It’s that time of the year where I grab some of the NFL’s most passionate fans and ask them a few questions on their teams upcoming season. This week the focus is on the Carolina Panthers. Fresh off a 15-1 year, and Super Bowl defeat the Panthers look to position themselves as the team to beat in the NFC. I asked four hardcore Panthers fans a few questions and this was their responses:
Despite The Loss of Josh Norman Can The Panthers Still Be a Top 5 Ranked Defense Next Season?
Lakisha Tillman: Yes we can still be ranked in the top five without Norman. I think the coaches and management have enough knowledge to not put all the chips in one bag. I’m sorry Norman left but he can and will be replaced.
Francis Koenig: Josh Norman is an outstanding DB and will truly be missed, but as long as the defensive line and linebackers stay healthy and keep disrupting the pass our defensive backs will continue to shine. The program that Gettleman and the coaching staff are building defensively is impressive. If they keep building the team in that manner our DBs will be outstanding for years to come.
Jennifer Matthews Lewis: Absolutely we can and will still be a top 5 defense this season. I love Josh, make no bones about that but Josh did not make or break our defense. Was he valuable to us? Yes he was and I have my own thoughts about his future, but between Kuechly and Davis leading the defense this year we are solid. Coleman & KK are back, Star, CJ, Benwikere and Ealy. I am slightly wary of our cornerback situation, hopefully Benwikere will cover that. We’ve won the NFC South Division the last three years and our secondary has not been the best. No disrespect meant but people do not understand the impact and exactly who and what Kuechly is and what TD (Davis) does for us.
Walt Matthews: Yes. Josh Norman is a great talent and will be a great loss but for 3 seasons before last year he did not know where to go, he was too busy trying to be a super hero. LK and TD have created more turnovers than Josh did. Josh got out of what he was supposed to do before last year. Once we got him where he was supposed to be he was a standout star. He was able to play amazing ball and the coaches gave him the ability to play amazing. The coaching staff gets overlooked quite a bit. Another example is what the coaching staff did for Roman Harper and got him to his potential (even though the Saints took him back).
The Panthers Offense Led The NFL In Points Scored Last Year, With The Return of Kelvin Benjamin Could We See a Repeat of That?
Lakisha Tillman: I think Benjamin will help them out because he’s hungry from sitting out last season! I have nothing but love for our Panthers.
Francis Koeing: Kelvin Benjamin is an outstanding wide receiver. I cannot wait to see how he does coming off his injury. He’s tall, big framed with a huge wing span. Our wide receivers were very underrated last season but we still made it to the Super Bowl. You better believe that the opposing teams will be watching film a lot closer this season on how to shut down our receivers, having Benjamin back will be great!
Jennifer Matthews Lewis: Yes we can! We have an unusual and amazing QB leading the helm with Greg Olson, Khalil, Oher, Benjamin, Funchess also leading the offense. But the key part to our Offense is Schula, we always have multiple options for each offensive play. The opposing defense can get lucky on occasion but we usually don’t make the same mistake twice. The biggest change I saw this past season, was in Cam when we were playing Seattle in Seattle. The second half and he got this look on his face and in his eyes that said “I am here to win, not to lose”. That’s what I saw. As long as we keep the fun and the determination, we are solid.
Walt Matthews: We should be able too, it depends on the chemistry of the team and if everyone is playing their roles. KB’s first season Cam leaned too much on him, not sure if he was coached to do that or if he was just leaning on Kelvin. Maybe he had too much trust and Kelvin was taking the place of Steve Smith.
Which NFC Team Poses The Biggest Threat To Unseat The Panthers as NFC Champion?
Lakisha Tillman: Maybe the Seahawks. I won’t give my reason but their my choice.
Francis Koeing: Two words… Seattle Seahawks. Seattle had our number for years. We beat them twice last season, including the playoffs. We showed them that they can be beat on their own turf. Our boys must not take them lightly as they will be gunning for us! With that said, all the NFC teams will have us in their cross-hairs.
Jennifer Matthews Lewis: I would actually say Green Bay over Seattle. Rodgers is mad at himself for not doing as well as he wanted to do last year and he is too much of a competitor to go down without a fight. We still need to be concerned about Seattle & AZ.
Walt Matthews: I would say the Seattle Seahawks or the Arizona Cardinals. There are so many good teams it’s hard to say. I don’t follow the other teams as closely as I do the Panthers. The biggest threats are Seattle, Packers, and Arizona. This is whom I dread the most going into the season but injuries can change that. The thing about the Panthers is that we are building a system similar to the Patriots when someone goes down, someone else can step up and make up for the void.
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If You Had To Pick One Area Where Cam Newton Needs Improvement, What Would That Area Be and Why?
Lakisha Tillman: Cam needs improvement in learning to pass the ball instead of always trying to get the touchdown himself. I love him to death but he’s putting himself in danger of getting hurt by the competition!
Francis Koeing: Honestly I don’t see too much that Cam needs to improve on. He’s a fantastic QB and will definitely be a Hall of Famer if he stays healthy. I think eventually you will see him turn into more of a pocket passer and not run quite as much since he will need to preserve his body the older he gets. I love his dancing but I would love to see him come out this season with lasers in his eyes. Come out with a no-nonsense type of attitude and take care of business. Would still love to see the occasional TD dance. I don’t want to see him lose focus but at the same time I don’t want him to forget how to have fun while playing the game.
Jennifer Matthews Lewis: He needs to learn to rollout when there is too much pressure. When there is massive pressure on the outside and sacks are potential he needs to figure out how to get away. I know that he will not always get away but there were a couple of times when I thought that he could.
Walt Matthews: He needs to work on his short passing game. The problem is that his arm is so strong that with the deep field he is golden, but he needs to work on his touch pass and throw a little more gentle. I can remember when he first came into the league and he would throw a short pass but it would be too hard to catch. He has gotten better about this, but can still improve, it cannot be a hard pass but more like a floater and put the ball in particular spots.
Name Your Favorite All Time Panther and Why?
Lakisha Tillman: Thomas Davis because he’s always classy and giving back to the community. I also think he gets the job done on the field as well. He’s a father figure to the younger players in my eyes.
Francis Koeing: Favorite Panther of All Time? Well, I’d have to say it’s Luke Kuechly. He has revolutionized the Linebacker position. He’s a hard hitter with hands of a wide receiver. He smart and knows what the offense is gonna do before they do it.
Jennifer Matthews Lewis: This one is hard for me because I think of several players as my favorite: Steve Smith, Moose (Mushin Muhammad) and Sam Mills. All three of these men have made lasting impacts on the Panthers. All of these men have made a lasting impact on our team. Sam Mills made the headway for us to get on the trajectory of where we are now. Moose made these awesome routes and Steve just ran in any way he could and scored as many TDs as possible.
Walt Matthews: Steve Beuerlein because he did more with less than any other Panther QB did. I know this is not a popular choice but he would enter a game where they were loosing and get the team back into it. Beuerlein had a great touch pass (where he could get the ball to particular players and places). Steve was able to get the team back into games where they shouldn’t have had a chance. You cannot forget his TD against Green Bay.
Expectations For This Season
Lakisha Tillman: I think we’re going to win the South again and may even make it to the big dance (Super Bowl). We’re still being treated like the underdog and our boys have to prove the naysayers wrong! #KeepPounding
Francis Koeing: My expectations are for them to have a great season and to not settle for anything less!
Jennifer Matthews Lewis: 16-3. The 16th will be the Super Bowl, 51 for 51, for both Sam Mills and Jerry Richardson. For those who do not know Mr. Richardson’s college number. I believe this is our season and we will bring home the ring.
Walt Matthews: 12-4, at least the NFC Championship Game, most likely the SB. I will be disappointed if they don’t make it back to the Championship game, a little less if not SB 51 only because it’s so hard to go back the year after you went.