Some Negative Comments
Most Carolina fans think of the horrendous playoff game Delhomme last played more often than the season opener he won for Carolina in San Diego. Some call Delhomme’s extension a blessing in disguise, for salary cap room, if nothing else. In time we will sort it out and see if a contract extension for Delhomme was right or wrong. Some worry about Julius Peppers. He will have a solid season in 2009 if he wants to move elsewhere that bad in 2010.
Some Positive Comments
Carolina has become a force as a team, and is one of the best run organizations in football. Even in a bad season Carolina is more dangerous than most teams. John Fox is a fixture in the NFL, and Carolina is always a possible contender. With defenders such as Jon Beason, Thomas Davis, Chris Harris and Julius Peppers on the roster, and playmakers like Steve Smith, DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart on the offensive side of the ball, Carolina is never a team that can be taken lightly.
Key Losses: Ken Lucas, Nick Goings, D.J. Hackett, Geoff Hangartner, Frank Omiyale, Jeremy Bridges.
Key Additions: Rookies Drafted: DE Everette Brown, CB Sherrod Martin, DT Corvey Irvin, RB Mike Goodson, FB Tony Fiammetta, OG Duke Robinson, and CB Captain Munnerlyn. Undrafted Rookie Free Agents who have already signed contracts: OT Gerald Cadogan, DT Marlon Favorite, RB Jamall Lee.
Returning from Injuries: LB Dan Connor, WR/RS Ryne Robinson, and WR/RS Jason Carter…All three of these players will likely compete to start at their respective positions as well as to acquire a role on Special Teams.
Offensive Line: Carolina may have the best starting offensive line in football…The backups appear to be a question mark, but I think all is fine unless they get an injury bug. Gerald Cadogan and Duke Robinson are rookies that can step in as back-ups to get the job done if called upon.
The Backfield: Double Trouble should again be the most formidable RB duo in the NFL and FB Tony Fiammetta will be ready to step in for Brad Hoover if needed. Jake Delhomme is a solid starter at QB; however, Carolina’s back-up quarterbacks are questionable. Carolina did nothing in the off-season to stabilize the back-up QB position or provide Delhomme with legitimate competition at the starting position. The drop-off in the quarterback ability behind Jake Delhomme is disconcerting.
Wide Receivers: Behind Steve Smith, Mushin Muhammad, and Dwayne Jarrett as the number 3 receiver (by default), Jason Carter and Ryne Robinson will return from injuries in 2009. Add rookies Mike Goodson and Larry Beavers into the mix, and Carolina is pretty deep at WR for a team that typically has only three on the 53 man roster each Sunday.
The Defensive Line: Carolina’s Defensive line is solid, however it still lacks the run-stuffing ability Carolina hasn’t had since trading Kris Jenkins to the Jets. They have acquired some back-ups at DT with Corvey Irvin and Marlon Favorite, and have a nice rotation of young speed rushers in Charles Johnson, Hilee Taylor and Everette Brown.
Line Backers: The Panthers are solid at linebacker and it is likely one of Carolina’s deepest positions. Dan Connor should compete with 9-year veteran Na’il Diggs for a starter position.
The Secondary: Going into the off-season, this was one of Carolina’s most glaring weaknesses. With the addition of two draft picks, Carolina’s secondary went from thin to abundant rather quickly. If the starting order moves in linear fashion, then Richard Marshall will be the number two Corner opposite Chris Gamble, C.J. Wilson will be the Nickel, and Sherrod Martin and Captain Munnerlyn will be their back-ups. The Safety position could have benefited with a Patrick Chung kind of guy out of the draft, but Chris Harris is a beast and Charles Godfrey is reliable.
Possible Fallers in 2009: Dwayne Jarrett, Na’il Diggs, Brad Hoover
Potential Risers in 2009: Jason Carter, Mike Goodson, Dan Connor, Tony Fiammetta,
The biggest Wild Card for Carolina for 2009: Special Teams. Carolina will be able to stay close in many of their games in 2009. The difference maker for the Panthers will be Special Teams play. If one of Carolina’s Return Specialists breaks out as a game-changer the way Steve Smith emerged, points scored on Special Teams could turn a potential 6 and 10 season into a 10 and 6 season.
2009 Season Record Prediction: 9 and 7.