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August: Time for optimism

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It never fails. Every August fans for nearly every NFL team work themselves into a frenzy about how this will be their year. For me, I reach the peak of my optimism when I go to the first preseason game and see the first live action of the year. I remember stating at the first preseason game that the Panthers should have their best QB competition ever. Matt Moore had looked great at the end of 2009 and they had brought in Jimmy Clausen, who was widely lauded as a steal for the Panthers in the draft.

Unfortunately, the preseason quickly showed signs that any optimism for the Panthers might be unwarranted. Unfortunately, Panthers management had slept through the offseason and watched as key players bolted and didn't bring anyone in to replace them. This left us with rookies and unproven players in key positions. Offensively, the Panthers looked terrible against their own defense at FanFest and then barely scored at all in the preseason. While, I tried to write off these facts and hope that things would be better once the season started, things only got worse and last year just got more and more painful and hard to watch.

Fast forward a year, the NFL made everyone question whether we would have football or not and then once it became clear we would, the NFL compacted its entire offseason into one glorious football buffet this past week. This leads to the typical blind optimism of August. Is the optimism more warranted than last year? I would say absolutely and here's why:

1) Coaching staff -- I'm more optimistic because of the assistant coaches than anything. I think between McDermott, Chudzinski, Shula, and Meeks that the Panthers have assembled the best group of assistants that they've ever had. Obviously, Rivera is unproven as a new head coach but there have been plenty of first time head coaches that have gotten success quickly (the other 3 in the NFC South are easy proof of this) and Rivera appears to be everything that the Panthers need in the post-Fox era. Honest, hard-working and he comes with a good pedigree. I'm thrilled with the new staff.

2) QB competition, take 2 -- Last year's pain led to the introduction of Newton as a Panther. With a year's experience and a rookie pushing him, the hope is that Clausen will be better. The QB situation is still a big unknown and will play a huge role in whether the Panthers have much success this year. But, with an athlete like Newton there is room to dream that the Panthers may have found the franchise QB that they have lacked their entire existence. We can only hope.

3) The running game -- A definite strength of the Panthers for the last few years looks to be stronger this year. The Panthers kept the core backs and linemen and should get a huge boost from having Otah return. If they have a legit threat in their passing game to keep defenses honest, we could get a return to the running game that we had 2-3 years ago which could only help the passing game as well.

4) The linebackers -- Already a strength of the team, adding Thomas Davis back to the mix should make this group even stronger. Before his first injury in 09, Davis was playing as well as anyone on the Panthers team and if he can come back with that kind of intensity and add it to the talent that Beason, Anderson, and Connor already had, it could mean nothing but good things.

5) The receiving corps -- While there is some argument that the Panthers should get another veteran WR, last years rookies all got great experience and showed signs of growth throughout last season. Steve Smith did an about face and decided to bring his considerable talent back for another year. Oh yeah, the team now has the best group of tight ends that they've ever had as well. Olsen and Shockey should lead to the best security blanket possible for the QB and the most usage of the TE position as a receiving option that we've ever had.

All is not perfect as depth is a question on the defense for both the corners and the defensive line. But, there is still time to correct this and the hope that some of this year's rookies could help out there. Further, the NFC South looks tougher than ever and there are a lot of new pieces to come together with a new coaching staff and playbook in a short amount of time. Enjoy August though as there are plenty of good reasons to be optimistic.

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I'd still say 2003-08 we had a franchise quarterback.

My opinion is that Jake was forced to be very conservative throughout most of 2003 even though he was obviously successful. He was excellent in 2004-2005 and very average/inconsistent in 2006 onward. Even though I liked Jake and was probably a Jake homer until the end, I can't really consider him as a "franchise qb" based on 2-3 good-excellent years.

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this is why football is better than baseball. every year you have a shot before your team actually plays.

That, and well...Baseball sucks.

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I am more optimistic now than I was two weeks ago. I fell that the key element between 5-11 or so and maybe 8-8 is how well/if Otah plays...

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