Through two weeks of the young NFL season, the Carolina Panthers have shown gritty determination despite losing in heartbreaking fashion in back to back weeks. Unfortunately, gritty determination has not been enough to get them the win, and when you have Cam Newton for a quarterback, this just is not acceptable.
Newton took the NFL by storm two years ago, breaking and setting rookie records in what seemed like a weekly fashion. It was a magical rookie season and the world appeared to be Cam’s oyster, but somehow the Newton train has derailed and the Panthers are now starting the season 0-2.
Head coach Ron Rivera was on the hot seat last season, so you can imagine how warm his rear is starting to feel right now. Newton had made it clear that he intended on saving his coach’s job this year, but has been unable to make the plays when it matters the most.
All of the blame does not fall on the young quarterback’s shoulders though. Newton can only make half of the play. He also needs his teammates to come through and be reliable, too.
We expect guys like Steve Smith and Greg Olsen to step up and be playmakers, but someone else needs to take advantage of the opportunities that are presenting themselves to the Panthers players. Ted Ginn’s three catches for 62 and a touchdown against the Bills was a great start, but he could also be seen dogging it on plays and halfheartedly attempting to make catches. Brandon LaFell disappeared, and there was no one else to step up and make a play.
The defense lost several key players against the Bills, but they had a six-point lead with just over a minute and a half left and gave it away to a rookie quarterback. The loss was just as heartbreaking as the one they suffered in Week 1 against the Seattle Seahawks.
A good part of the blame should rest on the front office. Carolina has been struggling with cap space for the last several seasons, and they have not been able to add any talent to a roster that desperately needs an upgrade. Whether through free agency, in the draft or from within, the Panthers have to put weapons around Newton or the results are going to remain the same.
One bright note after Week 2 is the production of DeAngelo Williams, who at 30 years of age has shown he still has some gas left in his tank. Williams has racked up 171 yards in two games, but he has yet to reach the end zone. He also put the ball on the ground in Week 1, ending any hope the Panthers had of winning their season opener.
As long as you have talent like Newton, Olsen and Smith, there will always be a chance to be in any game. Starting out 0-2 is not what the Panthers expected, but it is where they are. They will need to take the grit and determination a step further if they want to salvage this season, and it needs to happen in Week 3.