DeAngelo Williams is one half of a two-headed RB monster in Carolina.
The Carolina Panthers have the misfortune of playing in one of the toughest divisions in football that happens to be home to the Super Bowl champions. They know that the road to a division title and a playoff spot run through the same place, the city of New Orleans.
The 2010 Panthers will have a much different look. The NFL football team either released or opted not to re-sign nine starters from last year’s 8-8 team, including defensive end Julius Peppers who got a six-year deal with the Bears. Following him out the door were Jake Delhomme (Cleveland), Ma’ake Kemoeatu (Washington), Na’il Diggs (St. Louis), Chris Harris (Chicago), Muhsin Muhammad and Brad Hoover among others. Health and age were factors in many of the moves, but money was the biggest reason for the turnover in personnel.
Panthers on Offense
Despite the purge Carolina returns some pretty talented players starting with the “Smash and Dash” duo at running back. DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart combined for 2,641 yards last season to become the first tandem in NFL history to each rush for 1,100 yards. The Panthers finished the year with the third-ranked rushing NFL football offense in the league averaging 156 yards per game.
If only the Panthers had such depth at quarterback. Matt Moore is the returning starter but the team obviously isn’t sold on him. How else would you explain drafting Notre Dame Jimmy Clausen in the second round?
Moore started the final five NFL football games of the season going 4-1. He finished with 1,053 yards eight touchdown strikes and a passer rating of 98.5. However, Carolina's passing game overall was near the bottom of the league (27th) with just 175 yards per game.
Whoever lines up behind center will be throwing to a receiver corps that includes fiery Steve Smith. The former Utah star had a career-low 65 receptions for 982 yards and two touchdowns, but broke his arm playing flag football in the offseason. He expects to be ready by Week 1. Dwayne Jarrett gives the Panthers another solid receiving option.
Panthers on Defense
Carolina only managed to register 31 sacks in '09, tied for 23rd in the league. Considering the fact that Julius Peppers was responsible for 10.5 of them and is now gone, the Panthers may be in a tough situation.
They’ll certainly be hard pressed to duplicate last year’s overall NFL football defensive numbers: eighth in yards allowed (315.8), fourth in passing (191) and ninth in scoring (19.2).
Panthers at the NFL Draft
The Panthers didn't have a first-round pick but they did get Clausen in the second. Carolina snagged Armanti Edwards and Brandon LaFell in the third round, and both players figure to be immediate contributors. NFL footbal betting odds
Edwards was the quarterback at Appalachian State where he won two national titles, but he projects as a receiver and maybe even a wildcat quarterback. LaFell finished with 175 receptions for 25 TD in his LSU career. OLB Eric Norwood (South Carolina) and Cincinnati QB Tony Pike were fourth-round selections.
Betting the Panthers
Carolina was one streaky NFL betting team last season. The Panthers started 0-4 against the number but finished 5-0 ATS and 9-7 overall. They were 10-6 to the 'under,' including a 1-5 record to the low side within the division.
Carolina is 35/1 to win the Super Bowl, 16/1 to win the NFC and plus 550 to capture the NFC South. Carolina's season win total is seven.
The 2010 NFL football schedule isn’t terribly difficult. The Panthers open the season on the road against the Giants and have a December date in Pittsburgh. However, those games are more than offset by trips to St. Louis, Tampa Bay and Cleveland.
An 8-8 record is possible, but the Panthers are going to need 9-7 or better if they hope to be invited to the postseason party.
Carolina management should enjoy it while it lasts. The Panthers are about to learn that saving money is usually a great way to lose games. Normally, teams in this position can build for the future. But with John Fox most likely gone in 2011, it’s hard to know how the bulding will go.