2009 Carolina Panthers Season Preview
2009 Carolina Panthers preview from MadduxSports.com. The NFC South is a very difficult division to forecast on a year to year basis and the NFL lines makers often put up some soft numbers that sharp nfl handicappers pounce on. In 2009 be on the right side of games with the help of Maddux Sports handicapping team.
2009 Carolina Panthers Predictions
By Adam Barone
The Panthers ended last season poorly, getting crushed by the Cardinals in the playoffs. Like everyone who played the Cardinals, they couldn’t cover Larry Fitzgerald. Quarterback Jake Delhomme’s six turnovers in that game didn’t help much either. The Panthers did go 12-4 in the regular season, and will return 21 of 22 starters.
The story for the Panthers’ offense in 2008 was DeAngelo Williams. Williams split time in the Carolina backfield with DeShaun Foster for his first two seasons, but was the backup. He was allowed the chance to start last season, his third, and exploded onto the scene to lead the NFL in touchdowns with 20. Most people saw his emergence as a surprise, but a closer examination of his career numbers suggests otherwise. In his first two seasons he averaged an impressive 4.1 and 5.0 yards per carry respectively, but was only given 9.3 and 9.0 carries per game off the bench in those seasons. Last season he got 17.1 carries per game and averaged a ridiculous 5.5 yards per attempt. He broke off 15 rushes of over 20 yards and five rushes for over 40 yards. Simply put—he’s legit.
Bruising rookie Jonathan Stewart’s impressive season took a back seat to Williams’ ridiculous explosion, but he averaged 4.5 yards per carry on 11.5 carries per game. He doesn’t have quite the upside of Williams, but he would certainly be capable of serving as a featured back. Expect this running tandem to be the focal point of Carolina’s offense again this season.
The enormous offensive line is a major reason for the success of the Panthers’ running game. All five starters return from last season, but there’s little depth behind them. Left tackle Jordan Gross is one of the best in the league. Right tackle Jeff Otah has a chance to be even better than Gross, and weighs a gargantuan 330 pounds. Both guards are over 310 pounds, and center Ryan Kalil, the group’s leader, is 295. This unit is the most important to the success of the Panthers in 2009 because their size is what makes the running game go.
Delhomme seems to be fully recovered from his Tommy John surgery, but head coach John Fox will continue to use him mostly in a leadership capacity. Delhomme did throw 414 passes last season, but that was easily the lowest full season total of his career. His job will mostly consist of handing the ball off or finding Steve Smith for a big play when the defense is exposed. Smith topped 1,400 yards receiving in 2008 despite playing in only 14 games. He found the end zone six times, showing that he’s still quite capable of elite receiver status.
The defense lost only one starter—cornerback Ken Lucas—in the offseason, and should still rank among the best in the NFC. Lucas’ replacement at corner will be Richard Marshall. Expect Marshall to be bullied quite a bit in the early part of the season. The secondary itself is the team’s weakest unit, ranking 16th in the league last season after allowing 211 yards per game through the air. Cornerback Chris Gamble is expected to be allowed more freedom in covering the opponent’s best receiver all over the field in the coming season, which should make the unit more effective as a whole.
The front seven is fantastic, led by defensive end Julius Peppers (14.5 sacks in 2008) and middle linebacker Jon Beason (138 tackles, three interceptions). Peppers tried to leave the team in the offseason, but the Panthers put their franchise tag on him, forcing him to stay for now. Peppers is expected to stick around, but there’s still a chance that he may be traded before the season. Beason, on the other hand, is quietly become one of the best defenders in the league.
John Kasay is the only kicker the Panthers have ever known, and it’ll remain that way in 2009, after going 28-for-31 on field goals in 2008. Ryne Robinson will likely handle both kickoff and punt returns.
John Fox has done a fantastic job with this team since being hired from the Giants, and seems to consistently have a shot at making the playoffs. Assuming that the Peppers situation is straightened out, the offensive line stays healthy, and the secondary can improve some, this team is probably the favorite in the NFC. Don’t expect another awful performance out of Jake Delhomme if the Panthers return to the post season.