The 2016 NFL season has come and gone, and sadly there was no joy to be found at the end for the Carolina Panthers. Carolina found themselves completely stifled by the overwhelming defense of the Denver Broncos. While it might have been disappointing, the Panthers should use this lose as as inspiration to win it all next season.
Carolina should have plenty to look forward to in the next year and we actually believe it will be an improvement on this season’s 17-2 squad. The team should look even better in the next season and wouldn’t be at all surprised to see them repeat the same success, except this time taking home the Vince Lombardi trophy. Star wide-receiver Kelvin Benjamin is set to be healthy and back in action following his gruesome ACL tear in the 2015 preseason, and he’ll provide a much-needed offensive weapon for Cam Newton.
If there are a few things we think the Panthers could improve upon in the offseason, one is definitely the Cats’ receiving corps. The current crew of Philly Brown, Ted Ginn Jr., Devin Funchess, and the ghost of Jerricho Cotchery did admirably well during the season. Let’s be honest, though: that had more to do with the insane performance of Cam Newton as opposed to the talent of the receivers themselves, as evidenced by the multiple dropped passes in the Super Bowl. While Benjamin will be back in the line-up—and that should help a lot!—the squad could definitely use at least one more solid, reliable receiver. It doesn’t have to be a big money star, just a reliable workhorse to help take some of the pressure off of Benjamin.
Another area where the team could definitely use improvement is the offensive line, which became devastatingly apparent in the Super Bowl. The o-line generally did pretty well in the 2015 season, but the wall crumbled when faced with a top defense like Denver’s. Mike Remmers in particular was completely outclassed by Super Bowl MVP Von Miller. If the Panthers hope to bring home the Lombardi Trophy, they’ll have to find a better way to protect Cam Newton. This also goes for Michael Oher who was exposed by the Denver defense during the game. He consistently dropped assignments and failed to do his one job: protect the quarterback. To be fair, some of Oher’s troubles could be blamed on the terrible turf at Levi’s Stadium, which both teams complained about.
The Panthers defense was exceptional all year long and actually performed very well against the Broncos. Keeping Pro Bowl cornerback Josh Norman around will be crucial to continuing the same success next season. His performance was so good that the Panthers are considering giving him the franchise tag. This makes complete sense as Norman was the best cornerback in the NFL during the 2015-16 season.
It’s important to point out that much of the Panthers success was a surprise to many, fans and commentators alike. At the start of the season very few people, if anyone, had the Panthers pegged as a potential Super Bowl contender. In fact, most experts had the picked the Seattle Seahawks to make it to the big game. Of course, they were absolutely clobbered by the Panthers in the Divisional Round of the NFC playoffs.
Cam Newton will be hungry to prove his critics wrong following the Super Bowl loss. With most of the core personnel returning, Cam and Co. have an opportunity to be the first to return to the Super Bowl after losing one since the Buffalo Bills in 1993 and 1994. The Panthers’ motto is keep pounding, and you can bet we’ll be hearing a lot from Carolina next season.