As my NFL preview series continues, today's spotlight team is the Carolina Panthers, a team in desperate need of a resuscitation in 2011.
After having a league-worst 2-14 record in 2010, the Carolina Panthers have already made major headway in free agency as soon as the lockout ended July 25.
Presumably, Panthers owner Jerry Richardson was content to retain money in 2010 to prepare for the lockout, which lasted for 4.5 months, but already in numerous media outlets, he has critiqued those who say he was cheap.
In addition to resigning their own free agents, tailback DeAngelo Williams and defensive end Charles Johnson, the Panthers have acquired former Bears tight end Greg Olsen, ex-Seahawks kicker Olindo Mare and former Eagles linebacker Omar Gaither, among others.
The Panthers' tight ends have a chance to be among the elite units in the NFL as Olsen and Jeremy Shockey are both proven targets who should give opposing defenses plenty to worry about.
While Cam Newton, for better or worse, will be the draft pick most scrutinized by the MSM (I am not a journalist with big-time credentials so this ignominious moniker does not apply to me), fifth-round selection Kealoha Pilares may be the most intriguing prospect.
On defense, Charles Johnson and 2010 Pro-Bowler Jon Beason should lead the way while nose tackle Sione Fua may not have Haloti Ngata's game, but he provides plenty of girth and Polynesians just have a special proclivity for being NFL stalwarts, so he was a wise selection.
With all of this said, the NFC South is arguably the toughest division in the NFL so while the Panthers will be vastly improved, I'm not sure if they can earn a playoff berth with two games against New Orleans, Atlanta and Tampa Bay upcoming.
Still, Panthers fans have reason to rejoice because this team is headed in the right direction.
Thanks for reading!