Carolina Panthers 2012 Schedule
Photo By: Icon SMI
It seemed so clear last off-season, how things would play out in Carolina. Steve Smith was supposed to be on his way to another team; Jonathan Stewart was finally going to get his chance to be a full-time starter, and take it to the bank, if I were a sports betting fan, rookie Cam Newton would fall flat on his face (still bitter he beat my Ducks) in year one.
Then the lockout lifted and somehow Newton convinced Smith to stay in Carolina, and the team decided it was a good idea to bring back DeAngelo Williams for a large sum of money.
Ok, I thought; this must mean a heavy running back by committee as Newton isn’t looking accurate in pre-season games — oh, how things changed.
Newton had us all fooled as he threw for over 400 yards week one, against the Cardinals, and that promising bounce back year I thought Smith would have on another team, turned to reality with a supposedly raw, rookie quarterback.
Not only did Newton light up the scoreboard, but he did it standing firm in the pocket and only using his legs, as a secondary option, most of the year. Newton wasn’t just a pleasant surprise for fantasy football purposes, but he was one of the highest scoring players around!
I don’t see a sophomore slump from Newton (who does), but he may lose out on some of those goal-line touches as new full back Mike Tolbert is an effective runner at that part of the field. Still, Newton will likely be putting up video game numbers, especially if the defense fails to improve from last year.
Third year receiver Brandon LaFell is being pumped up as a possible breakout player this off-season but fans shouldn’t forget about David Gettis, who fell to an ACL tear last summer. Their development will likely prove to be important because defenses are sure to roll coverage over to Smith’s side of the field, as we saw his numbers slowed down in the second half last year.
I would also like to see the game scripts involve the running game more often, as Williams and Stewart were having better success in the second half of the season. Now that teams have to respect Newton and Smith, it should make life much easier for running success, and with Tolbert in the mix, it would be wins for Carolina to run the football when they have a lead, so that the defense can stay fresh.