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The Top Twenty: Top Panthers of All Time 11 – 20

The Carolina Panthers inaugural season was 16 years ago. And while this is not nearly as long as most other teams in the league, it means that we as fans now have a large enough history to have a meaningful discussion about who are the greatest players to have played for the Panthers.

What you will find below is my take on those players who have had the biggest impact for the Panthers while they were playing for the team. There are some players who were left off because while they were great players in the NFL, they did not have as great an impact as Carolina Panthers.

Each fan will have their opinions and ideas on who should and shouldn’t be on this list. Honestly, that’s what makes being a fan so much fun. I look forward to the debate.

Here are my picks.

20. Jordon Gross

Gross was a rookie during the Panthers 2003 Super Bowl season. The Panthers, coming off a 7-9 drafted Gross out of Utah in the first round with the 8th pick. He has started every game (132) since then a right tackle for the Panthers. The only exception to this streak was the end of the 2009 season which he missed due to a broken ankle. During his career he has gone to the Pro-Bowl twice as well as winning several All-Pro and All-Rookie awards.

19. Dan Morgan

Morgan is the first of several great Panthers linebacker on my list. Morgan was drafted in the first round of the 2001 draft. During his rookie season he started eleven games at linebacker collecting 75 tackles. During the 2004 season he had 109 tackles and 5 sacks leading to his selection as starting linebacker for the Pro-Bowl that year. If his career had not been cut short in 2007 by an ankle injury, I feel certain he would be higher on my list.

18. Brentson Buckner

Brentson Buckner was defensive tackle from Clemson drafted in the second round of the 1994 draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Although he didn’t join the Panthers squad until the 2001 season, he played an integral role in his four seasons with the team. In particular during the team’s 2003 run to Super Bowl XXXVIII he played one on of the most dominant defensive lines in league that year. This run, and the lines dominance, qualifies Buckner for inclusion in this list. He finished his Panthers career with 168 tackles and 14.5 sacks.

17. Johnathan Stewart

Johnathan Stewart’s NFL career has really just begun having been drafted by the Panthers in 2008. During that short time he has shone as part of the tandem known as “Double Trouble” with Deangelo Williams. Stewart holds the rookie rushing record for a Panther with 836 yards. He also holds the Panthers single game rushing record for an outstanding 206 yard performance against the Giants during the 2009 season. That season Stewart rushed for 1,133 yards, and along with his partner in the backfield, became the first duo to rush for over 1,100 yards each.

16. Stephen Davis

Running back Stephen Davis only played two seasons with the Carolina Panthers. However, he had the best season of his career with the team, as well as being integral to the teams 2003 Super Bowl run. The former Auburn star was drafted by the Redskins in 1996 and played six seasons for them. Davis went to the Pro Bowl three times and in 2003 he finished in the top five during voting for league MVP. After the 2003 season he was plagued by nagging knee injuries. Davis eventually signed a one day contract with the Panthers so that he could retire as a Panther. Currently, he holds a coaching intern position with the Panthers.

15. Cam Newton

Newton’s inclusion on this list may seem premature to some. My stance is that in having the best rookie season any QB in the NFL has ever had, Newton has earned the number 15 spot. My expectation is that he will move up the list season by season. I’m sure most readers won’t need this, but let’s recap Cam Newton’s accomplishments in his rookie season. He began the season with two back to back 400 yard passing games, the first rookie to accomplish this. He finished the season by smashing Peyton Mannings rookie passing record, finishing with 4,051 yards and 21 TDs. Along the way, he also managed to rush for 706 yards and 14 touchdowns. This makes him the first QB to throw for at least four thousand yards and rush for at least five hundred yards. And his 4 rushing touchdowns broke the single season rushing TD record for quarterbacks that had been held by Steve Grogan since 1976. To top it off he was selected as a first alternate for the NFC Pro-Bowl team for 2011.

14. Ryan Kalil

Kalil is the Panthers current starting center. He was drafted by the Panthers from Southern Cal with the 59th pick in the 2007 draft. After starting three games in the 2007 season, Kalil became the Panthers full time center in the 2008 season. In five seasons with the Panthers, Kalil has been to the Pro Bowl three times, as well as being select to the All Pro team for the 2011 season. Kalil was a bright spot in the Panthers dismal 2-14 2010 season. In 2011 Kalil was a major key in making Rookie quarterback Cam Newton a success in his first year in the league. Being only 26 the hope is that Kalil will anchor the Offensive more many seasons to come.

13. Michael Bates

Bates was the best kick returner the Carolina Panthers have had, and many wish the team would find someone with his particular skills again. He was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks in 1992 in the sixth round. Bates actually had two stints with the Panthers, first from 1996 to 2000 and finally in 2002. Bates was selected to the Pro-bowl in each season during his first run with the Panthers. He was also selected for the NFL 1990s All Decade team. Something most fans don’t know is that Bates ran the 200-meter dash for the US in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, winning a bronze medal.

12. Kris Jenkins

Nose tackle Kris Jenkins was drafted out of Maryland in the second round of the 2001 NFL Draft. Jenkins played for Panthers for six seasons. He was selected for the Pro Bowl four times, and was a three time All-Pro selection. His selection for these included the 2003 season where he anchored the defensive line during the Panthers Super Bowl run. Though he played at a very high level, he was plagued by injuries tearing his ACL twice and injuring his shoulder in the 2004 season. He was released by the Panthers after the 2007 season and played with the Jets for two seasons before retiring. He finished his NFL career with 279 tackles and 24 sacks.

11. Mike Rucker

Mike Rucker was also part of the Panthers Defensive line that dominated opponents in 2003. He was a second round draft pick of the Panthers in 1999 out of Nebraska. During his best season he was selected to the Pro Bowl at defensive end and won the award for NFL Alumni Defensive Lineman of the Year.

Rucker played his whole career with the Panthers and finished with 421 tackles and 55.5 sacks. Unfortunately, in the 2006 season he suffered a ACL tear and missed the season. Though he came back for the 2007 season, he announced his retirement after the season, ending he career short.

Well that’s the bottom ten. What do you think fans?

Next week, we’ll finish up this list with the top ten. I promise there is some good stuff in the top ten. And maybe even a few surprises.

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