7-15-14: The Carolina Panthers will have their star quarterback at full strength when camp opens on July 24th. Cam Newton (ankle) has officially been cleared to practice and will go to work in an effort to repeat last year’s success. He’ll have to do it with a new cast of weapons in the passing game, although fans will get a good look at rookie Kelvin Benjamin and the rest of the crew at the end of the month.
6-5-14: The Carolina Panthers entered the 2014 offseason with little to be confident in their passing attack in terms of weapons. However, they just locked up first round pick Kelvin Benjamin, a raw but physically gifted receiver out of Florida State that is expected to nail down a starting gig right out of the gates. Quarterback Cam Newton has also reportedly made progress from his offseason ankle surgery, as he’s already throwing on the side during practices. Newton’s ankle surgery was minor and some reports suggest as he heals, he could potentially be stronger and more explosive than ever. On a sour note, defensive end Greg Hardy was popped for domestic abuse in the middle of May and could face a small suspension at some point down the road. The selection of Missouri pass rusher Kony Ealy in this year’s draft looks more genius by the minute.
5-19-14: The Carolina Panthers needed two things going into the 2014 NFL Draft: wide receiver and offensive tackle. Wide receiver Steve Smith bolted for the Ravens and offensive tackle Jordan Gross retired. Needless to say, Carolina needed things to fall their way a little bit in this year’s draft. Let’s see how things unfolded for them with their picks:
Round 1. Pick 28 Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida St.
Round 2. Pick 28 Kony Ealy, DL, Missouri
Round 3. Pick 28 Trai Turner, OG, LSU
Round 4. Pick 28 Tre Boston, FS, North Carolina
Round 5. Pick 08 Bene Benwikere, CB, San Jose St.
Round 6. Pick 28 Tyler Gaffney, RB, Stanford
Many had the Panthers going offensive tackle first, but when the raw but physically gifted Benjamin was still hanging around, they had to do quarterback Cam Newton a solid. Benjamin will have to work hard to become an elite player, but he already brings amazing size and ball skills to the table.
The Panthers still didn’t get a tackle in round two, but again couldn’t bare with the thought of passing on another sliding stud talent. This time it was Missouri defensive end Kony Ealy, who didn’t have the best attitude heading into the draft, but offers a terrific blend of size, athleticism and versatility. The pick couldn’t come at a better time, especially with Greg Hardy’s off field issues coming to light.
Carolina went on to grab a solid offensive lineman in Trai Turner, as well as some nice help for their secondary. However, the obvious void of a stud offensive tackle was felt in their draft class and they’ll have to figure something out before the new season rolls around.
5-9-14: All that talk about the Carolina Panthers reaching for Jordan Gross’ replacement at offensive tackle ended up being just draft buzz, as the team made sure they didn’t enter day two without a young wide receiver added to the mix. With just Jerricho Cotchery and Jason Avant as “big names” at receiver on their roster, Carolina knew they couldn’t pass up on the big Kelvin Benjamin at the 28th pick. Benjamin is raw, but has elite size, speed and ball skills. Cam Newton won’t mind throwing touchdowns to him in 2014 and for years to come.
4-28-14: The Carolina Panthers need wide receivers pretty badly. When Jerricho Cotchery is penciled in as a starter, you know you’re in trouble. There has been a lot of chatter about the Panthers going after some offensive line help in the first round (which they need), but they absolutely cannot pass on an elite receiving prospect. In fact, drafting receiver back to back in the first two rounds might be in order. After they address their passing game, the Panthers can start working on more depth adds for a defense that has become an elite unit. Getting some more talent for the defensive line and secondary is in order.
4-18-14: Cam Newton hopefully has some talent at wide receiver when he takes on the Buffalo Bills at home in week one, as he and his Carolina Panthers try to pick up where they left off in 2013. We’ll get to see much more of Newton in a potentially tough week two battle with the Kansas City Chiefs, however, as Newton should play at least the first quarter, and possibly much longer. The Panthers will have their toughest and most anticipate test of the 2014 preseason in week three, though, when Newton and co. will go toe to toe with Tom Brady and the Patriots in New England. After a tough battle with the Pats, Panthers fans can expect Newton to sit or play very little in week four, as the cats conclude their 2014 preseason schedule with a road trip to Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers.
4-7-14: In terms of big moves, the Carolina Panthers have had an extremely quiet offseason, as their biggest transaction was a loss - the release of star wide receiver Steve Smith. While unable to land any real difference makers to help replace Smith, the Panthers were at least able to franchise defensive end Greg Hardy, while also bringing in some solid safety help with the signing of Roman Harper. Carolina also lost cornerback Captain Munnerlyn to the Minnesota Vikings, but were able to haul in a replacement in Antoine Cason. Heading into the 2014 NFL Draft, Carolina’s chief need will be offensive playmakers - specifically at wide receiver.
3-21-14: Cam Newton may not be ready for camp in time thanks to a randomly needed ankle surgery, and it might be more important than ever after the Panthers let all of their talent at wide receiver walk. Steve Smith was cut and signed with the Ravens, Brandon LaFell fled for New England and Ted Ginn even bolted for the desert in Arizona. As if things weren’t looking murky enough on offense, Carolina also lost cornerback Captain Munnerlyn to the Vikings, safety Michael Mitchell went to the Steelers and stud guard Jordan Gross decided to call it a career. On the bright side, the Panthers did manage to franchise their most important player (defensive end Greg Hardy) and brought in some safety help with run-stopping fiend, Roman Harper.
1-15-14: Cam Newton got the Carolina Panthers back into the playoffs with an impressive 12-4 record and a division title. Come 2014, he’ll still be searching for that first playoff win. Newton was sacked five times and picked off twice as the San Francisco 49ers stifled the Carolina offense in the second half, ousting the Panthers on their own turf, 23-10. Newton connected with Steve Smith for a touchdown in the first half and this had the makings of a competitive game, but it got away from the Panthers in the end.
The Panthers shouldn’t be hanging their heads low, as San Francisco is the hottest team in the league right now. Carolina did edge out the 49ers in a 10-9 win in San Francisco earlier in the year, too, and it’s awfully difficult to beat any team more than once in a season. The Panthers will march into next season with their sights on advancing further in the playoffs.
12-31-13: Cam Newton overcame early struggles to throw two touchdowns and help the Panthers get past the Atlanta Falcons in week 17, 21-20. The win moved the Panthers to 12-4 and gave them the NFC South division title, along with a first round bye in the NFC playoffs.
12-24-13: Cam Newton’s heroics were once again on full display in week 16. Despite a very subpar first three quarters, Newton saved his best football for his final drive, as he drove Carolina down the field and hit Domenik Hixon for a touchdown with 23 seconds left to give the Panthers a narrow 17-13 win.
12-17-13: Cam Newton was flawless and Carolina’s defense did the rest as the Panthers squeaked out a solid 30-20 win over the visiting New York Jets. DeAngelo Williams was easily the star of the day, as he took a short screen pass 72 yards for a touchdown and piled on over 160 total yards to help Carolina to it’s 10th win on the season.
Carolina went up 6-0 on the New Orleans Saints early in week 14, but things fell apart from there as the Panthers struggled to move the ball on offense in the 31-13 road loss. The Saints moved the ball at will and Drew Brees tossed four scoring strikes in Carolina’s first loss in their last nine contests.
12-3-13: Cam Newton continued his hot streak, as did the Carolina Panthers, as he scored three touchdowns in a 27-6 rout of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at home. Tampa Bay kept it close at just 7-6 after one quarter, but Newton and co. would not be denied as they scored the next 20 points to earn an eight consecutive victory to get to 9-3.
11-26-13: Cam Newton struggled for most of the day in Miami, and then he turned it on. Newton tossed the game-winning touchdown to tight end Greg Olsen with just 43 seconds left on the clock, as the Panthers grouped together to earn their eighth straight win over the Miami Dolphins on the road in week 12.
11-19-13: Cam Newton fired a touchdown to wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr. to give the Panthers the lead and Carolina’s defense held on late to earn a bug 24-20 win at home over the New England Patriots. This one was slightly marred by controversy late, but nothing could overshadow an excellent game by Newton, as well as a stout performance by the Panthers’ gritty defense.
11-12-13: DeAngelo Williams scored the game’s only touchdown on a 27-yard run and the Panthers held on in a defensive battle to earn a road win against the San Francisco 49ers in week 10, 10-9. Carolina’s defense sacked Colin Kaepernick an incredible six times, while holding him under 100 passing yards in a game that yielded few big offensive plays and came down to which team could get more stops.
11-5-13: The Carolina Panthers continued their hot run in week nine, as they dominated on both sides of the ball in a 34-10 home win over the Atlanta Falcons. Jonathan Stewart made his 2013 debut and paced the Panthers in rushing yards, while Carolina took advantage of a second straight poor showing from Falcons’ quarterback Matt Ryan (three picks).
10-30-13: Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers made sure they weren’t the first win for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2013, marching into Florida to ascend to 4-3 with an impressive 31-13 road win. Newton was flawless in this one, totaling over 270 yards and scoring three touchdowns and the Panthers won for the third time in four games. Running back DeAngelo Williams also found the end-zone for the first time this season, which ironically was the first rushing score allowed by Tampa Bay in 2013, as well.
10-22-13: Cam Newton wouldn’t explode for the second straight week, but he topped 200 yards passing and played mistake-free football as the Panthers relied on timely offense and elite defense to take a 30-15 home win over the St. Louis Rams in week seven. Carolina knocked Rams’ quarterback Sam Bradford out of the season with a knee injury late in this one, and simply dominated on defense throughout, racking up two turnovers and four sacks in a win that moved them to 3-3 on the year.
10-15-13: Cam Newton continued his erratic play in week six - but this time in a good way. The enigma accounted for four offensive touchdowns (one rushing) as the Panthers let loose on a Minnesota Vikings team that has serious questions at quarterback. On the other side of the ball, Carolina’s still improving defense force Matt Cassel to throw two interceptions and held Adrian Peterson in check in a big 35-10 road victory.
10-8-13: The Carolina Panthers had high hopes entering week five, as they had their entire bye week to prepare for the Arizona Cardinals and were riding high after a huge 38-0 win over the New York Giants in week three. Their high ride was a brief one, however, as Cam Newton accounted for four turnovers and was sacked an alarming seven times, including one that went for a safety, as the Panthers fell on the road to Arizona, 22-6.
9-19-13: Cam Newton and the Panthers entered Buffalo in week two with hopes of getting to 1-1 after a weak showing on offense in week one. Newton wasn’t necessarily on top of his game, but arguably played well enough for Carolina to get the win, as he topped 220 passing yards and accounted for two scores. While the Panthers played a solid game on both sides of the ball in this one, rookie passer E.J. Manuel wound up getting the last laugh, as he drove his Bills down to the goal-line late in the fourth quarter and connected with a wide open Stevie Johnson with just two seconds remaining to steal the win at home, 24-23. Next week, the Panthers host Eli Manning and the 0-2 Giants.
9-10-13: Cam Newton and Russell Wilson squared off for a huge week one NFC battle, but this one actually ended up being all about the ense. Carolina’s young, rising defense completely shutdown the Seahawks’ vaunted rushing attack, while Seattle held the big-armed Newton to just 125 yards through the air. The Panthers had their chance late in the game to take the lead, but Seahawks safety safety Earl Thomas forced DeAngelo Williams to fumble the ball at the Seahawks 8 yard line with 5:25 left on the clock. That would be in for the Panthers as Seattle was able to run out the clock. The Panthers look to get in the win column next week when they travel to Buffalo to take on the 0-1 Bills.
9-4-13: Here's a list of the Panthers final roster cuts heading into the regular season: WR Brenton Bersin, OT Patrick Brown, S D.J. Campbell, OL Garrett Chisolm, QB Jimmy Clausen (waived/injured), TE Dominique Curry, CB Drayton Florence, DT Sione Fua, OG Hayworth Hicks, LB Doug Hogue, WR Taulib Ikharo, LB Ben Jacobs, S Robert Lester, OG Tori Mobley, TE Zach Pianalto, RB Tauren Poole, DE Craig Roh, S Anderson Russell, WR James Shaw, DT Casey Walker, LB Jason Williams, WR David Gettis (waived/injured).
8-16-13: It was an ugly week 2 for the Panthers, who lost to the Eagles 14-9. Cam Newton was OK, completing 8 of 17 passes for 112 yards. David Gettis caught 5 passes for 82 yards. DeAngelo Williams carried it 12 times for just 39 yards. Overall a very quiet night for the Panthers offense, who could muster just three field goals. Next week, the Panthers travel to Baltimore to take on the defending champion Ravens.
8-11-13: The Panthers opened up the 2013 preseason with a 24-17 win over the Chicago Bears. Cam Newton threw just six passes, completing three for 16 yards. He also threw a TD and an interception. Backup QB Derek Anderson threw for 133 yards and a TD.
7-10-13: The Panthers were Super Bowl sleepers a year ago and it didn’t work out, but perhaps 2013 is their year. Second-year linebacker Luke Kuechly anchors an improving defense that also gets defensive tackle Star Lotulelei via the 2013 draft. Losing stud corner Chris Gamble to retirement hurts, but this is still a unit that appears to be on the rise. On offense, Cam Newton aims to make his third season his best yet, as Carolina made few changes on offense in an effort to maintain chemistry heading into 2013.
6-12-13: The Panthers were preseason Super Bowl sleepers in 2012, but instead of taking off and running, struggled out of the gates. Cam Newton seemed to be in a bit of a sophomore slump early on, but he and the Panthers finally were hitting all the notes down the stretch, as they went 4-1 over their final five games to end with a one game improvement on their 2011 season at 7-9. There’s no guarantee that the Panthers are now ready to complete last year’s semi-Super Bowl aspirations, but they will at least have an exciting offense led by Cam Newton under center, and with an improving defense, should be much more consistent.
2013 Panthers Draft Overview:
Round 1, Pick 14: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
Round 2, Pick 12: Kawaan Short, DT, Purdue
Round 4, Pick 11: Edmund Kugbila, OG, Valdosta State
Round 5, Pick 15: A.J. Klein, LB, Iowa State
Round 6, Pick 14: Kenjon Barner, RB, Oregon
12-4-12: Some may call it a sophomore slump for Cam Newton and other may say the team needs to improve the help they put around him. His QB rating only improved by 1 point since his rookie season and his completion percentage is down by 3%. What everyone will agree on is that the 3-9 Panthers will not make the playoffs. The Panthers have lost three out of their last four games and with the Falcons up next it does not look promising. Look for this team to improve its defense in the near future.