s question marks entering the season;
— Here’s the Athlon’s sports season preview of Carolina;
— Finally, USA Today with the five most important, useless facts about the Panthers.