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2017 NFL Team Preview: NFC South

Carolina Panthers

Credit: Reinhold Matay/USA TODAY Sports

Key FA: Mike Adams, Matt Kalil, Captain Munnerlyn, Julius Peppers

Rookies: Christian McCaffrey, Curtis Samuel, Taylor Moton, Daeshon Hall

Key Losses: Ted Ginn, Mike Tolbert, Mike Remmers

Record: 6-10

A perfect example of a team who experienced a Super Bowl hangover. Cam Newton was coming off his career-best season in 2015, throwing for 35 touchdowns and rushing for another 10. 2016 on the other hand was a completely different story. Cam threw for the 2nd-lowest amount of touchdowns in his career and completed a league low 52.2 percent of passes. Newton took a shot to the helmet in the week five matchup against division rival Atlanta Falcons and his season was never the same. He went on to miss week 6, then his rushing attempts seemed to come less and less as though they were scared he would break.

Entering 2017, the Carolina organization has to ask themselves if they want Cam Newton to continue running the ball. Newton takes a good amount of hits and is entering his age 28 season. 28 is still very young for a quarterback, but with the hits he takes, when is too much? Can Carolina turn Newton into a more dynamic passer like he was in 2015? First round draft pick Christian McCaffrey is a player who can certainly help. McCaffery is a big time playmaker and has the receiving chops to be a useful weapon out of the backfield. Expect the rookie to be involved early and often for Carolina. Curtis Samuel out of Ohio State is another player who can be a big part of this offense. Samuel may not blow up the stat sheets in year one, but will be a big presence for Cam Newton. Entering the year as the starting slot receiver, Samuel can turn into a valuable piece of the Carolina offense.

Carolina’s defense was one-sided in 2016 with the rush defense ranking inside the top-10 while the secondary ranked in the bottom five. This season, Captain Munnerlyn comes in leading the team as the top corner. Munnerlyn isn’t the most skilled player, but what he brings to a lacking secondary is a certain leadership and versatility as he can play in all defensive back spots. Mike Adams enters his 14th season and is looking to be a similar player as Captain Munnerlyn. Adams will come in and be a great run-stopper and ball hawk for a team that was one of the top interception teams in the league despite ranking bottom five in passing yards given up.  Julius Peppers is a huge addition to a great defensive line. Peppers won’t be an every down player, but will be used for his pass-rushing skills. Peppers is still productive going into his 16th NFL season, earning at least seven sacks in every season since 2007.

All in all, if Carolina is looking to make another playoff push, they may be a season away. 

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