by Matt Soltysiak
The Panthers won the NFC South last year going 12-4. A strong two-headed rushing campaign headed by DeAngelo Williams was a big reason for the club’s success. A few changes for the club include the release of receiver D.J. Hackett and the re-signing of quarterback Jake Delhomme to a five-year extension.
In the NFL draft Carolina used both second round picks and a third round pick all on the defensive side of the ball adding a defensive end, defensive back and a defensive tackle. This doesn’t to infuse talent on the offensive side of the ball, but the Panthers were already successful there and a stronger defense just might help the offense get back out on the field quicker.
What to watch for in training camp
The running game went into overdrive last year for the Panthers. Williams had a career year (1,515 yards, 18 touchdowns), more than doubling his success rushing the ball from 2007 (717 yards, 4 touchdowns). He finally lived up to what the Panthers were hoping for when they took him in the first round three years ago. Since the team was so unsure of Williams’ future, it took Jonathan Stewart in the first round last year (13th overall pick). Stewart ran for 836 yards and 10 touchdowns in his rookie campaign. It’ll be interesting to see how these two continue to co-exist. Last year Williams had about 90 more carries, but Stewart isn’t a rookie anymore. Both should do well this year, but the man with more carries is who you want on your team.
Steve Smith had the yards last year, but his touchdowns and number of catches fell again. A shift to the running game could be part of the reason, the play of his quarterback could be the rest. Smith is still a great talent, so keep an eye on him this summer to decide how early he’s worth taking.
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