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Carolina Panthers - 2012 Offseason Breakdown
Stadium: Bank of America Stadium (Outdoors)
Schedule Strength: 15th
Postseason Weather issues : None
Offensive Line Ranking : 5th
Head Coach – Ron Rivera
Rivera is among the fraternity of NFL head coaches with a pedigree as a defensive player and a defensive Coordinator. Like so many defensive minded head coaches, Rivera does have input towards the offensive system, but likely not involved with the day-to-day game planning and/or in-game play calling.
Offensive Coordinator – Rob Chudzinski
Examining Chudzinski’s history, we find he was a three-year starter at tight end for the Miami Huricanes, winning two national championships. Amongst the coaching ranks, Chudzinski’s has predominantly been a tight end coach at both the collegiate and professional level. We can assimilate ties to the Don Coryell “vertical passing game” utilized during time spent with San Diego Chargers head coach Norv Turner. Whereas most coaches shape the players to the offensive system, Chudzinski has tailored his system around the strength of his players – namely Cam Newton. Entering the 2012 season we should expect more of the same, allowing Cam Newton to supply explosive offense with both his legs and his arm, including the deep downfield aerial attack. As for the running game, all indications point towards another year of running back by committee (the ugliest four words in fantasy football).
QB Cam Newton
Raise your hand if you saw that coming this time last year. Liar. Newton entered 2011 with multiple concerns regarding play calling, ability to read defenses, maturity and poor accuracy, just to name a few. Becoming the first rookie signal caller in the past 15 years to finish inside the Top 10 in quarterback scoring, Newton proved that talent, team talent, offensive line and offensive system are the dominant factors needed for fantasy football success. We typically see a decline in production during a player’s second year – more commonly referred to as the “sophomore slump” – mainly because opposing defenses are given a full season’s worth of game-tape to study and adjust. Although a repeat of last season’s production is highly unlikely, Newton proved his superior size, cannon arm, rushing ability and goal line presence warrant high praise in fantasy circles. Also on the plus side, Newton is still surrounded with excellent team talent, topped off by one of the league’s more dominant offensive lines. Newton garners a projected offseason player rating of 8.8.
Arguably the league’s worst running back by committee, Williams and Stewart continue to cancel each other out providing another huge headache to fantasy owners. To make matters worse, the Panthers also added former San Diego running back/fullback Mike Tolbert into the mix. Now factor the fantasy points stolen by Cam Newton’s goal line prowess, and no Carolina running back should be considered trustworthy in 2012. All factors considered, both Williams and Stewart carry a player rating of 6.8.
WR Steve Smith
Just as Newton’s 2011 emergence was stunning, so was the revival of Smith. We’ve known for years that no player in the league has more grit, heart and toughness than this 5-foot-9, 185-pound wide receiver. The frequent use of Cam Newton’s arm strength to stretch the field vertically plays right into the strengths of Smith, who continues to display amazing body control, excellent leaping ability and vice grip hands. The only knock on Smith is a yellow flag injury risk. As one of the league’s toughest wide receivers to defend, we should expect more of the same from Smith with an offseason player rating of 8.8.
WR2 Brandon LaFell
In 2011, LaFell and then teammate Legadu Naanee split time as the Panthers’ No. 2 wide receiver, as neither was considered “fantasy worthy.” Few teams in the NFL have the ability to produce enough fantasy points to sustain multiple wide receivers, and the Panthers just aren’t there yet. LaFell is a player to watch during the preseason, but as of this writing should remain undrafted with a player rating of 6.9.
TE Greg Olsen
Reread offensive coordinator’s Rob Chudzinski’s profile. OK, now apply that knowledge to tight end Greg Olsen. Olsen is amongst the league’s most underutilized tight ends dating back to his time in Chicago, due to a goofy Mike Martz interpretation of the Don Coryell system whereby a tight end is “just another linemen” (don’t get me started). Last season, Olsen’s production was hindered by fellow tight end Jeremy Shockey, each competing with for playing time and targets. Combined, Olsen and Shockey produced 995 yards and nine touchdowns, which would have ranked third in tight end scoring. With Shockey now departed all production falls squarely on the shoulders of Greg Olsen. Coming into 2012 Olsen has big time “sleeper” status with a player rating of 8.4.
K – Olindo Mare
Kickers who continue to finish the season inside the Top 6 in fantasy scoring typically play alongside a prolific offense. Although Carolina’s offense is above average, better kickers are available as Mare carries a player rating of 7.9.
D/ST Carolina Panthers
The Panthers have made strides to improve their defensive unit drafting future Pro Bowler Luke Kuechly. However, we still find numerous holes at multiple positions (defensive tackle, defensive end, safety, cornerback), while rookie production can be sporadic. Also, playing in the tough, offensive driven NFC South is a downgrade. Find better options as the Panthers D/ST enters 2012 with a rating of 6.4.
* All Player Ratings on a scale of 1-10 *
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