Panther Paw Prints: Next Step Edition

Today's issue to Paw Prints starts with an offseason report that includes some comments from your truly:

Panthers Offseason Report: Next Step For Cam Newton -
The defense struggled to stop the run and the pass, which makes for a deadly, if not obvious, combination. Opponents averaged 130 rushing yards and 246 passing yards against Carolina last year. They ranked dead last in defensive efficiency according to Football Outsiders' DVOA metric, coming dead last versus the run and 29th in defending the pass. They had just 31 sacks, but bringing pressure on quarterbacks is difficult with nothing more than gobs of wet paper towels in the middle of the defensive line and in the secondary.

Gobs of wet paper towels, too funny!

This predicted stat line for TE Gary Barnidge is nothing to laugh at:

Carolina Panthers' Tight End Situation - Cat Crave - A Carolina Panthers Fan Site - News, Blogs, Opinion and more.
Gary Barnidge Barnidge was supposed to be the next thing for the Panthers, until an injury sidelined for the entire season. The coaches talk very highly of him, and without much production history, that’s what I have to listen to. He will most likely be the No. 2 TE for the team, and over time could develop into one hell of a TE. Expect Barnidge to work towards a No. 1 spot in the future.

Prediction: 35 catches for 450 yards and 2 TD’s

That would be a nice season for the guy who had yet to make an impact.

Pat Y is conducting a series on the top players in the NFC and of course a few Panthers made the list:

NFC South top 25: No. 17 - NFC South Blog - ESPN
Why he’s No. 17 in 2012: With Newton’s career really just getting started, the common assumption is that the Panthers are going to throw the ball even more. I think the common assumption might be wrong. The Panthers recognize they have a rare talent in Newton and they’re not going to suddenly go back to the way it was under Fox. They’re going to throw the football, but I think they want to balance their running attack more into the offense. They’d be foolish not to since they’ve got backs like Stewart, Williams and running back/fullback Mike Tolbert. I’m looking for Chudzinski to find more opportunities for Stewart and Williams. Both are too talented to not at least be close to 1,000 rushing yards.

And now number #18:

NFC South top 25: No. 18 - NFC South Blog - ESPN

Why he’s No. 18 in 2012: Charles Johnson will turn 26 in July. He’s still young and there is plenty of room for him to grow as a pass-rusher. With a healthy Ron Edwards at defensive tackle, I think Johnson could see fewer blockers. Carolina trailed a lot of the time last season, so Johnson didn’t have a huge amount of opportunities for sacks. I think Carolina’s overall defense should be better and the offense can get this team some leads. That could force other teams to pass more often. That’s why I have little doubt Johnson will get back to producing double-digit sacks.

Does everybody know the Panthers have already had a Cam Newton on the squad? Here's a short piece on the first one who happended to open a Cross Fit-type of place in Newton's home town of ATL:

Newton's namesake has story to tell
"I really thought I had a good chance of making it with the Panthers," Newton said. "They kept a big board of big plays throughout training camp, and I was at the top of the board. But I understand it's a business."

I'm thinking the second Newton will stay a little longer.

I didn't realize this free agent signee had played so little the past two seasons:

Tucker driven to complete comeback
"The best thing is being back around family - and I don't just mean my personal family. This organization, with a coach like Ron Rivera who knows what I can do and is giving me an opportunity, is amazing," Tucker said. "When I finally got that call, on February 16 after being out of the game more than 600 days, it was a blessing."

There is no where to go but for the Panthers special teams:

Panthers' hidden treasure: Special teams - NFC South Blog - ESPN
Safety Haruki Nakamura, linebacker Kenny Onatolu and fullback Mike Tolbert all have been productive on the coverage units in previous stops. The Panthers also used two draft picks on two players they expect to be regulars on special teams. Wide receiver Joe Adams has excellent potential as a return man. The Panthers also drafted punter Josh Nortman, but the job doesn’t automatically belong to him. The Panthers also brought in veteran Nick Harris to compete with Nortman, after they released Jason Baker earlier in the offseason.

Here's a guy hoping to help with the ST improvement who is from Oklahoma but not THAT Oklahoma:

Onatolu takes unorthodox route to NFL

"He coached me in Minnesota, where I did real well on special teams, and he had a part in bringing me here," Onatolua said. "For a guy like me who played at a small school, went undrafted and played in Canada, special teams is everything. "If you're not a starter, you've got to be dominant on special teams. That's what has kept me around."

Here's a top o the glass to Onatolu continuing his special teams domination.

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