Last season, the Carolina Panthers
were one game away from playing in their second Super Bowl
in three seasons. The Seattle Seahawks
made short work of the Panthers, demolishing them by a score of 34-14. In the 2006 off-season, the Panthers spent a little doe to upgrade a roster that is already filled with enough talent to reach Super Bowl XLI (Forty-One). Carolina seems to be the more popular pick as the NFC representative in Miami, but they still have to earn. The NFC South division is no longer a push-over division and there are other teams National Football Conference that want to make the Super Bowl just as bad as the Panthers.
Jake Delhomme is the starting quarterback and the undisputed leader of the offense. In the past three years with the Panthers, Delhomme has thrown for 72 touchdowns and 10,526 passing yards. Delhomme is only 31 and still has some good years of football left in him. However, in the past two seasons, he has been throwing the ball an awful lot (968 passing attempts in two years) and if the Panthers want to keep Delhomme healthy for 16 games, they need to figure more run plays into the game plan. This is when running back DeShaun Foster comes into the mix. Foster has the ability to be an elite NFL running back if he was able to stay healthy. However, Head Coach John Fox and the rest of the Carolina coaching staff remains confident that Foster is close to being the break-out running back they need. The Panthers No. 1 draft pick, DeAngelo Williams, needs to develop more into the tailback Carolina is looking for. Currently he is listed as the number two back, behind Foster.
The addition of wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson can only mean good news to Steve Smith. In 2005, Smith was the primary receiver and at times the only receiver that Jake Delhomme had to throw the football to. Steve Smith was still able to snag a pro bowl appearance, as well as the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year Award. This season, the Panthers hope that the addition of Keyshawn Johnson will free up Steve Smith.
Defensive tackle Ma’ake Kemoeatu is the newest addition to the Carolina Panthers’ dominant defensive line, which already features Julius Peppers, Mike Rucker, and Khris Jenkins. Last season, Peppers earned a pro bowl appearance after recording 10.5 sacks. Newcomer Na’il Diggs may be the star on the Panthers linebacker corps. Dan Morgan is a true baler, but injuries always limit his playing. The linebackers will need to match the intensity of the D-Line this upcoming season.
The Panthers secondary is one of the best in the league, In my opinion. Ken Gamble and Chris Gamble are one of the most underrated cornerback tandems in the NFL, but will not go unnoticed in the 2006-2007 regular season. In 2005, Lucas and Gamble combined for 13 interceptions.
A QUICK LOOK AT THE 2006 SCHEDULE
The Carolina Panthers will face five playoff teams in 2006 (Buccaneers, Bengals, Redskins, Giants, and Steelers). As with every team in the NFL, the Panthers will need to take care of the NFC South division before even thinking about the playoffs; the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be on their tails this season. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Panthers back in the NFC Championship this year. The majority of their major players are returning from last season. 11 or 12 games is a realistic number of wins for the