At the end of Week 8 in the 2012 season the Carolina Panthers were a 1-6 team with no defense and an offense that relied way too much on QB Cam Newton to carry their team. They finished the season with four straight victories that probably saved head coach Ron Rivera‘s job. They had some great defensive efforts highlighted by rookie LB Luke Kuechly and Newton played extremely well down the stretch.
This is a very important off-season for the Panthers. They need a lot of defensive help, better offensive linemen and more weapons for Newton. In the first round, the Panthers must draft a wide receiver. Steve Smith is getting old and he can no longer be the No. 1 guy in Carolina. He should still be on the team because he is a threat, but picking somebody like Clemson WR DeAndre Hopkins is a must.
The Panthers are pretty solid at running back with the two headed monster of Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams, but they need better blockers up front. This is something that can be addressed via free agency because they need to get younger on defense first. So, they pick up a corner back with their second round pick. I will suggest Rutgers CB Logan Ryan. Some draft analysts have him going very high and others see him falling, but if he is the best available when the 44th pick is up, there is no shame in picking him.
The Panthers also lost their offensive coordinator to the Cleveland Browns. This is not that big of a deal, any smart coach would love to come in and coach Newton. He still has a tendency to play like a college quarterback and when he turns that corner I would hate to be the team playing him.
I see the Panthers finishing 7-9 again next year if they don’t make the necessary adjustments. The team already has faith in Newton, but it’s time to surround him with players, so he can make a run at the 2014 playoffs.
Follow Kase Brammer on Twitter @KBlive33