Three reasons the Carolina Panthers could struggle in 2013

John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

There is a lot to be excited for, but there are significant pitfalls the Panthers need to avoid this year.

It feels like the Carolina Panthers are headed in the right direction for the first time in a while. They needed someone to clean house, and Dave Gettleman has done so, while ensuring he doesn't throw the baby out with the bathwater. Roster turnover has freed up enough cap room to breathe, while a talented rookie class brings promise. However, not everything is perfect in Charlotte. Yesterday we looked at three reasons the Panthers will improve, and today we swing in the other direction.

If you find the insinuation of negativity an affront on a Panthers' blog, just hit the 'X' in the top right hand corner. This isn't about slamming the team, or being a Debbie-Downer, but instead being a little more realistic about where the team can slip up.

1. Ron Rivera is still head coach

This is it for Ron Rivera -- the Alamo. After two straight years of a talented roster under-performing, he needs to prove that he's the man to take the Panthers to the next level. The players love him, he motivates the roster, and is a hands-on teacher -- but the same characteristics could be equally applied to former Bears' teammate Mike Singletary.

The 49ers defense loved Singletary, and his no-nonsense approach resonated with the team. However, this didn't translate into success on the field. After three seasons he finished 18-22, a 0.462 win percentage -- Ron Rivera is sitting at 0.406.

It took Jim Harbaugh to inherit the under-achieving roster and turn them into the juggernaut they are today. Sure, he's made significant improvements, but a lot of the stars San Francisco have right now were already on the roster -- they just needed to be harnessed.

Rivera's in-game management leaves a lot to be desired. It was easy to defend late-game passivity early in his tenure, now the lack of killer instinct has become a calling card of the Panthers. He has to get the team off to a quick start, or could find himself out of a job.

2. There's no guarantee Mike Shula is any good

It's your prerogative to believe Shula was the best candidate available to take over from Rob Chudzinski, but selling continuity is a cop out -- especially on a sub-500 team. Instead of choosing to go with a candidate with multiple years of experience in the modern NFL, instead they hired internally.

Less is more, and Chud was obsessed with excess -- however, it's too reductive to think that switching to Shula is addition by subtraction. Sure, maybe the light has turned on for a coach who has (pretty much) failed at everything outside of tutoring quarterbacks, but that's blind hope. The chance of the light-bulb moment is eclipsed by the chance he's Jeff Davidson 2.0, even if that's hard to swallow.

The offensive talent is there, but it has to be handled properly in order to get success. While Chud was far too creative with the offense, it's more dangerous to hand this team to someone with no creativity.

3. Secondary depth is better, but it's still ugly

Dave Gettleman's belief in the 'rush to stop the pass' makes a lot of sense, but the Panthers still have huge issues in their secondary. As it stands they have three nickel backs in Florence, Moore, and Munnerlyn -- then a bunch of very questionable players who are still being developed into NFL talents.

Yes, the defense stuck together without Chris Gamble, but this could have been an anomaly. Furthermore, the odds that Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy will combine for another 20.0 sack season isn't very good. That's not a knock on those players, but they will be schemed for more heavily. This means there's no guarantee the rush to stop the pass scheme will work -- it's just not reliable until the entire front four work in unison.

Overall the Panthers are stronger at their #2 and #3 corner spots, but vastly weaker at their #1 -- and there's no telling who will play the SS spot, or whether they'll be any good.

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