Five fantasy football questions answered about the Panthers

Recently I answered a few questions for Razzball, a fantasy football website, about the outlook of the Carolina Panthers offense this season. We are looking to work along with this site down the road to provide some fantasy football advice for everyone on here so this is hopefully a good beginning between the two sites. Most of these questions were more fantasy related in terms of players values and such but I though I would share the first two questions and answers I did for the site and you can find the rest of the questions and answers here.

1. The Panthers offense was an utter disaster last season scoring a horrendous 12.3 points per game, 4.6 points behind the 31st worst Cleveland Browns.  It’s hard to get excited about any Panthers player fantasy-wise this season, but Carolina did bring back DeAngelo Williams to start alongside Jonathan Stewart in their dynamic backfield.  Even with numerous 8 in the box defensive looks and no certainty at quarterback, do you see the running game revitalizing in 2011?

I think the running game will improve this season. I think last season was a product of zero passing game and also the most predictable offense you could ever imagine in John Fox’s last season. No matter who is starting, whether it be Cam Newton or Jimmy Clausen, the passing game will be better with a revitalized Steve Smith and new tight end additions Jeremy Shockey and Greg Olsen. These guys have to be covered and should help improve the passing game, which will enviably improve the running game. Teams won’t be able to stack 9-10 guys in the box and get away with it like they did last season.

The one down thing I see is that I don’t know if the Panthers will run the ball quiet as much as they did under Fox. Fox loved running the ball and believed in game management and ball control, which he got from the running game. It remains to be seen if Rivera will utilize the run as much but you have to believe with the offense line the Panthers have and the two star running backs, but he would be foolish not to use them.

No matter how many times the Panthers run per game, the one problem for fantasy owners is that DeAngelo Williams and Jonathon Stewart will once again vulture each other’s points. The two backs are so good you have to split time between them. But because both are so talented and have showed that they can be an unstoppable tandem together, ala 2009 when both rushed for over 1,100 yards in a season.  I would say both will be top-20 running backs.

2. I’m sure every Carolina fan would like to see Cam Newton start week one, but the last time the Panthers started a rookie out of the gate, it was Chris Weinke who led the Panthers to losses in the final 15 games of 2001.  Also, the Panthers have Jimmy Clausen trying to prove something after a disastrous rookie campaign and have brought in veteran Derek Anderson.  The Panthers passing game finished over 600 yards behind than the 31st worst passing team last year, so the passing game can’t get any worse.  If it is Newton starting week one, what would his prospects look like?  If it’s not Newton right away, do you think he takes over at some point during the season and has any impact?

At this point, it is Newton’s job to lose. All he needs to do to become the team’s opening day starter is to just show a bit, and I mean a small smidge of ability and understanding of the playbook in training camp and the job is his. Newton has a special talent that will make it impossible for the Panthers to keep him off the field.

Even if the Panthers go with Clausen or Anderson to start the season, Newton will be utilized in certain packages especially in the redzone. I would liken him to Mike Vick. With the Eagles in 2009, McNabb was the starter but Vick came in on certain plays especially in the endzone to provide that extra dimension to the offense. But if I would have to guess, if Newton doesn’t win the job outright in the preseason, it is only a matter of time until he takes over. Give it maybe week four or week five but mark my words Newton will finish the season as the Panthers starting quarterback.

But I wouldn’t expect immediate stardom from Newton early, even if he is the opening day starter. So far in training camp we have seen he has a huge arm, but he is still pretty inaccurate and will need to work on improving that. He seems to be developing a good rapport with Steve Smith, something that Jimmy Clausen has never been able to do and that is a great start.

Bottom line, I wouldn’t bank on Newton to be one of my quarterbacks I start week in and week out. He has a lot of catching up to do and most rookie quarterbacks struggle adjusting to the NFL in their first season unless you are Ben Roethlisberger or Sam Bradford. Would I take a flyer on him late in the draft, yes. He has a ton of upside but I think he is a year away from being a legit fantasy contributor.

Here is the link once again to the rest of the article.


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Tags: Cam Netwon Carolina Panthers DeAngelo Williams Jimmy Clausen Jonathan Stewart

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