All right Panther fans, the time has come: Prepare yourself for my Carolina Panthers '08-'09 preview. I have never done this before, so please bear with me.
Last year was a complete disappointment. The Panthers finished with a 7-9 record and went through four quarterbacks. As a Panthers fan, I was embarrassed.
Obviously, this offense has no chance of succeeding without Jake Delhomme. If he goes down again, or his Tommy John surgery hurts his performance, the Carolina Panthers are doomed.
Last year, in the three games that he played in, Jake Delhomme threw for 624 yards and eight touchdowns, with a 64 percent completion rating. He also had a quarterback rating of 111.8.
His touchdown percentage was 9.3 percent, which means that almost 10 percent of his passes were touchdowns. As opposed to 2.9 percent, which was the Panthers' next leader in that statistic, Vinny Testaverde. The Panthers went 2-1 in the games that Delhomme played in.
He also only threw one interception in those games.
Delhomme should probably throw for 20 or more touchdowns and about 17 interceptions this year. It just depends on how that Tommy John surgery affects him.
It is my opinion that the Carolina Panthers will try to incorporate the passing game more this season, as the receiving corps has been improved immensely through free agency.
The drafting of Jonathan Stewart could be huge, as he gives the Panthers the power back that they have needed. Losing DeShaun Foster was actually a good thing, in my mind. Last year, DeAngelo Williams averaged five-yards per carry last year, while DeShaun Foster only averaged 3.5 yards per carry.
DeShaun Foster had only 160 more rushing yards than DeAngelo, and he had 103 more carries. I just don't understand why DeAngelo wasn't named the starting back last year. He finished the year with 717 yards and four touchdowns.
He also didn't have a single fumble all season. While Jonathan Stewart has the potential to make an immediate impact, we will always have DeAngelo to fall back on.
I expect DeAngelo Williams to be the primary back for the beginning of the season, but for Stewart to eventually take over. Look for Jonathon Stewart to finish with about 800 to 900 yards, and six or seven touchdowns. DeAngelo will get about 750 yards and four touchdowns.
Steve Smith should have a great season this year. I think that he is hungry to have another season like his fifth year in the league. (103 receptions, 1,563 yards, and 12 touchdowns).
While I am not sure that he can produce numbers like that again this year, it is definitely a possibility, with the improved receiving corps. I would expect him to have about 95 receptions, 1,400 yards, and 10 touchdowns.
D.J. Hackett should be a good role player in the Panthers' offense this year. He most definitely showed potential last year, getting over 100 yards in three of the eight games that he played in. He had 136 yards and one touchdown against Chicago, 101 yards and one touchdown against San Francisco, and 101 yards and one touchdown against the Washington Redskins in the playoffs.
Carolina also acquired 35-year old Muhsin Muhamad. This helps by giving us a big, reliable receiver, but doesn't help to solidify our future in any way. Muhsin is definitely on his career's decline. Last year, he had 40 receptions, 570 yards, and only three touchdowns.
They also acquired Travis Taylor, who, in his best season, had 870 yards, 61 receptions, and six touchdowns. Travis Taylor is currently 30-years old.
Jeff King is not the most exciting person to talk about. He finished last year with 46 receptions, 406 yards, and two touchdowns. He obviously isn't a top fantasy tight end, but he doesn't have to be. He is a good blocker, and he does the job for the Carolina Panthers. If only they could have snagged Shockey...
The offensive line, starting at the left and moving towards the right, consists of Jordan Gross, Travelle Wharton, Ryan Kalil, Keydrick Vincent, and rookie Jeff Otah. I think that the offensive line will perform well, and they will definitely open up holes for DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart.
This is where the Carolina Panthers took the biggest blow.
They not only lost Kris Jenkins, but Mike Rucker also retired. The Panthers' defense has always been defined through their stellar defensive line. Now that they have lost that, they will have to find a new definition.
Julius Peppers also had a terrible season last season, with only 2.5 sacks, his worst ever total at that statistic. He still has the potential and the skill to turn that around this season, though.
Charles Johnson will be the other defensive end, even though he only played in three games last season, amassing two tackles and no sacks. Ma'ake Kemoeatu will be the left defensive tackle, and he finished last season with 47 tackles, no forced fumbles, and no sacks.
The right defensive tackle will be Damoine Lewis, who only had 29 tackles in 15 games last season.
This is where I see the Panthers' defense excelling.
Jon Beason was a force to be reckoned with last year, finishing with 140 tackles, enough to lead the Panthers, in his rookie year. Now that he is more experienced and has had more time to learn the defense, he should be even better. I see him stepping up and being the leader of these linebackers for years to come.
While they did lose Dan Morgan to the New Orleans Saints, he has only played a combined four games in the last two seasons.
Overall, he has played 59 games out of a possible 128 in his career. While he was a good linebacker, he was only helpful when he wasn't hurt, which wasn't often. He racked up 22 tackles in the three games that he played in.
Thomas Davis will also probably start this season. Last year he had 87 tackles, two forced fumbles, and one interception. He will be an average linebacker that will get the job done. Landon Johnson will be the other starter, and last year, he had 109 tackles, but no forced fumbles and no interceptions.
The No. 1 cornerback next year will probably be Chris Gamble. Here are his interceptions per season, starting in his first season in the NFL: 6, 7, 3, 1. Last year was his worst season yet, which might have been partially because the opposing teams were running so much. I expect him to get seven interceptions this year, however.
The No. 2 corner will probably be Ken Lucas. Last year, he had 62 tackles and two interceptions. So, as you can probably see, the cornerback position definitely needs to step up.
The safety position is also a weakness. Chris Harris will be one of the starters, as he finished with 97 tackles, eight forced fumbles, and one interception last year. The other one will probably be Nate Salley, who played in only seven games last year, with four tackles.
The Panthers will go 10-6, finishing second in their division, behind the Saints, but will earn a Wild Card berth. However, they will lose in the Divisional Round of the playoffs.
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