The 2018 offseason has definitely been a memorable one for the Carolina Panthers franchise. From the controversial sale of the team to several questionable offseason moves, the Panthers fanbase has been moaning and groaning for most of the year so far. Typically, fans are excited about their team making the playoffs and providing hope for a championship. Carolina just did that in the 2017 season as they went 11-5 and made the playoffs. Unfortunately, this offseason has brought a cloud of doubt over the franchise and personnel decisions have left both fans and pundits scratching their heads. The following is a list of the most popular complaints from Carolina Panthers fans and the fake odds that I have associated with each gripe:
No Reliable Quarterback Behind Cam Newton (-1000)
As long as the team has Cam Newton and a great defense, they have a chance to compete for the NFC South division. But, what would happen to the team if Cam Newton gets injured and misses games? The Carolina Superman is not getting any younger. Although he’s still on the right side of 30, Newton is taking a pounding each season and that’s largely due to his style of play. However, despite being one of the league’s best quarterbacks, he’s not immune to injury.
Last year, Newton had offseason surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff in his throwing arm. Cam missed most of the offseason, the preseason, and was very rusty in the beginning of the 2017 regular season. Although Cam was able to get back into top form during the season, this injury proved that Mr. Newton isn’t invincible.
Since 2011, Newton’s backup has been Derek Anderson. The 35-year old QB won’t wow you with his skills, but he did provide the team with a veteran backup option. And, for 2018, that option is gone. The Panthers chose to part ways with Anderson leaving the team with two, unproven backups: Garrett Gilbert and Taylor Heinicke. Neither of these young quarterbacks has one regular season start between them. So, how could the Panthers front office really feel confident in their backup QB situation?
I believe they’re banking on Newton to play all 16 games again, just like he’s done in 5 of his 7 seasons in the league. However, that’s a risky gamble and one that’s not sitting well with the fans. With that in mind, this complaint could reach a fever pitch if Newton gets hurt during the 2018 season. In fact, if Cam does get injured, the season is over.
No Depth at the Tight End Position (-500)
If it weren’t for a lack of veteran experience behind Cam Newton being the biggest complaint so far, a lack of depth at the tight end position behind Greg Olsen would be the top gripe and groan from Panthers fans.
Greg Olsen is still one of the best tight ends in the league. He posted three straight 1,000 yard seasons from 2014-2016 before missing most of the 2017 season with a foot injury. Ed Dickson filled in admirably until Olsen could return. Unfortunately, Dickson left the Panthers and signed with the Seahawks.
Behind Olsen on the tight end depth chart is Ian Thomas and Chris Manhertz. What happens if Olsen gets injured this year? Will the Panthers turn to a rookie and a young journeyman to fill in at the TE position?
Ian Thomas was selected in the 4th round of the 2018 NFL Draft out of Indiana. His collegiate numbers were pedestrian at best, but Carolina believes in his potential at 6’3”, 260 pounds. Chris Manhertz has two seasons in the league and a career total of 3 receptions for 27 yards.
This lack of depth is scary and it’s why Panthers fans have been freaking out over the lack of proven depth behind Olsen. You can bet that the fans will erupt with frustrations if Olsen misses any amount of time and the team has to turn to one of these unproven players.
The Secondary Could be the Downfall of This Elite Defense (-250)
Each year, it’s almost as if the Panthers believe they can plug and play any football player off the street into one of their starting cornerback positions and everything will be fine. Unfortunately, this might be the year where that strategy blows up in their face. Although there are two complaints that I have listed as bigger gripes with the fanbase, this complaint is the biggest question mark heading into training camp
Many pundits are speculating as to what the Panthers are going to do at the #2 corner position opposite of James Bradbury, who’s a lock as their top corner. Carolina is in this precarious position because they traded their unofficial #2 corner Daryl Worley to the Eagles for wide receiver Torrey Smith.
Currently, the open corner position is going to be a battle between the newly signed Ross Cockrell, the returning Kevon Seymore, and rookie Deonte Jackson who was drafted in the 2nd round of the 2018 NFL Draft.
Cockrell has 32 career starts and should have the slight advantage over Seymore. Ironically, both of these players were originally drafted by the Buffalo Bills just a few seasons apart. Seymore was with the Panthers last year and has a better grasp of the defense, but Cockrell seems like the better overall fit for the Panthers style of defensive play. However, they both could get edged out by rookie Deonte Jackson who some pundits believe has more upside than either Ross or Kevon. Jackson was a solid corner at LSU and has the aggressive style of play that the Panthers are looking for.
In this defense, they need the corners to shut down receivers so that that the Front 7 can wreak havoc. Without solid play at the corner position, the Panthers defense will be average at best. That’s why the pressure to get this right is mounting as we get closer to the start of the 2018 NFL regular season. With this pressure also comes anxiety and complaints from the fans. However, this is one complaint that at least the Panthers have potential options for addressing it, unlike the issues of no depth at backup TE or QB.
The Offensive Line Will Struggle in 2018 (-100)
Every year, teams have to make tough personnel decisions especially when it comes to money. This offseason, the Panthers knew that they couldn’t afford the services of offensive guard Andrew Norwell who went and signed a big contract (5 years, $66.5 million) with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Norwell was a 4-year starter at the left guard position for the Panthers and was the only offensive lineman in the entire league to not allow a QB hit or sack in 2017.
It’s not that the Panthers wanted to lose this elite lineman, it’s just that they already tied up a ton of money in the o-line with a 4-year, $45 million dollar extension to right guard Trai Turner and signed free agent Matt Kalil to a 5-year, $55.5 million dollar deal. Bottom line, there wasn’t any money left for Norwell.
So, now, the Panthers are scrambling to find someone serviceable enough to fill the giant void that Norwell left behind. The team knew they would be in this position, but did very little to find a reliable replacement. There are a few candidates for this job, but none instill confidence in me or Panthers fans.
In addition to the loss of Norwell, center Ryan Kalil stated he will retire after this season and is digging deep within himself to drag his 33-year old body through a 12th NFL season. His brother Matt Kalil received a 50.8 grade from Pro Football Focus, which ranked him as the 55th best tackle in 2017. Once again, another reason why there’s concern with this o-line.
Heading into this season, fans definitely have a reason to complain about this group. However, this o-line does have the potential to play well if everyone performs to their capabilities. But, if Newton is under constant pressure or gets injured due to poor offensive line play, you can expect a riot in Carolina.
No Wide Receiver Will Get Over 1,000 Receiving Yards (Even)
There are some Panthers fans who believe they have a great group of wide receivers. And, to you faithful homers, I say keep drinking the Kool-Aid because this group is average at best. When you have to rely on Torrey Smith to be your #1 or #2 receiver then you are in trouble. Smith only had 430 yards in 2017 and hasn’t seen a 1,000-yard season since 2013. In fact, that’s the only 1,000-yard season he has in his career.
Personally, I like Devin Funchess and believe he’s a reliable #1 receiver for Newton. However, even in a career year last season, he only finished with 63 receptions for 840 yards. But, he did have 8 touchdowns. Unfortunately, I don’t see him cracking 1,000 yards in this offense during the 2018 season.
Curtis Samuel and rookie first-round pick DJ Moore add some exciting young depth to this receiving group, but neither are in line for 1,000 receiving yards in 2018. In reality, only tight end Greg Olsen has a chance of breaking 1,000 yards and that’s because he’s Cam’s favorite target.
This complaint, although valid, can be rather misleading if the team has a successful passing attack. Keep in mind, Newton will spread the ball around to all of his offensive weapons. I say, Panthers fans should let this gripe go as there are plenty of other complaints more worthy of their time and energy.
Norv Turner and Cam Newton Seem Destined for a Bad Marriage (+500)
During the offseason, the Panthers hired the reputable Norv Turner to be their new offensive coordinator. On paper, the marriage between Turner and Newton has a ton of potential. But, many pundits feel that this is a marriage they have to see come to fruition before believing in the hype.
Norv Turner had an interesting quote about Cam Newton in an ESPN article:
“To me, Cam [Newton] is one of the three or four — if not the — hardest guys to defend in the league. Coaches spend extra time when they play against Cam Newton because he can beat you in so many different ways. Our intention is to expand on those things that he can do well and things he may not have been exposed to yet.”
All of this sounds great except for the last few words “things he may not have been exposed to yet.”
I’m all for every football player growing into a more complete individual and team player. However, it concerns me when Turner starts talking about how to expand Newton’s play when it comes to things he might not already know or have experience with. This is how you mess up even the best of quarterbacks when you ask them to play outside of their strengths.
I’ve seen Carolina fans take to social media and question this newfound relationship as they complain about Turner’s track record in Minnesota and his comments above. Right now, Panthers fans should be patient, but if Newton’s level of play drops off this season then you can expect the fanbase to chase Turner out of another OC job.
Thomas Davis Should be Released or Traded (+1000)
Ok Panthers fans, this is one of those complaints where I have to ask you all to take a deep breath and step away from the spiked Kool-Aid. In April, Davis was suspended for 4 games at the beginning of the 2018 regular season. This was just 3 months after Davis said he was going to retire at the end of the 2018 season. Now that he’s going to miss 4 games, Davis has backtracked on the retirement talk and is open to playing next year.
At 35-years old, Davis has been a stalwart for the Panthers defense and the Carolina community. It’s why the 2014 Walter Payton Man of the Year has received an overwhelming amount of support for his suspension. Davis has been completely open about the suspension telling everyone how it wasn’t intentional and that his body of work proves it.
Additionally, Davis’ on-field body of work is still at a high level. I believe he has 2 good years left and that Panthers fans should relish that they will have the awesome duo of Davis and Kuechly back for at least one more year.
The fans overreacted on this one and the demands for a trade or release are just silly. But, not as silly as the last complaint on this list.
Should’ve Never Parted Ways with Jonathan Stewart (+2500)
When I saw this complaint by more than one Carolina Panthers fan, I about spit Gatorade through my nose because I was laughing so hard. To those of you Panthers fans who believe that the team should’ve kept running back Jonathan Stewart, whether in public or behind closed doors, it’s time for your Carolina Panthers fan memberships to be revoked.
Let me make this as clear as possible – Stewart is done. Yes, he went and signed with the New York Giants, but he has nothing left in the tank. Last year, Stewart finished with 680 rushing yards and 6 touchdowns. However, the Panthers released him to save $4 million dollars and to allow other running backs to get more touches.
For starters, Christian McCaffrey is a more dynamic running back than Stewart and is quite possibly the best receiver, out of the backfield, in the NFL. He will definitely get more touches this year as a RB and a slot WR. Second, Cameron Artis-Payne flashed more potential last year than Stewart and will be a candidate for 10+ carries per game. Lastly, the Panthers went out and replaced Stewart with a younger version of him – C.J. Anderson from the Broncos who had a better 2017 season than Stewart did.
No matter how you look at it, the Carolina Panthers backfield is going to be more explosive and productive than they were last year. The combination of Anderson and McCaffrey has the potential to be one of the best 1-2 combos in the NFC. You couldn’t say that if Stewart was still here. Let’s also not forget how Cam Newton adds to this overall running game. With Newton, McCaffrey and Anderson playing in a Turner offense, I expect big things for this rushing attack.
As for Jonathan Stewart and the New York Giants, he’s expected to contribute more to the team in a locker room leadership capacity than as an on-field contributor.