I know what you're thinking, why is this headline on a Carolina Panthers website? The phrase "big three" is bounced around all too much in the NBA, but let's switch it up and toss around the idea, Cat Scratch Reader style. The summer is the best time for NFL hypothetical s anyway, so put on your Marty Hurney thinking caps and answer this question. What players would you nominate to represent the Panther's "big three"?
From a physical and skill basis, Cam Newton is as elite as they come, with a poise that few dared to predict. Statistically Newton had the greatest rookie campaign a NFL QB has ever had, justifying his selection to the trio, even as 2nd year player in the league. don't expect Cam to improve upon his rookie season statistically, but rather in the leadership and decision making department. Neither leadership nor decision making are major concerns for Cam, they just represent areas to look for improvement. At times last season, Cam would make a bad decision or two, but what I loved about him, was that he rarely made the game changing epic mistake. The mistakes that plaque good signal callers across the NFL, like Tony Romo and Phillip Rivers, who just can't escape the inevitable. For Cam this distinction would just be another accolade along his journey to become an icon. Cam Newton is the Lebron James of the NFL, and the sun of the Panthers' "big three" solar system. From this point forward, everything in this organization is revolving around the budding star.
When you can say you have won the triple crown for a wide receiver in the NFL, you're in hallowed company that includes only Sterling Sharpe, Jerry Rice, and member two of the Panthers "big three". Five Pro Bowl selections, and three selections to the All Pro team are the calling cards of Panthers big play man, Steve Smith, better known as just Smitty. I like to think of him as the Tasmanian Devil of the team. He seems to be made of pure energy and while undersized, manages to pack a punch that few can withstand. His explosive ability combined with supreme route running skills, makes him one of the most dangerous weapons in all of the NFL. Off the field, Smitty matches the intensity with honesty, humility, and hard work. He is admired by nearly all of Panther nation, from ownership to fans. While it may be true that Steve Smith has never been the face of the franchise, he has been the heart for as long as I can remember.
It would appear that Ryan Kalil, one of the best centers in the league, and highest paid, is vying for my final spot. His purchase of a full page ad in the Charlotte Observer, proclaiming a Super Bowl victory for the Panthers shows a commitment to the community and being a leader on this team.
While the effort is appreciated, it's not going to be enough big fella. Three Pro Bowls is pretty impressive for his resume but when push comes to shove, a Panther from the defensive side of the ball has to be represented. Hey Ryan, don't worry, it's no fun being the Bosh of the group anyway.
The last spot in my hypothetical "big 3" will go to the captain of the defense, Jon Beason AKA that guy who also predicted a super bowl victory, even before training camp. Beason has plenty of doubters to prove wrong, coming off a season ending injury, but I'm not one of them. He's the anchor of the Cats defense as well as a leader off the field. Expect him to return to full form as a potential Pro Bowler and fuel the defense past pathetic, to at least mediocre status, which may be all this team needs to evolve into a super bowl contender.
The trio of Cam Newton, Steve Smith, and Jon Beason has a healthy balance of elite talent and potential, mixed with elite intangibles and consistency. If we're going to point out a weakness, it would have to be the injury issue. While I'm not ready to call either Smith or Beason injury prone, it has to be noted they have both sustained season ending injuries during their careers.
What's great about this question, there's no right answer. Just like my next question, what's the greatest trio of Panthers all time, from any given season? Peppers, DWill, and Smitty were a pretty special combo in 2007, and take the cake for me personally, but I'd love to hear other options from the rest of CSR, so in the words of Pat Binetar, hit me with you best shot.
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