The 2012 incarnation of the Carolina Panthers offense is far from the weapon it was in 2011.
What was a cat with five-inch fangs and razor-sharp claws last year has become confused and unsure of itself this season. Oh, it can reach out with a random swipe and hurt you, but that seems to be more of the exception than the rule.
And it’s exactly why Steve Smith needs to remain a part of this team for now, despite losing a step with age.
The 5’9″ block of dynamite is, at only 185 pounds, one of the strongest and most physical receivers in the NFL. He plays more like he’s 6’3″ and is a wonderful run-blocker.
He plays with a chip on his shoulder which although draws an unsportsmanlike flag once in a while, provides a reminder to the team that he plays hard every play – and so should they. It’s an important lesson for this offense to learn…one it hasn’t yet, apparently. Linemen are missing blocks or jumping before the snap, receivers are dropping balls, people aren’t hustling – it’s getting to be a mess more and more.
I’m not saying I wish we’d hire Mike Singletary, but I like his style as a fit for the team at least:
“You line up and you hit the other guy in the mouth, number one,” he says.
The Panthers haven’t been doing enough of that lately. Finesse…read/option – although we’re getting away from that again – it is not working. The Panthers are built to be a punishing, physical running team. Why don’t we just line up and hit more people in the mouth? Steady doses of Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams with 5 or 6 runs from Tolbert and Newton apiece with some play-action thrown in there to Olsen, LaFell, Smith, and hopefully David Gettis again soon. Armanti Edwards has finally made a play or two so there are weapons in the arsenal.
Steve Smith’s hard-nosed physical style can help keep the energy level of the offense up as a whole, but things just seem fractured…not working well together as a unit. Coaches can only do so much but a guy like Smith on the field can sometimes provide a spark that gets something going. He’s still the “spark plug” of this team – not Stewart, not even Newton so much lately.
Although Smith seems to be a step slower than in recent years, he’s still got great strength and balance to go up, get banged around, come down with the ball, and stay on his feet. True, he’s only had one TD all season but he’s had his share of big plays down into the red zone. Yes, plays he’d probably have scored on as recently as last year.
Dropped passes have plagued him over the season some, but the same can be said from everyone on the offense. He’s still the team’s top WR threat and has a way of coming down with the ball in a crowd even now. His inspired, passionate play can still pay dividends.
Reggie Wayne, who is 90, has 69 receptions and 931 yards for the Colts.
See? It can be done.