Carolina enters its fourth week of preseason, and so far they are looking like contenders in the NFC South. The third preseason game is designed to be an example of a team's regular season ability. Last Thursday's game vs. Baltimore was defined by Carolina's defense.
The Panthers ranked No. 18 in overall defense last year with plenty of injuries and growing pains to overcome. This season, the underrated Panthers defense will ride their young defense to the playoffs.
The Panthers flexed their muscles on the back of a dominant performance from Luke Kuechly. Turnovers decided the battle as Carolina generated three defensive touchdowns to finish with a decisive 34-17 victory. Expect the pathers defense to define this teams run to the playoffs.
Underrated DeAngelo Williams has not put up great numbers since his blow out season in 2008 when he rushed for 1,515 yards and 18 touchdowns. With Jonathan Stewart still recovering from ankle surgery and not expected to play for the next 4-6 weeks, this could be an opportunity for Williams to carry the full load. The Panthers were counting on Stewart, Williams and Mike Tolbert to be a huge part of the offense this year.
Overrated Jonathan Stewart is expected to miss the first 5 weeks of the season and in hindsight this could be a blessing. With new offensive coordinator Mike Shula planning to return to a more traditional running game, Williams is expecting to get more carries this year. Williams is 30 and realizes he doesn't have a lot of football left in him. Expect DeAngelo to get close to his 2008 numbers this season.
Any Panthers fan will tell you, Armanti Edwards has not lived up to the hype of his college days. Edwards was an intriguing prospect out of Appalachian State. He was a cult hero after the Mountaineers famously upset Michigan at The Big House, and he was the quintessential winner (App. State won back-to-back FCS championships with Edwards under center.) But Edwards hasn't adjusted to life as an NFL wide receiver/return man. Were not giving up hope for Armanti just yet; third year could be the charm.
Carolina's defense may have disguised the fact that the Panthers are having issues with moving the ball. Cam Newton’s six series at quarterback ended like this, in order: punt, punt, punt, field goal, punt and field goal.
The Panthers’ offensive line looked woefully overmatched at times against a Ravens’ defense that's over the hill. When your first-team offense is eight times more likely to punt than to score a TD that’s a problem. Is this offense underrated? With no new acquisitions on the offensive line, I think so. You can only move up when your on the bottom.