The Panthers were one of the big surprises of 2013, winning 12 games behind the NFL’s 2nd ranked defense en route to their first division title since 2008. But an offseason of cuts leaves the team’s offensive firepower in question.
Ron Rivera and Cam Newton got their first taste of the playoffs together in 2013 after an incredible season culminating in a 12-4 record and an NFC South title. The defense was terrific and looks to pick up where it left off this season.
The offense will find it much more difficult to replicate its success after 3 of the 4 top receivers on the team, including long-time starter Steve Smith, were signed by other teams in free agency. The additions of athletic rookie Kelvin Benjamin along with free agents Jerricho Cotchery, Jason Avant and Tiquan Underwood should pick up some of the slack, but are mostly seen as downgrades from the previous unit.
The running game is still effective despite the decline in production of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, in large part due to the ability of Cam Newton to keep defenses honest with his mobility.
The only controversy on the horizon is the fate of sack leader Greg Hardy, who was convicted of assault and weapons charges and may face harsh discipline by the NFL.
The Panthers will report to training camp in Spartanburg, South Carolina on July 25.