Carolina Panthers 2009 Season Preview
by Badger of Predictem.com
2008 Record 12-4 (9-6-1 ATS)
NFC South Division Champions
Stadium: Bank of America Stadium
Head Coach: John Fox (7th Season 68-52)
Current 2009-2010 Super Bowl Odds 22-to-1
Training Camp Site: Wofford College, Spartanburg, S.C.
Going into the start of the 2008 season most of the questions
surrounding the Carolina Panthers centered around quarterback Jake
Delhomme, who returned to the lineup after missing most of the
Panthers sub-par 7-9 season in 2007 following Tommy John surgery on
Delhomme and the Panthers answered those questions emphatically by racing out to a 12-4 season and an NFC South Division title in 08,
but that title meant little when the Panthers were eliminated from
the NFC playoffs in the Divisional round by the Arizona Cardinals,
This year the Panthers look to contend once again in the competitive
NFC South Division, but that all depends on whether or not they make
it through training camp with a full roster. Theyve already lost
starting defensive tackle Maake Kemoeatu for the entire season with a
torn Achilles tendon, and linebackers Thomas Davis and Jon Beaston
are out multiple weeks with leg injuries.
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As if that wasnt enough, last week the Panthers lost their biggest
offensive weapon, receiver Steve Smith, to an injured shoulder in a
collision in a non-contact drill. Smith should be ready to go by week
one, but all of the lingering injuries could make the Panthers 2009
season a long and tedious one right from the start.
Whos In/Whos Out
The biggest news out of Carolina all winter was whether or not the
Panthers would be able to keep defensive end Julius Peppers. First
they designated him as a franchise player to cover the butts, then in
June the resigned him to just the one-year tender offer, so hell be
back with the Panthers for this season but who knows if hell be a
distraction or not.
They also resigned tackle Jordan Gross early in February to keep a main cog of their offensive line in a Panthers jersey for six more
The also cut starting corner Ken Lucas and allowed him to go back to
Seattle after a few unproductive years with the Panthers. They also
let their punt and kick returner Mark Jones walk to Tennessee in free
But the rest of the winter was fairly quiet. They lost a few fringe
players and backups (D.J. Hackett, Nick Goings, Frank Omiyale, Darwin
Walker), but none of them should be considered a big loss.
Draft Class 2009
Carolina and owner Jerry Richardson gave up their first round pick in
2009 to move up and take both running back Jonathan Stewart and
tackle Jeff Otah in the first round of the 2008 draft, so this years
class lacks a big name.
They picked a good pass-rushing end in Everette Brown in the second
round, and a good 3-technique tackle/end in Corvey Irvin in the third
round, but that might be about all they get out of this years class
(7 picks total).
Delhomme threw for 3,288 yards and 15 touchdowns last year with his
repaired elbow, but his accuracy (59.4), interceptions (12) and QB
rating (84.7) were all middle of the pack and need to be better for
the Panthers to make a legit run at the 2009-2010 Super Bowl.
Delhomme was without Smith for four games last year while he was
suspended, and hell have to work with some new receivers again in
training camp this year to improve on their 19th-ranked pass offense
(197.4 ypg). Mushin Muhammad (923 yds., 5 TD) is a nice complement to
Smith, but after him the Panthers receiving crew drops off
significantly. Tight end Jeff King (21 rec., 1 TD) and second-year
receiver Dwayne Jarrett (10 rec.) need to increase their production
in order to stop defenses from stacking the box against the run.
But its no secret that the Panthers offense is geared around the
strong two-headed running attack of DeAngelo Williams and Stewart.
Williams (1,515 yds.) became the top running back in fantasy circles
last year scoring 18 touchdowns in 08. Stewart added 836 yards and
10 TDs as the Panthers running game ended 3rd in the league at 152.3
yards per game.
The offensive line that busted open all of the holes for Williams and Stewart is back intact, anchored by Gross and Otah at tackle.
The defense will be under the direction of new coordinator Ron Meeks,
and Meeks will have his work cut out for him early as he tries to
patch up the holes caused by all of the aforementioned injuries.
Second-year guy Nick Hayden is pegged to fill Kemoeatus spot at
tackle, but he spent most of last year on the practice squad, so it
will likely be a big drop off and could make the run defense slip a
little from last years 20th-ranked run defense (19.5 ypg).
Linebacker Dan Conner, who missed most of last year with a torn ACL,
will fill in for Beaston in the middle while he recovers. But if
Beaston and Davis are on-again, off-again all season long the
Panthers might not have enough depth at linebacker to stay afloat.
Richard Marshall will get the first shot at replacing Lucas at corner
opposite the other starter, Chris Gamble. Chris Harris and Charles
Godfrey are the safeties that must improve their games as well if
the Panthers expect to improve on the 16th-ranked pass defense from
08 (211.7 ypg).
The Panthers have a formidable kicking game with kicker John Kasay
and punter Jason Baker back again in 2009.
Kasay was 28-of-31 on field goal attempts in 08, but he did suffer a
little drop off when he was just 1-of-3 from 50+ last year. Baker had
a nice 44.1 yard average and an okay 37.4 yard net, but he had three
punts blocked in 08 and will have to eliminate that from the
Panthers kicking game in the upcoming season.
Jones will be replaced by Ryne Robinson in the return game, who held
the role as the returner in 2007 before missing most of last year
with a bum knee.
2009 Carolina Panthers Schedule
Sept. 13 PHILADELPHIA EAGLES
Sept. 20 at Atlanta Falcons
Sept. 28 at Dallas Cowboys
Oct. 4 Bye
Oct. 11 WASHINGTON REDSKINS
Oct. 18 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Oct. 25 BUFFALO BILLS
Nov. 1 at Arizona Cardinals
Nov. 8 at New Orleans Saints
Nov. 15 ATLANTA FALCONS
Nov. 19 MIAMI DOLPHINS
Nov. 29 at New York Jets
Dec. 6 TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
Dec. 13 at New England Patriots
Dec. 20 MINNESOTA VIKINGS
Dec. 27 at New York Giants
Jan. 3 NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
Betting Odds and Projections
The Carolina Panthers were a solid 9-6-1 against the spread in 2008,
which made bettors a little coin but not enough to make anyone
continue to wager on them week in and week out religiously. Their
over/under record of 8-8 was a wash in 08 as well.
Despite finishing at 12-4 and winning the NFC South last year, oddsmakers must think the Panthers are destined to drop off in 2009 because they are listed at 22-to-1 odds to win the 2009-2010 Super
Bowl. Those odds are just the sixth lowest of all of the NFC teams,
and the same as their South rival New Orleans Saints, so they can
still play the disrespect card in 09 if they would like. That is, IF they can stop anybody on defense and that is a big IF. Look for some high scoring games this year.
Their schedule is tough right out of the gate, hosting the
Philadelphia Eagles in the opener before two road hard road games at
Atlanta and Dallas before a week-four bye. If their defense is not
healthy enough coming out of camp, an 0-3 start is a distinct
possibility. They also face four big games to close out the season,
including road games at New England and at the New York Giants, which
will make the prospect of chasing a final playoff spot a hard