Ah yes. Running with a solid defense and depending on the ground game to succeed in the NFL. It's a Carolina Panthers success story that worked for both Super Bowl teams and all four conference championship appearances. The Carolina Panthers will be depending on the grunts to carry the team in accordance with the history of playing it safe, managing the clock (uh oh), and delivering on the big hits we all know and love. The Carolina Panthers receivers will enter this season underrated as the revamped offensive line and new OC develop a style of football that should look different from the NFL.
The good news is the Carolina Panthers were already on the right track to building a decent smashmouth team anyway. The bad news is the rest of the league is headed in the same direction trying to copy the success stories of the Rams and Bengals last year. One of the problems of teams that win Super Bowls is that imitators come with them by studying what happened.
It's rare for pretenders to become contenders but it's not out of the question as long as the team is working in favor of what they already have. An offense with a strong passing talent should throw the football. An offense with a strong running game should run the football. A fast defense should chase the football. A hard-hitting defense should chase the player.
So are the Carolina Panthers working in the best interest of the organization by applying a smash mouth strategy? It failed miserably last season for the offense. That is because they had an offense built for speed and aggression. They were not built to run the ball to the ground. The players did not at all match what the coaching staff was trying to do. This year, the Carolina Panthers offense still has some of that same speed but they are better by trying to punch their way to the top rather than shoot their way to the top. By focusing on the ground work, an opportunity can arise to utilize the speed the receivers have in little doses with big results.
The offensive line and the rest of the crew are more built to what the Panthers tried to do last season. Two key pieces are still needed however. That is why my enthusiasm is limited for 2022 for now. The most important need is for a reliable fullback. The Panthers need a big guy to fill that role to protect both the run game and the quarterback as well as to dish big hits on the defenses raiding the line of scrimmage. If the Carolina Panthers are going to play this game, at least learn from the teams that did it correctly with Mike Alstott, Lorenzo Neal, and Brad Whoever.
The other big need is quarterback. It's not that I do not believe in Sam Darnold. It's that I believe Darnold either needs time with patience or he needs competition. If the Panthers want to wait until Sam Darnold is ready to develop into what he needs to become, then the team should return Cam Newton and let him finish off his career at home, where he deserves to be. (This time make sure he has an offensive line. Even 2015 Cam needed an offensive line and don't you think he didn't get it.)
Anyway, more realistically, Darnold needs to get some competition around him. He cannot just be blindly handed the keys again. The Panthers have to know this is their future, whether it's Darnold or somebody else. If Darnold can win now with what the Panthers have, then we can know by putting time constrained pressure on him. The guy can finally have something the Jets and Panthers never gave him: an offensive line. It seems to me the major issues are for the most part at least handled except for those two places. So that part is good.
But the rest of the league is headed for what the Panthers are doing. It is hard to say whether the Panthers will be able to make it work this season. On paper, things look great. But this game is not played on paper. Keep up the comments with input on who can fill the team's needs in this year's roster.
Also, I am interested in anyone's takes on what undrafted players you think the Panthers should consider.