Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers scrambles against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Bank of America Stadium on December 24, 2011 in Charlotte, North Carolina (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
The Carolina Panthers got the first pick in the 2011 NFL Draft by virtue of a 2-14 record in John Fox’s last season as their head coach. Owner Jerry Richardson jettisoned every high dollar contract because of the NFL Lockout and pretty much tanked the season. That first pick became Quarterback Cam Newton, and although he wasn’t as celebrated as Tim Tebow, he had a very good rookie year and gave the Panthers something to build on.
Carolina finished last season 3rd in the NFC South division with a 6-10 record. They didn’t make the playoffs, but ended the season with a 4-2 record in their final six games. The Panther Offense ranked 5th in points scored, 7th in total yards, 3rd in Rushing and 13th in Passing Offense. On Defense they ranked 17th in points against, 28th in yards against, 25th in Pass Defense and 24th against the Run.
Punter Jason Baker, Defensive Tackle DeMario Pressley and Guard/Tackle Travelle Wharton
were released outright. Center/Guard Mackenzy Bernadeau signed a 4year, $11M contract with the Cowboys, Linebacker Dan Connor also left for Dallas. Running Back Mike Goodson was traded to the Raiders and Guard Geoff Schwartz was not tendered as a Restricted Free Agent and the Vikings grabbed him.
Carolina welcomed Wide Receiver Seyi Ajirotutu, Quarterback Derek Anderson, Defensive End Antwan Applewhite, Fullback Richie Brockel, Guard Geoff Hangartner, Long Snapper J.J. Jansen, Linebacker Jason Phillips, Linebacker Jordan Senn and Cornerback R.J. Stanford back to the fold.
The Panthers were active during Free Agency, picking up Punter Nick Harris from the Jaguars, getting G/T Bruce Campbell from the Raiders for Mike Goodson, Kicker Justin Medlock signed a Free Agent geal and Safety Haruki Nakamura came over from the Ravens.
Linebacker Kenny Onatolu didn’t receive an RFA tender from the Vikings, so Carolina snatched him up to spite them for grabbing Geoff Schwartz. Guard/Center Mike Pollak came over from the Colts, Safety Reggie Smith from the 49ers, Defensive End Jyles Tucker signed a Free Agent deal and Running Back Mike Tolbert was lured away from San Diego.
OL, DL, LB, CB, WR
Going into the draft, the Panthers needed an upgrade on the defensive side of the ball and considering they ranked 28th in the league, that was the place to start.
An inside pass rush was warranted, if only to assist their edge rushers. After CB Chris Gamble, the Carolina Defensive backfield came up short. The Panther Pass Defense ranked 25th in the league, so this area needed some attention too.
Offensive Line: Right Tackle Jeff Otah has only played in four games during the last two seasons because of knee and back injuries. C Ryan Kalil and LT Jordan Gross are very good and the signing of Bruce Campbell and Mike Pollack should give Cam Newton room to throw.
Help at Linebacker is a must. Thomas Davis is only 29, but his knees have the mileage of a 69 year old. He is unreliable at this point. Dan Connor was lost to the Cowboys in Free Agency.
The Panthers also need a new No. 2 receiver. Steve Smith is 33 years old and Cam Newton needs an explosive pass-catching threat.
|1||9||Luke Kuechly||Inside Linebacker||6-3||237||Boston College|
|2||40||Amini Silatolu||Guard||6-4||324||Midwestern St.|
|4||103||Frank Alexander||Defensive End||6-4||255||Oklahoma|
|4||104||Joe Adams||Wide Receiver||5-11||190||Arkansas|
|5||143||Josh Norman||Cornerback||6-0||190||Coastal Carolina|
|7||216||D.J. Campbell||Defensive Back||6-0||205||California|
Carolina accomplished their goal of improving the Defense by drafting the best Linebacker in the draft in Luke Kuechly with their first selection. Kuechly will start on the Weakside to begin his career.
Amini Silatolu will be a good fit in between Kalil and Gross at Left Guard. Defensive End Frank Alexander was a player the Panther targeted in the 3rd round and t.ried to make a deal to improve their position. Alexander ended up falling to the 4th round to the teams surprise. They traded away a 3rd round pick next year and their 6th rounder this year to move up into the 4th (103rd overall) overall to get him and he could be the key this year.
Joe Adams is an explosive quick return man and will provide Cam Newton a safety valve. Adams will be the No. 3 Wide Receiver and key Special Teams guy.
Josh Norman is a solid prospect from small-school Coastal Carolina. A natural corner with outstanding athleticism, Norman will help create turnovers.
Brad Nortman is a strong-legged prospect capable of punting for distance or touch, two huge needs for the Panthers. He is capable of many different kicks, and is accurate in placing the ball inside the 20-yard line.
D.J. Campbell will contribute on Special Teams while he polishes his coverage skills. He will get a shot to earn a spot in the secondary.
The Panthers agreed to terms on contracts with 12 players, including wide receiver Brenton Bersin from Wofford College.
Louisiana State OG Will Blackwell; UCLA DT Nate Chandler; Utah State TE Tarren Lloyd; Idaho RB Princeton McCarty; Tennessee RB Tauren Poole; BYU OT Matt Reynolds; Humbolt State RB Lyndon Rowells; Michigan DE Ryan Van Bergen; Shenandoah WR Rico Wallace.
The Broncos will travel to Carolina in Week 10 for a Veterans day contest with the Panthers, who should prove to be more formidable than last year's 6-10 record.