The Carolina Panthers now stand alone atop the NFL ranks at 13-0! This has been a magical season that just keeps getting better and better; it’s been a total team effort from top to bottom of this organization. Here are five people that are very under-appreciated, but are key cogs in helping this team chase both perfection and more importantly the Lombardi trophy.
This first year Panther has been absolutely outstanding making big play after big play. He is one of the smartest football players we have in his ability to read the quarterback’s eyes pouncing on every opportunity he has been given the season. With shutdown corner Josh Norman on the other side opposing quarterbacks are wary of throwing his way and now they have to account for Coleman has been patrolling the middle of the field.
This season he has 57 combined tackles and five interceptions for the ball hawking secondary that we’ve become. He signed a two-year deal worth just 2.8 million an absolute steal with his production on the field in 2015! A guy didn’t know much about coming into the season is quickly becoming one of the best safeties in the NFL! This guy has helped make our secondary stingier and allows other guys to take chances and force quarterbacks into bad decisions.
He is the mastermind behind the roster and how it is constructed he has brought consistency and a winning attitude since joining the Panthers in 2013. The team has won back-to-back division titles and collected their first playoff win since 2008 last season under Gettleman’s watch. In 2015 he has once again worked his magic adding veteran guys that were sort of cast-off with their former teams and now a thriving with the Panthers.
Those guys include Ted Ginn, Charles Tillman, Kurt Coleman, Jared Allen and another solid draft class that have all contributed to the team’s 11-0 start. He has done a masterful job of seeing the team’s weaknesses and addressing them with the best players possible for our system. He has also shown loyalty to his players and showing how important they are to this organization and its success signing them to long-term deals.
He is everything you want in a general manager putting the best 53 guys on the roster without mortgaging the future having the ability to compete for a Super Bowl year after year; he has done that and more since he has arrived in the Queen City there is just one thing missing and that is a ring. We are really lucky to have brought in such a smart football man that understands what a winning team and organization looks like.
Ron Rivera is one of the most underrated coaches in the league with his ability to get the most out of his players while still allowing their personalities to come out and be themselves. He has brought a winning culture and attitude willing to take chances and will stand up for every decision he and his players make from the football field. Honestly, when we brought him on in 2011 I knew little about him, but I have so much respect for a guy that had gone through so much in his personal life over the past year and a half with his house fire and the passing of his brother and still getting his team best prepared to win games.
He expects the best out of us every snap of every game, but he is, he also understands these are humans and it’s always good to have a little bit of fun while doing your job. Just a great coach person and leader keeping this team focused on the ultimate goal every week!
The Offensive Line
A perceived weakness coming into this season has become a great strength a big reason why Cam Newton has had an MVP caliber season allowing many explosive plays to take shape. This unit ranks 10th in the league the most impressive stat for me is the fact that Cam Newton has only been sacked 24 times and hit just 67 times that number is probably a little low considering Newton is a dual threat, rushing as well, but it’s still impressive considering Newton has been sacked 500+ times since entering the league in 2011.
The line has also opened up huge holes for Jonathan Stewart and the rushing attack as we are second in the league in rushing, averaging 141.9 yards per game the cherry on top is we are first in the league averaging 31.9 points per game that’s what I call a complete team doing on both sides of the ball. These guys protecting Newton might not be well known and don’t get the recognition they should, but all they care about is winning games and protecting their field general!
Another key cog to this defense is the breakout season that third-year pro Kawann Short is having in 2015. He has nine sacks 44 tackles and three forced fumbles just another headache for opposing offenses to deal with. Many people questioned this draft pick because we had already selected Star Lotulelei in the draft, but Short has proved he was the right choice at that moment and continues to develop into one of the most feared pass rushers this game has seen. He just adds an extra person for teams to plan for creating more opportunities for all of our other defensive stars. It’s great to see that our core team is so young and still developing and short is one of many guys that make our defense as well as it is!
All of this team is under underappreciated, but these are the guys that I believe people need to realize we would not be chasing perfection or more importantly the Lombardi trophy! I hope these guys agree Go Panthers!