As NFL fans prepare to watch the Super Bowl in two weeks, one can’t help but observe the teams playing in it and how they got there. The Patriots dominated with record setting seasons by Tom Brady, who broke Dan Marino’s season passing record along with 2 other quarterbacks this year, and Rob Gronkowski who had maybe the best receiving season by a tight end ever.
With Carolina’s talented tight ends Greg Olsen and Jeremy Shockey, maybe the Carolina Panthers should take some plays out of the Patriot’s playbook and generate that Gronkowski-esque downfield movement. If they keep finding ways for Cam to balance run and pass by running out of more two tight end Sets, then they have bigger bodies to block on run plays and bigger targets to hit on pass plays.
The Panthers definitely need to strengthen their defensive crew this off-season, but it is hard to ignore their offensive possibilities. It is unlikely Cam Newton has a better second year than rookie year is, especially now that defenses will focus on him even more. But at the same time, what has happened every time somebody doubted Cam’s ability on the field? What happened last year when all the talking heads said Cam couldn’t throw? Cam makes his naysayers look stupid pretty much every time.
Rivera gathered some familiar coaches around him on defense and special teams, and if Rivera takes some cues from the Patriots offense, then maybe the Panthers could be a dark-horse playoff team next year. They already have the quarterback for the job, and with a solid draft this off-season it is not out of the realm of possibility. Cam kept them in games last year that the defense would end up losing at the end; if the Panthers can get better on both sides of the ball, then the sky is the limit for them next year.
The health of Greg Olsen and Jeremy Shockey health is obviously the most important aspect to a two tight end game-plan. Additionally, the Patriot’s system should be tweaked to Cam Newton’s strengths, because they weren’t the third best rushing attack in the NFL because of their running backs. But if they are able to get the passing game at the same level as the running game, then it would create an offense terribly difficult to defend. Rivera should watch the Patriots on February 5th with interest and possibly even jot down a play or two to bring to training camp.