NFL Football 2013: Carolina Panthers Preview
American football betting specialists who are worth their keep will probably say that 2013 sets up as a year in which the Panthers won’t make much of any progress. Head coach Ron Rivera, the former defensive coordinator for the San Diego Chargers, does not seem to be a good fit for the franchise’s most iconic player, quarterback Cam Newton. It seems that a gifted offensive mind needs to be the main decision maker on gamedays. Rivera certainly became an elite defensive coordinator in the NFL, but his handling of Newton in 2012 did not inspire much of any confidence throughout the organization. Rivera sits on a genuinely hot seat this year, and given that the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints appear ready to rule the NFC South once again, it’s going to be hard for Carolina to forge a winning record or even a break-even 8-8 campaign. If the Panthers finish below .500, it’s very easy to envision a scenario in which Rivera is not brought back for another season. People in and around the organization know how critical a season this is in Charlotte.
The more you look at the Panthers and how they’ve been constructed, it becomes apparent that while Rivera has not pushed the right buttons, the team’s front office – former general manager Marty Hurney in particular – bears a large share of the blame for Carolina’s current dysfunction. Newton has not been given an adequate supporting cast, as the website Walter Football notes in this overview of the team’s situation:
“If Newton does play well, it'll have to be with the same mediocre supporting cast. Carolina has just two legitimate receiving targets: Steve Smith and Greg Olsen. The latter is coming off a nice season (69 catches, 843 yards, five touchdowns) in which he had an expanded role in the wake of Jeremy Shockey's departure. Smith is a different story, however. He was brilliant in 2011, but dropped off a bit this past season, snagging just four touchdowns and seeing his yards-per-reception figure drop by 1.5 yards. Smith turned 34 in May, so his skills will disappear soon - perhaps even this year.
“The Panthers have to find a future top wideout soon. Their No. 2 receiver right now, Brandon LaFell, caught 44 balls for 677 yards and four touchdowns in 2012. LaFell probably shouldn't be a starter in this league, as he struggles to get separation. The problem is that Carolina doesn't have anyone else turn to. The team will have to make the receiver position one of its top priorities next spring.
“Running back is also a problem for Carolina, which is ridiculous considering how much money the old regime dumped into Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams. Stewart was pretty sluggish, averaging 3.6 yards per carry in 2012. He always seems to be nursing some sort of injury, so he's pretty unreliable. Williams was slightly better, but he's highly inconsistent. He had plenty of 11-carry, 21-yard-type games, though he did end the season with a 21-210-2 line at New Orleans, which was pretty shocking to say the least.”
You can see that Hurney (before being booted) committed way too much money to a pair of running backs when the team had other needs at receiver and on the offensive line. Newton doesn’t have a deep or balanced roster to work with, and that’s going to be a constraint for the Panthers this season. The organization has painted itself into a box, and new general manager Dave Gettleman will probably have a lot of difficult decisions to make once this season – which doesn’t look very promising – is over.