Discussing the 7 Keys to the Panthers Success in 2009

First Austin Penny over at the Bleacher Report put up a nice post with slide show detailing his "7 keys the Panthers season in 2009" (See first reference below). Then one of the guys over at Cat Crave (Joseph?) "piggy-backed" on it with his own commentary on the 7 items. So of course I can't resist either but I have to arrange the order of the items presented. First, here's the links to those articles.

Seven Keys to The Carolina Panthers Success in 2009 | Bleacher Report
he Carolina Panthers face a tough journey to another NFC South title in 2009. With the NFC's toughest schedule and a host of coaching changes, the Panthers will need to be clicking on all cylinders come September if they want to improve upon last year's embarrassing playoff exit.

A Piggyback Ride on Austin Penny’s "7 Keys to the Carolina Panthers Success in 2009″ | Cat Crave | A Blog For Carolina Panthers Fans
One of our fellow Panther fans, Austin Penny, from www.BleacherReport.com wrote up a nice article detailing what will make or break Carolina in 2009 outlined by 7 key points. The following is a response to those 7 keys to Carolina’s success in 2009…

1. Of the 7 Keys listed my #1 has to be Double Trouble (Penny had it #4).

In 2009 the Panthers have to be able to run the ball just as effectively as last year. If the Panthers should struggle to run the ball consistently then the season could get ugly in a hurry. The Panthers running game helps every other phase of the game, from the passing game to the time the defense spends on the side line to improving field position. If the Panthers can even improve on their running game, which I'm predicting, then they could have an outstanding season. It will allow Jake to use the play-action pass effectively and keep defenses off balance. It will keep our defense from getting worn out over four quarters and hopefully it will help us protect a lead late in a game. It all starts with the run game in 2009.

2.   Ron Meeks (Penny had at #3)

With only one change to the defensive starting line-up one has to wonder what will be different about the defense in 2009? The difference will have to come from new DC Ron Meeks and his up-tempo defensive scheme. He has to get the defense to buy into his philosophy and get all 11 players on the field flying to the ball.  He has to produce schemes that keeps the offense guessing and keep the Panthers from becoming predictable down the stretch as they did last season. The Panthers won't be a team that looks to win scoring fests or come from behind by huge margins so they need a defense that will keep them in the game. This defense has the players to be a top 10 unit if the offense can chew some clock and limits the number of stops the defense has to make on a weekly basis.

3. Jake Delhomme (We both agree he's #3)

In 2009 Jake has to limit his mistakes and not make the poor choices that sunk the '08 season. I believe Jake still commands the huddle and the confidence of the offensive unit so long as the running game holds up. At a young 34 in NFL years Jake can and will lead more 4th quarter wins as long as he remains confident and poised and doesn't try to force the ball into tight situations. His job could even be made easier should a consistent 3rd WR option become available.

4. The Secondary (Penny had at #6)

For all the focus on the pass rush that issue could be mitigated to a degree with an improved secondary. Can I get an amen for a few 'coverage' sacks in 2009? This key will be heavily influenced by #2 above and the schemes employed by Meeks. The Panthers secondary was too predictable down the stretch and rarely if ever deployed man coverage. With Chris Gamble wanting to test his mettle in this regard lets see him earn the 'shutdown corner' moniker. The secondary needs to be able to shut down the opposing #1 WR to prevent the scoring fest we allowed down the stretch. With Gamble. Marshall, Harris and Godfrey the Panthers should have the athletes and experience to improve this unit dramatically. 

5. Julius Peppers (Penny had at #1)

I admit to purposely putting Peppers down this far to make a point. As much as I want Pep back in 2009 I don't think he is the #1 key to the season, not even close. Even if he should sit out the season or move to another team this Panther defense could still be a very good unit. With the rookie Everette Brown in the fold the Panthers will at least have some speed coming from the edge from one side and with an improved Charles Johnson on the other side there is still plenty of hope. My hope is that Pep will use the off-season snub as motivation for the entire season to show they were wrong not to deal for him. In that case he could have a huge impact on the 2009 season but I don't think it is necessary to has a successful season.

6. #3 WR Though not necessarily Dwayne Jarrett (Penny had at #7)

We all hope this is the year Dwayne Jarrett breaks out but more improtantly is that Delhomme establishes some confidence in a 3rd WR option no matter who it is. Players such Ryne Robinson, Mike Goodson or Jason Carter could also emerge as that threat. The Panthers need another option for those games where the opposing secondary is blanketing Smitty and another deep threat is needed to make them pay for that decision.

7. TE play (Penny had at #6)

I thought our TE's played well in 2008 when called upon to contribute in the passing game. The problem is that they were not utilized very much after the SD game. This is a key from the standpoint of utilizing the play action pass to slow down the run blitz and ultimately making the defense pay for playing the run too heavily. The TE needs to be able to release and get open down the middle of the field, something I thought didn't happen quite enough in 2008. If the Panthers can hit the TE in the middle of the field a few times every game it will make the run that more effective and essentially give the Panthers yet another offensive weapon for defenses to game plan against.

So there is my take on the 7 Keys to the Panthers 2009 season as first started by Mr. Penny. Thoughts?

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