Just let me preface this by saying that I’m probably going to get some cruel comments, because I haven’t bought what this team was selling from the moment they decided to tie up $81 million on their running back duo. They’re fine players, no doubt, but to put that much of a cap hit on a position like that is just foolish. Especially when your defense was in major need of an upgrade.
However, this has little to do with grading how the Panthers did in the first quarter of the 2012 season that see them sitting at 1-3 and looking at another season of focusing on the rebuild. There have been a couple of games that could have broke their way, but their youth and depth issues may have been the deciding factor. Let’s take a closer look at what was a forgettable quarter of the season for the Panthers now.
When you have that much coin tied up in your one-two running back punch, as well as a quarterback who isn’t scared to run the ball, you should have a team that is leading the league in rushing, or be somewhere near the top. But Carolina currently ranks 11th in the league running the football at a clip of 122 yards per game average. You might think that isn’t awful, but when you look closer at the numbers, you might not like what you find.
The high price tag that Jonathan Stewart earned has only generated 91 yards in two games, as his counterpart DeAngelo Williams has 167 yards in four games. With what those guys are earning, you’d think the Panthers would be a rush first team. However, the offense is run through sophomore sensation Cam Newton and he likes to throw the ball as much as run it.
The sobering realization of their struggles to run the ball at the running back position is the number of yards Cam has on the ground; 167. Look familiar? Yep, that’s identical to the output Williams has earned so far. That’s the kind of thing that gets your quarterback just beat to a pulp. Ask Michael Vick how the pounding he took earlier in his career has dictated his poor durability since returning to the league.
However, as a whole, the offense has performed okay, even if unbalanced. Newton has struggled a bit more than he did as a rookie, as expected, but they have been able to move the ball consistently and they’re sitting at 13th in the league in overall offense. With the questionable scheme and game plan in place, some would argue that they’re overproducing. But they need to work on getting their turnovers down, as they’ve given the ball away 9 times this season already.
Now herein lies the real problem. Again, to tie up that much money in the back field when you have these holes on defense is a questionable move. If you have two stud running backs, trade one. Be it for picks or defensive help, it’s the better plan. Especially when you already have a mobile quarterback in place. Instead, Carolina went with the status quo and are fielding the 9th worst defense in the league.
Over the first four contests, the defense is allowing 394 yards per game and an average of about 27 points. They can’t get a team off the field on third down and other than Dwan Edwards and Charles Johnson, no one else on the defense seems to be capable of making a play or wrapping up for a tackle.
When your safety and your cornerback are leading your team in tackles, things might not be going well at stopping the run. Carolina is getting gashed up the middle and allowing an average of 135 yards per game on the ground. This has kept their offense off the field and kept the defense winded. Not a good combination.
I’m not going to really get down on this team more than I already have, because I didn’t see them as a threat of any sort this season. The team was a mess when Ron Rivera took over with a rookie quarterback and holes on both sides of the ball. I never saw it turning around in one season and all of those who did were just believing that Cam Newton could do everything by himself like he did at Auburn.
Carolina is still rebuilding and, at the least, still another year of good drafting away from being a threat in the NFC South. They also have some maturing to do, something that has drawn criticism from local media about the on-field celebrating antics some members of the team pull. But these kinds of growing pains are expected with such a young team.
Grade: C –
Filed under: Carolina Panthers