Carolina Panthers: 5 Players Facing Make-or-Break NFL Seasons in 2013
The Carolina Panthers
Each of the past two years has seen the Carolina Panthers finish below .500, but they have ended both seasons on positive notes. The question is, will they continue to climb the ladder in 2013?
After losing eight of their first 10 games to begin the 2011 season, the Panthers went 4-2 over their final six contests to finish 6-10. They followed that up by ending the 2012 campaign with five wins in their last six games, including four consecutive victories to close out a year in which they posted an overall record of 7-9.
No matter what their records have been in recent seasons, the Panthers have been very competitive, losing a plethora of close games. As a matter of fact, of their nine losses last season, seven were by six points or less.
Carolina has talent, there's no doubt about it. It has a franchise quarterback, a talented running back duo and one of the best defensive front sevens in the NFL. This host of players, among others, has helped the Panthers defeat several playoff teams over the past two years.
Nevertheless, there is obviously still room for improvement, even among some of the aforementioned players. If the Panthers hope to continue their upward trend and compete for a playoff spot during the upcoming season, it is absolutely necessary for everyone to play at an even higher level, especially some of their key guys.
Here is my list of 5 players for the Panthers who will be facing make-or-break NFL seasons in 2013.
After a record-breaking rookie campaign, quarterback Cam Newton had a dismal start to the 2012 season. Carolina's former No. 1 draft pick needs to bounce back from somewhat of a sophomore slump and prove that he is worthy of all the hype he has received over the years.
Defensive end Greg Hardy likes to run his mouth -- a lot. The thing is, he always seems to back up his confident words with solid play. And given that he has dropped some weight and recently said that he wants to become even more unstoppable, it's definitely time to put up or shut up.
The Panthers have a lot of faith in 28-year-old wide receiver Ted Ginn, who they signed in free agency, despite the fact that he has mainly served as a kick returner during his six seasons in the league. They'll likely look for him to do more great work from that position while also having a career year catching passes.
Eight-year pro DeAngelo Williams has been the Panthers' starting running back for most of his career, but last season was certainly a disappointment, as he totaled just 737 yards and five touchdowns on the ground. It is imperative for the 5-foot-9, 215-pounder to build off the 210-yard, two-touchdown effort he put up in last year's season finale against the New Orleans Saints.
Speaking of running backs, Jonathan Stewart teamed with Williams to create a 1-2 punch that combined for over 2,200 rushing yards in 2009. It is important for the bowling ball-like player to stay healthy and experience that type of success once again so that he and his partner in crime can take some pressure off their young signal caller.