The Carolina Panthers fell a little short of the ultimate goal of hoisting the Lombardi trophy falling to the Denver Broncos 24-10. It was a game filled with what if’s and missed opportunities. I think I speak for all of Panther nation when I say I wish we could go back in time and fix the critical errors that ultimately cost us the game. However, that is not possible the worst thing about sports is someone has to lose and unfortunately we did not play up to our ability and suffered the consequences of that.
Despite the loss it was an incredible season to witness and be a part of! 2016 has a chance to be equally as amazing with a slightly different result at the end. The motivation couldn’t be higher for this organization to continue the journey to become the champion of the NFL! Here are three reasons it could be even better for the Panthers in 2016.
The Return of Kelvin Benjamin
In sports, when one of your star players goes down with an injury, then returns it’s like making a big trade, but it doesn’t cost you anything. That’s going to happen for the Panthers next season as Kelvin Benjamin is set to return from his ACL injury he suffered in training camp before the season. It’s going to be a huge addition to an already potent offense.
In his rookie season he set records for receptions (73), yards (1008), and (9) touchdowns. This is going to be a huge shot in the arm and just another weapon for defenses to plan for. It’s a dream situation, I think because Cam Newton was able to build trust and confidence in his other wide receivers helping the entire offense mature and develop chemistry. Adding Benjamin to the mix creates mismatches and allows for creativity with the offense because defenses can’t double-team as frequently when Benjamin is on the football field. The sky’s the limit for this offense, I can’t wait to see it!
Another Year Older
The experience factor is just if not more important than the talent on the roster. This season so many young guys were able to gain valuable experience showing themselves and the coaching staff they belong. Those guys include Devin Funchess and Shaq Thompson rookies that were key contributors to our success. In Funchess’s case, he had to grow up a little faster due to injury and was able to do that making many important catches to help us win games. It’s going to be fun to see the twin towers Benjamin and Funchess develop into a great one-two punch with Greg Olsen, Ted Ginn JR, and Philly Brown alongside.
A lot of us were scratching our heads when we selected Thompson 25th overall out of the University of Washington. He has shown he has the ability to turn into a dynamic every down defender. He had some bone crushing hits this season that made me smile and understand why we made the selection. Those are just two young guys that benefited from great experience this season.
The experience was not only great for the rookies, but for the entire team from the top down. Experience shows you how to handle big moments, success and failure no one can take that away from them. Knowledge is the gift that keeps on giving, especially in football because you can go into your memory bank and see how you handled a situation on or off the field. Making them better prepared when they are in that situation again.
Being a year older will greatly benefit everyone that’s a part of this team on and off the field it’s amazing what experience will do for football players. The Panthers will benefit greatly from what they experienced this year!
Lastly, this roster is built for the long run with our core players being young starting with quarterback Cam Newton (26) and middle linebacker Luke Kuechly (24) captains of the offense and defense respectively.
This team has built well through the draft in recent years Newton and Kuechly included, but here are some other guys that have developed into great NFL players and will be around for a while. Defensive tackles Kawann Short (27), Star Lotulelei (26), Cornerback Josh Norman (28). Those are just a handful of guys that are just entering their prime and shows you can build a winner through the draft as we have.
I’m really hoping we are able to lock up these guys because they are really good and like GM Dave Gettleman said “I don’t want to develop these guys for other teams.” I’m very confident that we will be able to get those deals done while continuing to make improvements to our roster. Gettleman has the pulse of the team and understands what we need to make it over that last hurdle. It’s been exciting to see us develop this winning culture over the past handful of seasons. The Queen City will be roaring once again in 2016 I have no doubt. Go Panthers! Keep Pounding!