By Michael Brennan
As fate would have it – on a weekend that featured no games for the Carolina Panthers – fans have still found a reason to hang their head. Earlier in the week the Panthers announced that their Pro-Bowl Center, Ryan Kalil, will undergo season-ending surgery to repair a torn ligament in his left foot. Kalil made headlines during the offseason when he promised a Super Bowl victory to Carolina fans; fashioning a huge hot button for NFL analysts and fans.
Unfortunately for Carolina, the second that Kalil’s season ended prematurely, so did the hopes of bringing home the Lombardi trophy.
The Carolina Panthers come in to the bye week desperately needing a week to recover from their disappointing start to the season. At 1-4, Carolina finds themselves searching for answers about how to remedy most aspects of their game.
Celebrated quarterback, Cam Newton, has yet to find a rhythm in his second season in the NFL, the running game has fallen far short of their performance in 2011, and the defense has continued to follow the trend of disposing of leads late in the game.
Watching any post-game press conference when Newton is on the podium is just disheartening. Not only does the guy have a continually declining attitude but you get the feeling that the way he chooses to conduct himself has both himself, and his team going nowhere.
Newton has been scrutinized countless times for his attitude during games and during press conferences; but it seems like a lot of that berating has yet to sink in with Newton.
Newton’s performance on the field has been just as abysmal. He has only thrown for four touchdowns this season – as for interceptions – he’s thrown five. Last year he only fumbled the ball five times all season – this season – in just five games – he has fumbled the ball five times.
In recent games Cam has failed to grasp big-time opportunities. Fourth-and- goal, fourth-and-inches; situations where elite quarterbacks lay their foundation, Cam has failed to capitalize. The hype surrounding the “Cam era” is beginning to dissipate, and for a city that is starved for a championship-caliber team, that is not good news.
Maybe focusing all of the difficulty winning on Newton’s performance isn’t the most appropriate thing to do, but when you become the face of a franchise, Like Newton has, you find yourself answering for the performance of the entire team.
But after all, how can you look at Newton and lay the blame on him any more than you can lay it on the faulty running game, the lack of depth at wide receiver, or even the constantly changing (because it desperately needs improvements ) special teams?
The salary figures for DeAngelo Williams, Jonathon Stewart and Mike Tolbert look a lot better than the figures on their stat sheet. Carolina is ranked 14th in the NFL in rushing yards per game, a far cry from being ranked third at the end of last year.
Putting all of this in to perspective it could be difficult to envision Carolina in the playoff picture – maybe you would have to squint to really fit them in the image. But Carolina has a history of opening eyes and engineering miraculous comebacks. Does anyone remember those Cardiac Cats that made a habit out of late victories, nail-biter finishes and miraculous season endings?
Carolina has quite the hill to climb following the bye-week with games against Denver, Philadelphia, Dallas, Atlanta, and San Diego. But there are a lot of expectations for this Carolina team. Hopefully enough to pick them up off their backs and propel them in the right direction.