Caulton Tudor

Panthers need to upgrade offense

Posted January 13
Updated January 27

Aside from hiring an assistant coach in charge of anger management, the Carolina Panthers’ front office folks need to spend a lot of offseason time addressing offensive needs.

Sunday’s 23-10 playoff loss to San Francisco was eerily similar to the way the Panthers opened the season on Sept. 8 – a 12-7 loss to Seattle in Charlotte.

In both cases, the Panther defense played well enough to win headline games against NFL powers, although there was a costly communication pass coverage breakdown involving defensive backs Captain Munnerlyn and Robert Lester Sunday. It resulted in a long completion to set up a 49ers touchdown.

But generally, the Panther defense was solid throughout the season, and that was after several early-season injuries forced the defensive backfield to be remodeled on the run.

Those defensive backs – along with receiver Steve Smith (as usual) – had a complete emotional meltdown that significantly undermined execution and field position against the 49ers. But that problem almost certainly will be resolved pronto, even if it means parting ways with team fixture Smith. There is no way whatsoever that owner Jerry Richardson will put up with players who fancy themselves as the Oakland Raiders of the East Coast.

Caveman offenses high-risk, low reward

Improving the offense will be a lot more complicated than implementing a no-thugs disciplinary mandate.

That offensive process has to start with General Manager Dave Gettleman, head Coach Ron Rivera and Offensive Coordinator Mike Shula.

Those three men need to revise their basic thinking at the very least, but more likely need to bring in at least two or three personnel weapons to boot.

The theory that top-line opponents can be defeated if the offense simply eats clock long enough to give the defense time to create easy scoring opportunities simply doesn’t work regularly.

Against the 49ers, quarterback Cam Newton obviously was Shula’s Plan A, B and C in short-yardage situations, and the 49ers learned as much immediately.

Newton’s legs allowed him to convert on a few third downs between the 20 yard lines. But in the scoring zone, the 49er defense knew what was coming and repeatedly stopped it, particularly inside the 5-yard-line.

It was a caveman offensive strategy that (A) didn’t work and (B) eventually will get Newton hurt to the extent that games will hinge on the play of a backup quarterback.

Aside from Newton, the Panthers’ most reliable playmakers are a tight end (Greg Olsen), a versatile kick-return specialist (Ted Ginn), a fullback/tailback (Mike Tolbert) and the 34-year-old Smith, who is nearing the end of his career.

Running backs DeAngleo Williams and Jonathan Stewart are past their prime, too.

And among the most promising younger players, only wide-out Brandon LaFell actually has delivered much pop. Rookie running back Kenjon Barner rarely got a game rep.

With the 30th pick in the draft, the Panthers aren’t likely to come up with one of the top-rated running backs or wide outs, but it might still be a smart move to draft one even it means skipping over promising defenders.

The Panthers need to remind themselves that several of the league’s best running backs – Philadelphia’s LeSean McCoy, Kansas City’s Jamaal Charles, Green Bay’s Ed Lacy and Chicago’s Matt Forte – were not first-round picks. The Chiefs actually got Charles out of Texas in the third round of the 2008 draft.

Compared to expectations, the Panthers’ 12-5 final record was remarkable, and Rivera did more than enough to keep his job.

But the Panthers haven’t established themselves as a title contender enough to stand pat. They need to proactive, if for no other reason than the possibility that the NFC South will be much tougher next season.

Remember Atlanta went 4-12 after having gone 14-4 in 2012. New Tampa Bay coach Lovie Smith has averaged 9.3 wins per season in nine previous seasons as an NFL head coach. New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees is showing no signs of losing his talent.

The Panthers likely will need to be a better team just to match this season’s results.

38 Comments

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  • TJPC Jan 13, 12:46 p.m.

    The team showed a lack of discipline and a lack of self control with multiple personal fouls. Also, clearly Cam has a long way to go as a QB. The NC pundits had talked for the last 2 weeks about how he had arrives as a top ranked QB in the NFL. This is hardly the truth. He is not a natural drop back QB and if the defense shuts down the run game, the Panthers are in big trouble.

  • Redleader2base Jan 13, 12:51 p.m.

    It doesn't matter how intelligent of an offense they want. As long as Scam Newton is the quarterback a caveman offense is the best your going to get. It's well known he can't run a complicated offense. This is what happens when you spoon feed a quarterback for too long. He has extreme physical talents. But not the brain to back it up.

  • Obamacare prevails again Jan 13, 12:52 p.m.

    Cry babies. I hope they never make the playoffs again for the rest of the franchise's sorry existence.

  • JimW Jan 13, 1:07 p.m.

    Gettleman is 10 times the GM that Hurney ever dreamed of being. This franchise is only going to get better as all of the TERRIBLE contracts Hurney put in place are gone. All that big money tied up in DWilliams and JStewart should be spent on the OL. If Steve Smith wants a big contract, I guarantee you he will be gone.

    The Panthers haven't been able to go after anyone big in free agency for years because of Hurney's cap disaster. Soon that will be different. The future is bright. SF nearly won it all last year, people freaking out about this loss are ridiculous. This team won TWELVE games this year. Rivera has done a great job and hopefully next year the experience will help them and they won't run into a buzzsaw in their first game. SF is legit...major talent and experience all over that roster.

  • Obamacare prevails again Jan 13, 1:13 p.m.

    Feel free to remove your tampon now Munnerlyn. Who is this loud mouth scrub anyhow?

  • Obamacare prevails again Jan 13, 1:20 p.m.

    Wah...wah....wah.....Captain Tampon.

  • clearwaterman Jan 13, 1:26 p.m.

    Trade Cam and the has beens for some first and second round picks!

  • Gatsby Jan 13, 1:31 p.m.

    Did Rivera & Harbaugh finish the embrace with a kiss?

    Gee...Its making me want to pull back

    Talk about a "close talker"

  • Obamacare prevails again Jan 13, 1:43 p.m.

    Did Rivera & Harbaugh finish the embrace with a kiss?
    Gee...Its making me want to pull back
    Talk... View More

    — Posted by Gatsby

    Looks like Rivera tried to kiss him, but Harbaugh wanted no part of it.

  • Tarheel Takeover Jan 13, 1:43 p.m.

    Panthers is in need of a running back. D' Angelo Williams time needs to be up. Frank Gore didn't do much but at least he is still a threat. You got to have that threat. And if you're going to run Cam up the midle on the 1 yd line. Go 4 or 5 wide to loosin up the D in the middle if not run Cam on the outside with the option to pass.

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