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From Chicken Poo to Chicken Salad: Cam Newton making it work with Jimmy Clausen's offense

In the midst of our good vibrations right now, I'm going to take you back a little bit to 2010- a rather dark, dark place for Panthers fans. Clausen played in 13 games that year, starting 10 of them, so 2013 is generally seen as his year. It was a time when the Panthers finished dead last in nearly all the major offensive categories. Still even the biggest Clausen dissenters would admit that little surrounded him talent-wise, and he was put in a position to fail.

It is interesting that 3 years later, not much has changed. Cam is the purple unicorn making this thing work: the team lives or dies by him. Earlier this summer, I asked if the Panthers were failing Cam Newton? Now I wish to take a look to see how similar our 2013 offense is to Clausen's 2010 dumpster fire 2-14 offense.

Running Backs

2010 Player 2013 Player Better, Same, or Worse
DeAngelo Williams DeAngelo Williams Slightly Better- Like a vintage wine, he's stepped it up in season #8, which is 90 in running back years. He only played 6 games in 2010 before going on IR
Johnathon Stewart Johnathon Stewart Worse- Started this season on PUP. Can't play until at least week 7
Mike Goodson Kenjon Barner Push- Very similar skill sets, and both have shown fumble issues. Barner has been out with injury to start the season.
Tyrell Sutton Armond Smith Push- Both are depth guys only
Tony Fiametta Mike Tolbert Better-. Big Mike's knock is not being a pure blocker. We've had trouble getting him the ball enough, but he has been a steady touchdown vulture in the redzone. Upgrade

Receivers

2010 Player 2013 Player Better, Same, or Worse
Steve Smith Steve Smith Slightly worse- Though it feels like it was less, Smitty still started 14 games in 2010. He is still a great WR and the heartbeat of the receiving corps, but he has noticeably slowed some at age 34
Brandon LaFell Brandon LaFell Inconclusive- He was expected to be better with more experience. Last week was the first time he put an exclamation point on the season. I will hold judgment until the next game, to see just what is the trend.
David Gettis Ted Ginn, Jr Slightly better. Gettis had size, Ginn has speed and more experience and it seems to be starting to click. I believe by the end of the season, he will have put his stamp down as a solid upgrade.
David Clowney Dominick Hixson Upgrade- Hixson is the better player, but it doesn't matter right now since neither saw/have seen the field. Could be a big deal if we have an injury.
Armanti Edwards Armanti Edwards Showed improvement in camp, but is still waiting on his first catch in 2013. 5 catches in 2012

Tight Ends

2010 Player 2013 Player Better, Same, or Worse
Jeff King Greg Olsen Much better- Olsen is better utilized by the staff, and is a clear upgrade
Dante Rosario Ben Hartsock Slightly worse- Rosario had 32 catches in 2010. Hartsock does not touch the ball, and is only used to cover Olsen's blocking deficiencies. This makes him somewhat of a liability.
Gary Barnidge Brandon Williams Push- Both were/are considered beasts waiting in the wings. Barnidge never got to back his up. Maybe Williams will.

Offensive Line

2010 Player 2013 Player Better, Same, or Worse
Jordan Gross Jordan Gross Slightly worse- Gross was a Pro-Bowler in 2010. He's declined some with age and probably won't make the Pro Bowl this year, but he is still an above average LT
Travelle Wharton* Amini Silatolu Push- Wharton was solid, but only started 9 games before going on IR. Amini has upside, but is a headscratcher right now. If he keeps playing like he did against the Giants, it'll be a potential upgrade.
Ryan Kalil Ryan Kalil Push- Pretty much the same guy. Pro Bowler in 2010. Looks like he's recovered from his injury in 2013
Mackenzie Bernadeau/ Geoff Schwartz* Chris Scott/ Travelle Wharton I'm really not sure what to say here. 2010 Schwartz is probably the best player, 2010 Bern the worst, followed by Chris Scott. Who is Chris Scott?
Geoff Schwartz/Gary Williams Byron Bell Worse- I would say 2010 was better here.

O-line Notes:
*In 2010, Bernadeau made 12 starts. He was initially removed from the RG position in late October after stinking it up. At that time, we slid Schwartz in from RT to RG, and started Gary Williams at RT. Williams made 11 total starts that year
*Wharton started 9 games, then went on IR in December
*Jeff Otah spent the entire season on IR (I know, digging up old wounds)

Summary:
After three years and three drafts, our only clear offensive upgrades are TE1 and FB. There appears to be some big potential at WR3 with Ginn. After that, the talent is about the same. In some cases, you could say the 2010 player was better (LG,RT,TE2). D-Will is having a solid season. But him and Stewart flip-flopping on IR makes RB a push right now. We have solid veterans in Gross and Smitty (LT,WR1) that are still above average, but have visibly diminished some the past few years. You could make a case that the talent is trending downward there. Still it is hopeful that after a lackluster start, Amini and LaFell build upon their week 3 performances and trend upward. That part is still inconclusive.

Cam Newton is still the chef at this establishment. He's done a pretty solid job with an offense not much more talented than our 2010 2-14 one. But for long-term success, give him some USDA prime to work with. He was drafted #1 overall and had the best statistical season ever for a rookie QB. Support the man with some blue-chip players. I hope Gettleman has taken some notes on what Jim Irsay has done in Indy, or even what Mike Brown (gasp) has done in Cinncinati lately for their franchise QBs.

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