Can Carolina Panthers Build on Late Season Success from 2012?

John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

In a season that started off as an atrocity for the Carolina Panthers, 2012 ended with four consecutive wins–as well as five out of the last six–against some quality opponents. It gave Panthers’ fans some hope that this was a team on the rise and not falling even further behind three division opponents that were all improving.

The question heading into the 2013 season is can the Panthers build on the foundation of solid play that they laid down at the end of last season, or will a new year bring a whole new set of problems?

If you look up and down the free agent list from this offseason, the Panthers’ name is conspicuously absent, with the only significant addition being defensive back D.J. Moore, and no real significant Carolina departures. While on defense, the Panthers have every reason to feel safe standing pat, the number of needs on offense could have been met during the busy free agent period.

Offensive Line, wide receiver and backup quarterback are all things that the Panthers will have to address if they do want to keep the positive momentum from the end of last season going, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

The continued maturing process of starting QB Cam Newton, and the hope that top WR Steve Smith still has enough left in the tank to pull out one more great season are both going to be key factors in how far the Panthers will go this year. Behind those two players, also lies the issue of how to better integrate the Panthers’ run game–other than Newton–into the offense to provide more balance.

The Panthers’ draft will provide some answers, as they are sure to address offensive line and skill player needs, but it might not be enough. But one thing that is certain, another 2-8 start to the season will probably spell the end of Ron Rivera‘s tenure as the Panthers’ head coach.

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