By Allan Erickson
The Panthers had a lot of problems this past season and season ticket holders (such as myself,) and the remainder of the fan base are tired of the Panthers being stuck in a rut. Since Super Bowl 50 back in February of 2016, the Panthers are 29-35 in the regular season with only 1 trip to the postseason. There are 5 things the Panthers need to do to get back to their winning ways, and they need to happen in THIS order.
1- Keep Cam Newton under center.
The soon-to-be 31-year-old quarterback is still clearly the best option the Panthers have to win. Kyle Allen started out great, but in the latter stages of 2019, he was exposed for what he truly is- a backup quarterback. Allen attempted 31 passes over 22 yards this season and completed 5 of them. He also had a very hard time taking care of the football, as evidenced by his 16 interceptions and 13 fumbles compared to his 17 passing touchdowns. Allen is not the long-term or short-term solution for the Panthers. Will Grier gets a little bit of a pass, because he’s a rookie, didn’t have many reps with the starters, and got thrown into a dumpster fire for the last 2 weeks of the season. A lot of Panther fans think this team would be better off without Cam Newton; that’s simply not true. Cam brings confidence, an MVP, a Super Bowl appearance, and a moxy to the Panthers that no other quarterback on the current roster can. If the Panthers are still in “win-now” mode, then they must get QB1 back under center.
2- Bring in a Super Bowl-caliber head coach.
This should be clear. The Panthers have a combination of young dynamic players and veterans who know what it takes to win in this league. Now they need to find a coach with a championship pedigree who will come in, demand respect and put the players in the right positions to make this team successful again. There are a lot of rumors going around on who that could be, but I think I speak for Panther Nation when I say go find someone who’s been in this league and built consistent contenders, rather than roll the dice with a young, new, flashy head coach.
3- Build an offensive line-
Matt Paradis was our free-agent splash signing this year, taking the place of former Panther great Ryan Kalil. Paradis, along with the rest of his comrades on the offensive line were truly abysmal. Little-to-no time for the quarterback to get rid of the football, nothing ever developed downfield because whoever was playing quarterback spent the majority of the game running for their lives. Matt Paradis allowed 54 quarterback pressures in his career before coming to the Panthers. This season, he allowed 47. Let that sink in. Dennis Daley, Taylor Morton, and Darryl Williams all had terrible seasons. The one bright spot was rookie left-tackle Greg Little, though he missed a lot of time due to injury when he played healthy he was solid. The Panthers need their interior lineman to get back to what they had in 2015, smash-mouth football players who refused to be beaten in one-on-one matchups.
4- Switch back to a 4-3 defensive front-
The Panthers turned to a 3-4 defense for a lot of the season. After losing long-time outside linebacker Thomas Davis, the Panthers brought in Gerald McCoy, first-round pick Brian Burns, and tried to build around the existing parts, (Luke Keuchly, Shaq Thompson, KK Short, Dontari Poe, etc) and it just didn’t work. The Panthers were gashed by the run finishing 29th in rush defense. Ultimately, I believe that’s what sealed Ron Rivera’s fate. A defensive-minded head coach who couldn’t keep the flood gates from opening up on his defense. Most of the talented guys the Panthers have on the defensive side of the football have flourished in the 4-3 defensive scheme. Changing it did us no favors, it’s time to go back to what was working in the past.
5- Sign James Bradberry to a long-term deal.
Bradberry had another good season with a career-high 3 interceptions. Bradberry doesn’t get the headlines that most lockdown corners in the NFL do, but he’s had to earn it every single week since becoming a Panther. This guy matches up with Michael Thomas, Julio Jones, and Mike Evans for six out of sixteen games a year. No, he hasn’t completely shut them down, but Bradberry only allowed one touchdown all year. And when you go against guys like that on a weekly basis, you’ve more than proven your worth to an organization that had to bench 2nd round pick, Donte Jackson, due to a subpar sophomore season. Nobody knows what the future holds for Donte Jackson, but the Panthers could sure up one side of the field by signing Bradberry to a big-money long-term deal, which could change the way Donte Jackson goes about his business, in hopes of getting a similar deal when his contract is up.
The Carolina Panthers have a frustrated fan base and these 5 offseason moves will determine whether or not they compete next season, or I have to sit down and write the exact same article. The Panthers aren’t going to find their franchise quarterback in this year’s draft barring a trade. Next season will be imperative for the Panthers to get back to their winning ways, and this is the offseason formula to make that happen.
Until next time, y’all Keep Pounding; and remember it’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice.