Panthers are in deep trouble with poor offense

The Carolina Panthers are vying for their third consecutive NFC South championship this season. It is going to be an uphill battle to say the least.

Carolina won the division and a playoff game in 2014, but only went 7-8-1 in one of the worst divisions of all-time. The Panthers rode an improved defense down the stretch and the combination of Cam Newton and Kelvin Benjamin to win their last four games before defeating the Arizona Cardinals (led by the brutal Ryan Lindley) in the NFC Wild Card game.

In the offseason, general manager David Gettleman made two curious decisions. First, he elected not to bolster the team through free agency in any way, while allowing a key offensive piece to move on. Second, he signed Newton to a five-year, $103.8 million contract extension with $60 million guaranteed. That is an awful lot of cheddar for perhaps the most overrated player in the game.

Newton was the first-overall pick in 2011. Over his four seasons with Carolina, Newton has shown elite athletic ability while having a penchant for missing open receivers and failing to get through his progressions. The Heisman Trophy winner has never thrown for 25 touchdowns and always had double-digit interception numbers. Last year, Newton had a top pass-catching tight end in Greg Olsen and Benjamin on the outside, but only managed to complete 58.5 percent of his throws. Overall, Newton threw for 3,127 yards with 18 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.

Those numbers are worse than Ryan Tannehill and Alex Smith, two quarterbacks held in considerably less esteem, yet are currently better players.

In training camp, disaster struck for the Panthers. Benjamin and his 6-foot-5 frame went down in a joint practice with the Miami Dolphins. Originally, Benjamin was diagnosed with a sprained knee but further testing revealed a torn ACL; out for the season.

With Benjamin gone for the campaign, Gettleman’s lack of reinforcements have left Carolina with all sorts of problems. The left tackle spot remains a massive question mark. Byron Bell was a turnstile and was allowed to walk, but he was replaced by another porous lineman in Michael Oher. On the outside, Ted Ginn Jr. was brought in along with second-round pick Devin Funchess. As thing stand with Benjamin out, those two are at the top of the depth chart with Jerricho Cotchery also factoring in. Frankly, that is an atrocious set of receivers for a team with playoff aspirations.

Gettleman also allowed DeAngelo Williams to leave for the Pittsburgh Steelers. With Williams gone, Jonathan Stewart now gets to shoulder the burden in the backfield. Stewart is talented but constantly injured, playing in 28 games over the last three seasons. Stewart has not enjoyed an 1,000-yard season since 2009.

Carolina is in dire straits offensively, and there is nothing that can be done to help the situation. Newton must make lemons into lemonade, something he has shown no ability to do yet. If the Panthers win the NFC South this year, it will be quite the show from Superman.

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