Potential. We all know the players I could talk about... Martin, Hogan, Hardy, any of the 5 DT's, Gettis, AE, Pilares, Barnidge. We could keep going and talk about the P word as it relates to veterans and injury; Ron Edwards, TD, Beason, Jeff Otah. It's the same old song and dance and as loyal Panthers fans we each have our own opinions and hopes for each one of these guys. The thing that has me most excited about the 2012 season is the dangerous P word. It has me excited because of each of these guys truly possess it, but that's not good enough.
Gone are the days of waiting for our high draft picks or "proven veterans" to produce something that may never materialize. Last offseason the coaches tried pushing the WR's and saw no one other than 89 stepping up. They brought in LA who, despite the flack he receives, did what he was asked of (if he hadn't had the dropseys the first half of the season I imagine we'd all be stoked to have him coming back). Eventually, Laffell earned a shot and he shined. Between the end of last season, this offseason, & the draft we have now acquired players to compete for a starting role at S, CB, LB, DT, DE, OG, OT, & WR (WR's galore actually). Join me after the jump to hear my predictions for these new Panthers & the other "P" word.....
Now, let me be honest for a minute. I don't think anyone replaces Sherrod Martin. I think he gets some much needed coaching and turns it around. I don't think Norman takes the #2 spot (I put my money on Hogan). I don't think Joe Adams is the slot receiver everyone else seems to think. He does have some nice return ability though and we'll see where that leads. I don't think Frank Alexander replaces Greg Hardy. Hardy played a lot of downs last season and he played injured.
I think we'll see improved play from a lot of our younger guys who were already Panthers last season. That being said, all of these rookies have a shot and that's where they make their mark by pushing everyone around them and being hungry for greatness. The coaches want players who bust their butt every play and work to get better. The reason the Panthers are headed for a dynasty is because of this change in mentality (and Cammy Cam Cam) and I'll bet my money that whichever players on the field (offense, defense, ST's, starters, rotational players, guys filling in for injury) are going to show us a level of competition that has been sorely missed in Carolina for many years now.
The other "P" word is predictions. After this week I'll be unable to read CSR for several months (probably late August) and it will surely be missed. You guys are great about sharing your football knowledge and just having fun and I appreciate that. Moving on, here are my predictions (from worst to first) for the NFCSouth in 2012:
4) The Saints are last in the division. Any team with Drew Brees is going to have a chance in every game; however, due mainly to poor drafting I think their defense is about to take a huge step back. Furthermore, every other defense in the NFCSouth made significant improvements this offseason. In summary, I think Mr. "I-had-no-idea-there-was-a-bounty-system" is in for a long season. Let me also end this by saying that I still think they have some success and squeeze out 8-8 and blame it all on Goodell
3) The Bucs take 3rd in the division and go 10-6. This was tough to predict. Tampa Bay has a new coach and a lot of new players so I'm not sure how well they mesh out of the gate. Sprinkle in the face that they have a tough first quarter schedule (Car, @Giants, @Cowboys, Skins) and this is by far my biggest stretch; however, Greg Schiano has some swag and if they can make it 2-2 out of this I think they will be a threat down the stretch.
2) The Falcons - It's really tough to predict this team because they have no identity. I was born in Atlanta so they have always been my second team but there are a lot of Falcons games that just leave me... puzzled. If Mike Smith finally shows some flexibility and gets away from the power running game then they can play with anyone. They still need Michael Turner but you can tell he is running on fumes. I put Falcons ahead of Bucs due to experience but if the Falcons are too stubborn to get away from the power running team that they are not; you can knock off a couple wins and switch TB & ATL (10-6)
1) You betchya... It's Panther time baby. Give the coaches more time with their players, not only to teach but also to push and see the glory that transpires. Last season was the beginning of this new Panther mentality; this season it takes off. I think we see huge strides out of a lot of those young guys mentioned before and there is no way that Ron Rivera and our defense underperform 2 years in a row. (11-5 at worst)
Other thoughts for this season is that the NFC South finally gets some recognition for the powerhouse it's becoming. Only other division like it is the AFC North and each game is going to be must see TV. Is this post slightly homerish? Sure, but I think there's a lot of truth in there too. If you stayed with me to the end I applaud you for that. I'm looking forward to the future, in my personal & Panther lives, with excitement while keeping in mind that it's not about the destination; it's about the ride. Enjoy this offseason Panther fans; I'll see you in August.