The Carolina Panthers had an up and down 2014 season, ending the regular season with a record of 7-8-1 before reaching the NFC Divisional Playoff where they lost to the Seattle Seahawks 31-17. Carolina entered free agency with hopes of improving their offensive line and adding some new targets for quarterback Cam Newton. Last season, rookie Kelvin Benjamin showcased his ability to compete as a soon to be elite wide receiver. However, Carolina averaged only 219.4 passing yards per game. Outside of Benjamin and Pro Bowl tight end Greg Olsen, the lack of receiving threats shaped the offense into a running focused attack. Ranking seventh overall in the NFL at an average of 127.3 yards per game, boosting the offensive line would aid both the running game as well as giving Newton the pocket protection he needs to flourish. After recent signings, the Panthers have taken a few steps closer to reloading their roster.
The first step was addressing the offensive line as last seasons squad surrendered a total of 42 sacks. The signings of Michael Oher, who was cut by the Titans, and re-signing of Chris Scott will give them a boost in this department. With an offense whose success is predicated on the play of Cam Newton, outside of improving his protection, improving his receiving weapons is key. So far, they have taken a baby steps by signing Ted Ginn Jr. Ginn Jr., who spent 2013 in Carolina, was a member of the Arizona Cardinals last season. The organization hopes to light a fire under Ginn Jr., as his best statistical season came during his previous stint with the Panthers. Also, signing Ed Dickson gives them depth behind Greg Olsen at the tight end position.
The major departures thus far, defensive linemen Greg Hardy and running back DeAngelo Williams, leaves holes at both positions. Hardy, who missed 15 games due to suspension last season, posted 15 sacks in 2013. In addition to losing Hardy, the Panthers will need to find someone to replace their all-time leading rusher Williams. Now in his 10th season, Williams signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers after posting 219 yards on 63 carries during an injury plagued 2014 season.
The 2015 NFL Draftgives the Panthers the opportunity to replace both Hardy and Williams, while also showing signs of strengthening the offensive line and wide out core. Carolina will pick 25th in the first round and seem to be leaning towards adding to the offense. If he’s available around the 24th pick, it would seem likely to add Ohio State wide receiver Devin Smith or Georgia running back Todd Gurley, as each would fulfill needs on the depth chart. If Gurleyis not available, Indiana running back Tevin Colemanwould present good value as a second-round selection. Regardless of who the Panthers select, TiqIQ will be your one-stop shop for Panthers tickets.
You can watch the Panthers try and take the next step forward next season with the help of Hipmunk.com. Charlotte flights through Hipmunk are easy to book, including have Charlotte hotel options near the stadium from $76.