Carolina Panthers have Multiple Issues on Offense


With the news of Carolina Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart likely starting the season on the PuP list, I just began mentally running through the issues they’ve had just in this short time since they started practicing and preseason games.

Offensive Coordinator Mike Shula is widely thought to be getting the team back to a more traditional-style running game, leaning more heavily on their expen$ive trio of Stewart, DeAngelo Williams and FB/H-back Mike Tolbert. With Kenjon Barner being there for Gettleman late in the draft, he took what everyone thought was a bargain pick and thinking to the future when he has to break up more cap room and break up the stable.

However, Stewart’s absence leaves the team without a true power back since Tolbert the bowling ball is a fullback. Perhaps he could be moved to the position and perform like a poor man’s Jerome Bettis, but things are what they are right now.

Stewy’s far from ready to play and Butterfingers Barner must be rooming with Joe Adams and absorbing new and different ways to separate yourself from the football. It’s a bit of an art and few teams have a duo as entertaining for opposing fans to watch as those two. Adams isn’t out of the doghouse from last year and Barner’s fast headed for the top bunk in there.

Tauren Poole would have already been there if warranted, but he’s had his chances. Now may be another, but if so he needs to stand out to see the ball much. Suffice it to say the depth and talent in the backfield we thought we had coming into 2013 won’t be there for whatever reasons you want to label it.

Next, we have the offensive line and zero depth with the release of guard Geoff Hangartner. Garry Williams was a late-season desperation reach for a warm body and now he’s the starting RG.


Aug 15, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Carolina Panthers running back Kenjon Barner (25) makes a catch before the start of a preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. The Eagles won the game 14-9. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Rookie 4th-round pick Edmund Kugbila has been hampered by injuries as well and has missed irreplaceable practice reps. Even if he could play every single practice snap moving forward from tomorrow morning, he’s the Valdosta State kid who probably was going to take a year to marinate in the NFL before hitting his stride. At least if last year is any indicator, Amini Silatolu looks like the pleasant surprise of the group so far.

Byron Bell is still Byron Bell, patting enemy pass rushers on their behinds as they go by him. Hey, he’s lucky to get his hands on them that much on some plays!

LT Jordan Gross had an off year in 2012 and hasn’t impressed this year so far, Ryan Kalil hasn’t been the same since the Lisfranc injury, and they’re supposedly the two strong points in the line? Ryan’s a pro and will come along as he gets back in football shape. Amini may take over as the team’s premier offensive lineman by the time all’s said and done. He was a high second-rounder last year, and that was the plan going in I’m sure anyway.

Cam Newton was the most abused QB in the NFL last season by FAR. He took more overall hits than any other and it wasn’t even close.

A lot of that can be alleviated by just not running that vile read-option junk. I’ve never liked the read-option and I never will. One of these days, Cam’s going to get hurt for want of a 5-yard gain on the ground?

No thank you.

RGIII played hobbled for a lot of the season and while Cam’s a bigger guy the chance is always there. I don’t want the QB to be leading the team in rushing yards for that exposure reason even if he IS a very gifted athlete. He’s the one guy Rivera cannot replace.

In the receiver corps, we’ve got Steve Smith with another year of seasoning and slowing. Gone is the explosive speed, but not the wily, chatty veteran and his strength and toughness. I hate admitting he’s not quite the impact player he once was, he’s still a guy I want on my squad and I don’t have any complaints about still having him as the #1 wideout.

Dec 9, 2012; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers guard Garry Williams (65) comes on to the field before the game at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

It’s all the OTHER ones that I fret and fume over.

True, David Gettis is looking tantalizing. He’s clearly the best overall athlete of any – including Smitty – as he has youth, size, and soft hands on his side. He IS a “hands” catcher, not a body-catcher, and that’s what makes a great receiver. Gettis is no great by far, but has much potential and the hands to go with it.

His problem has been injuries over the past two seasons. He – there’s that word again, “tantalized” – us with a 500+ yard rookie season, and that’s no small feat considering how awful the offense stunk that season.

Also keep in mind very few rookie WRs make a splash. It’s that second or third season where they really begin to dominate. Guys like A.J. Green are the exception, not the rule, and if David Gettis can stay healthy this season (big “if”) he could well make that splash in 2013.

He has ability as his rookie season proved, but his career seems to sort of paralleled that of Titans’ WR Kenny Britt. Huge talent – can’t stay on the field.

So what’s the upshot of all this confusion?

Right now, more uncertainty for sure. Coaches don’t show much of their playbook at all during preseason, so again a lot of that is built-in.

Dec 4, 2011; Tampa FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive end Adrian Clayborn (94) is blocked by Carolina Panthers tackle Jordan Gross (69) during the second half of their game at Raymond James Stadium. The Panthers won 38-19. Mandatory Credit: Phil Sears-USA TODAY Sports

I’m going to be watching the play of the O-line mostly. I’m going to to DVR the next game, as I do each week preseason or regular, and may rewind and re-watch a play 5 or 6 times to take everything in. With only the LG spot looking like it’s getting solid play right now, the right side of the line is my biggest concern.

By the way, I hear OT Jason Smith has just been released. Recall, he was the second pick overall by the Rams who has bounced around and not stuck.

If the Panthers pick that guy up, we’ll all know they’re desperate but I think they seem to have faith in Byron Bell. Goodness knows, I don’t know why. He’s not bad at run-blocking I guess. On passing plays, he should at least be collecting a token from the crowd rushing by.

For you fantasy owners, DeAngelo Williams now might have a bit more attraction for you.

As for tonight’s game at Baltimore, it will be a test of the offense as a unit. Usually, in preseason, week 3 is the week that the starters play the most…often the entire first half and into the 3rd quarter.

Cam’s “inaccurate” passing so far is really anything except his fault. Save for a couple of poor decisions that all QBs make once in a while, his incompletions have come largely because the WRs are running the wrong route and/or the line isn’t protecting him. I haven’t seen such a disjointed offense in Charlotte in some time – certainly not in the Newton Era – and facing off against a good Ravens defense will provide a great litmus test to see where the first-team offense sits.

The game is at 8:00 pm tonight.