It's 5am Monday, week of our first preseason game, and here I am awake. I'm worried. Not intending to be Negative Nelly here; rather, I need some encouragement. I need you guys and gal to tell me why I shouldn't be worrying about all of these things as we prepare for a run to the playoffs and beyond in this 2012 NFL campaign.
I need some sleep! Help a brotha out, and tell me why I should NOT be worried about...
1. Our brutal schedule. Giants, Cowboys, Broncos, Chargers, Bears, Falcons x2, Saints x2, and the Iggles. 10 of our games are against potential playoff teams. Have the Panthers improved enough to hope for double digit wins against this slate of opponents??
2. WR #2. I am not convinced Brandon LaFell is going to take a step to a quality #2 receiver. While I love his occasional big-play catches, I don't see him getting open consistently. Having lost Jeremy Shockey, this position becomes more important this year, as Cam (and Smitty) needs multiple legit, open receiving threats.
3. Defensive depth. When I look at our defensive depth chart, I am worried. I like our depth at DE, and adding Nakamura helps provide some support at safety. I do not like our depth at DT, LB (unless we are fortunate to have a fully healthy Thomas Davis and Jon Beason, which is hopeful, but not probable), or CB. We are yet to see if we have a legitimate #2 Cornerback on the roster, and we are one Ron Edwards injury away from being susceptible to being gashed by the run, as we were last year.
4. High expectations. You know where I'm headed here. When was the last time we were expecting big things from the Carolina Panthers, and they came through with a big year? Yeah, 2004 and 2009 were especially disappointing. Was that just bad luck, or a Foxy thing? Is it truly a new Riv-era?? I've been fooled more than once the last decade, will it be different this year?
5. Opie. I am as worried as much about this as anything really. I don't know that Sean McDermott is a good enough Defensive Coordinator. Jim Johnson his mentor was. Head Coach Ron Rivera was. But the Eagles fired Sean. And last year 3 injured players resulted in a bad year for our defense. Do we have in Opie a quality DC?
I don't know, and I'm worried.
Let me hear you optimistic Panther fans! I need some sleep, fast!