It can't be understated just what Ron Rivera has done for the Carolina Panthers as a team and as an organization in seven short games. It first took the guts to fly in the face of draft guru wisdom and take one of the biggest gambles with the #1 pick in the last decade, but Coach Rivera never saw it as a risk- he saw the face of the franchise, the QB who will define the beginning of his coaching tenure and now a young man who he has gone so far as to compare to the legendary Walter Payton. The brand of football he is installing has begun to capture the hearts of non-fans in the Carolinas with a palpable excitement we've never seen around a Panthers team with a losing record.
In seven games Rivera's 2011 Panthers have already reached the mark John Fox's group did in 2010, and with the exception of Cam Newton a strong argument could be made that Rivera's 53 are weaker than Fox's 53 last year with vital players like Jon Beason, Thomas Davis and the poised to break out David Gettis being off the roster. Unlike John Fox his coaching style has embraced going with the hot hand, making lineup changes quickly and not being afraid to cut ties with a guy like Tyler Brayton so you can roll the dice on Greg Hardy. Outside the win total though has this made a real statistical difference? Tonight I'm going to look at the differences between the Panthers of 2010 when they were 7 games in, and how things look just 12 months later... and the answers are scary.
More after the jump
I'm sure we all know where this is going, but regardless lets look at just how drastic the offensive differences are under Rivera through 7 games.
- Yards per game
- Rushing yards per game
- Passing yards per game
- Points per game
What's most dramatic and surprising here is how much the rushing has improved this season through 7 games. Without the threat of the pass the 2010 Panthers were obscenely one dimensional, but regardless we've seen wholesale improvement from the running backs. When this is coupled with such a dramatic drop in turnovers we're seeing the Panthers be compeditive.
Thus far the defense has been seen as the achilles heel of the team, and rightfully so. Sean McDermott's group are unable to stop the run and that has seen some bad defensive stands.
- Yards allowed per game
- Rushing yards allowed per game
- Passing yards allowed per game
- Points allowed per game
The defense are who we thought they were. They're basically lagging behind where they were at this point last year, but to be fair the 2011 Panthers have played much better teams as a whole. Obviously the defense needs to pick it up more, but we're slowly seeing improvement from a group without a ton of talent on that side of the ball.
In the end the Panthers are much better overall that where they were through 7 games in 2010. The record speaks for itself, but it's how the team is carrying itself and much of that has to do with Cam Newton. Panther pride is back in the Carolinas and we're slowly getting to the ideal Ron Rivera is looking for where BoA stadium will be awash with Panthers jerseys on Sundays.