Sunday, April 22, 2012

On The Clock: Carolina Panthers

By: Ray Beamesderfer

The Panthers went from being the worst team in 2011, to being one of the more exciting teams to watch in 2012. That is due in large part to Cam Newton, Carolina's 1st overall selection from last year's draft. Despite his critics, Newton has been successful since day one, while revitalizing the Panther's potent run game, and breathing life back into receiver Steve Smith's career, who enjoyed one of the best seasons of his career. The reason the Panthers pick in the top ten once again is because they provide one of the worst defenses in the NFL. Last year they could not get after the quarterback or stop the run and the secondary struggled to turn the ball over to offense. 

Carolina was 20th in the NFL with 14 interceptions, 25th in the NFL with 31 sacks, 26th in the NFL allowing 389.8 yards per game and 27th in the NFL giving up 25.4 points per game.

Unfortunately for Panther's fans, many of the needs that presented themselves during the 2011 season, were not remedied during the off-season. In fact the Panther's had an incredibly quiet offseason, clearly looking to the draft to fill the holes with young stars. They could start the draft by looking to add a defensive player in: 

1. Fletcher Cox - Defensive Tackle - Mississippi St.
Depsite selecting two defensive tackles in the third round last year, the Panthers clearly still need help on the interior of the line. Cox has been rising up draft boards for the last month, and would clearly start right away. If the Panthers feel confident in Greg Hardy starting at defensive end, I believe Cox is their number one choice. He would be an anchor against the run game, but I also believe he has the athleticism to provide interior pass rush, and flush opposing quarterbacks outside of the pocket into the waiting arms of Charles Johnson and the aforementioned Hardy. 

2. Melvin Ingram - Defensive End - South Carolina
Most experts seem to think if the Panthers are interested in upgrading their pass rush, they will look to the hometown kid Quinton Coples. However I have a feeling they will migrate south and find their defensive end in Melvin Ingram. Ingram has been dismissed by some as a top 10 prospect because of his short arms, but you cannot deny his versatility or his obvious ability to get after the quarterback. Ingram has racked up 19 sacks while playing in the SEC the last two seasons, so consistency or production is not an issue with this guy. This may not be the most popular pick, but I feel Melvin Ingram is a definite sleeper to watch for this season, and we've definitely seen crazier things happen. 

3. Michael Floyd - Wide Receiver - Notre Dame
As mentioned before the combination of Steve Smith and Cam Newton was quite deadly for the Panthers a season ago. The problem was when Newton got in trouble, he didn't have that tall lengthy receiver to bail him out, and he would often times throw silly interceptions as a result. Floyd fixes that problem, and is great value if he were to fall to nine. The South Bend youngster might be a top five talent in this draft, and some argue he is better than Oklahoma State standout, and consensus number one receiver Justin Blackmon. The problem with Floyd is he has past issues with alcohol, and some wonder about his ability against the better corners in the country. Still, Floyd showed at the combine he not only is very tall, but very fast. With Smith age, and the Panthers needing an immediate contributor at wide out, Floyd is a very real possibility.

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