I took a deeper look into the Carolina Panthers team and realized that GM Marty Hurney and Coach Ron Rivera may have been on to something. If you take a look back at the 2011 season you can see that despite the two games we were totally out of the Panthers actually had a chance to win in every other game.
For the entire 2011 season the Panthers allowed an average of 4.6 yards per carry on the ground. For the problem to be partially blamed on the run defense its not that bad, although as a coach and a fan you would like to see it lower but factor in with the absence of All-Pro Jon Beason and Thomas Davis for the majority or the entirety of the season as well as poorly formed tackling the fact that so many people felt we needed to go DT in the draft shouldn't have been that serious...
As for the special teams unit Carolina did exactly what they needed to do in free agency and via the draft to address this area. This unit really did under perform last year which is crucial to the success of any team. Now the obvious would be to put a BIG mark on kicker Olindo Mare with his lack luster kicking performance throughout the season(21 0f 41), but lets take a look at the coverage unit which didn't have much room to point the blame. The kickoff coverage gave up an average of 27.0 yard per return which in this league makes a QB much happier to start with some breathing room and enables the opposing coach to be more willing to open up the playbook a bit more without the scare of turning the ball over in a dangerous area. As for the punt coverage well that's another view.
When it comes to the punt coverage unit although they only gave up only an average of 13.3 yards per return they gave up those critical yards at the worst possible times throughout the season. The 3 punt returns that went for touchdowns where back breakers to our team which pretty much put those games away. With the additions of special teams aces and a few of our rookies that may improve the coverage as for the kicking game lets hope Mare has a rebound season in 2012. Also I really have a good feeling that our 4th round pick Joe Adams will impact of return game to where we can put our offense in better positions and dont forget about Kealoha Pilares the guy really came into his own the latter part of the season in that department.
Finally the most notable issue with the Carolina Panthers that is obvious to the most unknowledgable football fan is at the #2 CB position. Lets not worry about Chris Gamble, he as established himself as a #1 corner. As for the other side it has been a rotating door for quite sometime now. Captain Munnerlyn is a wonderful nickel back at most but to have him starting is ridiculous. He brings the fire to the team that is needed and I am a big fan of the undersized man rising above his doubters however he has had the time to prove his doubters wrong and that time has passed. From watching the Panthers last season it is clear to see that every opposing QB knew which side to throw to which put alot of pressure on Munnerlyn to perform, being out sized was not a benefit to him either. I think that this spot will come down to Brandon Hogan and 5th round pick Josh Norman. Hogan isnt much taller than Munnerlyn only standing at 5-11 but weighs alittle more and is said to be a bit more agile and faster than Munnerlyn. As for Norman the guy stands at 6-0 190lbs only one inch shorter and 10lbs lighter than Chris Gamble. Now im not saying he is going to be as good as Gamble but i will say as a fomer QB myself its much different strategically and mentally to see a shorter CB on one side rather than see two 6ft+ CBs matched up against your receivers.
To sum the 2012 Carolina Panthers up I feel that they have done the things that needed to be done to return to the post season. The last time I remember the panthers had a similar draft like this one was in 2003 formed with some free agents some people didn't know much about notably ( Jake Delhomme) the Cardiac Cats were born and the first Superbowl appearance in franchise history came to panther fans. With a sure fire franchise QB and an offense that's bringing back all there weapons and a defense that is bringing back key players with the addition of others. As well as a special teams unit that should be much improved this season I am proud to be a die hard panthers fan. I say NFL look out for the 2012 Carolina Panthers. The Cardiac Cats are no more, this team has a pulse and its beating faster and faster. The sleeping giant is about to awake and wreck havoc!!!