2014 Season Review: Carolina Panthers - Strides Made in Year 3

Discussion in 'Game Summaries & Team News' started by LtJustice, Jan 27, 2013.

  1. LtJustice

    LtJustice QSF Commissioner

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    The 2014 season was the 3rd season for general manager LtJustice and head coach Jim Luby at the helm of the Carolina Panthers. Having posted back to back 9-7 seasons in 2012 & 2013 (simmed), but missing the playoffs both times, ownership made it no secret that this was the year they expected to see the Panthers return to the postseason. Justice's shrewd personnel moves along with Luby's leadership produced positive results in a big way this season, as the Panthers went 13-3 to win the NFC South Division championship and earning a 1st round bye in the playoffs along the way. Having taken that next step to the postseason, a future Super Bowl run would definitely be a realistic goal for this exciting young team.


    Season Breakdown:

    The Panthers would open the season at home against the rival New Orleans Saints, the 2012 NFC South Champions and spoilers to the Panthers own 2012 playoff hopes with a week 17 victory that season. The Panthers would soundly defeat their rivals to start the season off on a very positive note. Carolina would go on to win their next 4 games as well, defeating the Eagles and rival Buccanneers on the road and the Cowboys and rival Falcons at home, to start the season off 5-0.

    A week 6 rematch on the road with the now 3-1 Saints, would see the Panthers lose their first game of the season to fall to 5-1. The Panthers would rebound nicely, behind a huge day from quarterback Cam Newton (392yds, 3td, 140qbr), to defeat the Lions in Detroit and move to 6-1 heading into their week 8 bye.

    The Panthers would split their next two games after their bye, defeating the Bucs and losing to the New York Giants at home, to move to 7-2 and into a tie with the Saints for the NFC South lead.

    The Panthers would get back in the win column against the Redskins on the road in week 11, and then return home for back to back wins against the Chargers and Rams, to improve to 10-2 on the season. The winning streak would continue against the Falcons on the road in week 14 and against the Broncos at home in week 15, before reaching it's peak at 6 wins in a row with a week 16 win on the road against the Raiders. The win against Oakland improved the Panthers to 13-2 on the season and clinched the NFC South Championship and the #2 seed in the NFC, along with the 1st round playoff bye that comes the seeding. A week 17 loss to the upset minded Chiefs would give the Panthers a 13-3 record on the season, but for a change they had at least one more game to look forward to.

    For the Divisional Round of the playoffs, the Panthers would host the NFC East Champion Philadelphia Eagles, who had defeated the Saints in the Wild Card round to advance.

    The Eagles were on a roll and that continued against Carolina, who showed their youth and postseason inexperience, as Philadelphia rolled over the Panthers 30-14 to officially end the Panthers season. With this being the first postseason exposure for most of the young Panthers, the 1-and-done playoff loss should serve as a learning experience for this budding young squad in the future.


    OFFENSE:

    The Panthers offense finished the season ranked 11th overall in total yards (5,088 yds), 16th in passing (3,385 yds), 11th in rushing (1,703 yds), and the team finished 2nd in scoring at 29.5 PPG.


    QB:

    Panthers quarterback Cam Newton looks to have officially taken the step into the elite level of NFL quarterbacks. Cam turned in a heck of a season with a rating of 121.4 (2nd in the league), 3,350 yards passing, and 40 TDs (T-2nd in league). His 12.5 YPA was also tied for best in the league. The biggest turn around to Cam's game came in the form of interceptions, or lack thereof. After finishing near the bottom of the league, with 34 interceptions in 2012, Cam's improved maturity and decision making was readily apparent as he led the league (among full time starters) with just 11 interceptions on the season in 2014. Of course with Newton you get more than a great passer, he is a very natural and gifted runner as well. Newton once again led all QBs with 362 yards rushing, including 7 runs of over 20 yards, and 8 rushing TDs on the year. Cam was selected to his 2nd career Pro Bowl and finished third in league MVP voting (won by Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers), as well as second to Rodgers in NFC OPOY and NFC Best QB awards. Newton was also selected as the NFC Offensive Player of the Week for his performances in weeks 9, 12, and 16 during the 2014 season. Even with the great season he turned in, with his improved maturity and decision making, and at just 25 years old, Cam Newton's best days could very well still be ahead of him and that is a great thing for the Carolina Panthers!


    RB:

    The halfback position was a point of concern for some within the Panthers organization coming into the 2014 season. After a phenomenal season in 2012 as a change of pace back and returner, 4th year back Taiwan Jones was awarded the starting role at the beginning of the 2014 season. Unfortunately for the Panthers, Jones did not rise to occasion, as was hoped, and seemed more concerned with his contract due to expire at the end of the season. Rushing for just 660 yards (4.0 yd avg) and 4 TDs, Jones seemed tentative and for the most part lacked the burst that made him such an exciting player in 2012. Jones did lead the league with 31 broken tackles, but rarely was able to capitalize, rushing for only 180 yards after 1st hit. Heading into free agency; Jones most likely won't be back, unless he is willing to return to the role that he had so much success with in 2012.

    Second year halfback Elijah Mitchell, a preseason waiver wire find, was a pleasant surprise for the Panthers. Finishing 2nd on the team with 377 yards with 4 TDs, Mitchell averaged over 7 yards a carry. Mitchell also handled the primary kick return duties and did a solid job with a 27.8 yard average and 2 TDs on the season.

    Panthers fullback Mike Tolbert was awarded for his ferocious blocking abilities with a Pro Bowl nod for the NFC squad.

    The Panthers will undoubtedly be looking for a starting HB this offseason, and there have already been rumblings of a huge trade in the works that would fill that need.


    WR:

    When the Panthers used one of their two 2014 1st round draft picks (#20 ovr) on wide receiver Patrick Wilkerson out of Penn State, the hope was that he would eventually become their #1 receiver. That appears to have happened a lot quicker than anyone planned. Wilkerson turned in what is possibly the best season ever for a rookie receiver, catching 51 passes for 1,576 yards (3rd in NFL) and 15 TDs (T-1st in NFL). His 30.9 YPC led the league for receivers with at least 30 catches. Wilkerson was awarded for his efforts with a starting spot in the Pro Bowl for the NFC squad. He was also awarded the NFC Offensive Rookie of the Year award and the NFC Best WR award and finished 7th in the NFC OPOY award voting.

    Former Pro Bowler A.J. Green turned in a solid season as well, catching 31 passes for 493 yards and 7 TDs.

    Tight End Greg Olsen also turned in a Pro Bowl season, with 36 catches for 809 yards and 10 TDs.

    With Wilkerson's emergence and a stable of young promising receivers on the roster, the Panthers may very well have one of the best receiving corps in the league.


    OL:

    The Panthers offensive line continue to play like one of the best units, if not the best unit, in the league. The entire starting unit played virtually every snap all season, were credited with getting beat for just 9 sacks all year, and Newton was sacked a total of just 20 times.

    The line is anchored by veteran left tackle Jordan Gross, who led the league with 14 pancake blocks and allowed only 1 sack. Gross was voted in as a Pro Bowl starter at Left Tackle and finished 2nd in the voting for Best NFC Offensive Lineman.

    The other standout linemen were C Ryan Kalil and RT Russell Okung, who finished 3rd & 10th respectively in the voting for Best NFC Offensive Lineman and both also represented the Panthers for the NFC Pro Bowl team.

    With 3 Pro Bowlers and young RG Amini Silatolu showing steady improvement, the Panthers offensive line should continue to be a strength of this team.



    DEFENSE:

    The Carolina Panthers defense played a "bend but don't break" style and they finished the season 14th in total yards allowed (4,744 yds), largely because they finished 30th in passing yards allowed (3,746 yds). They did however finish 2nd in the league in rushing yards allowed (998 yds), one of only 2 teams to allow under 1,000 yards on the ground. Their 352 points allowed ranked 9th in the league, they ranked 8th in sacks (40 sacks), and were tied for 2nd in Interceptions (34 INTs).


    DL:

    Panthers 2nd year defensive end Kahlbuto Williams has certainly made a name for himself since the Panthers used the 11th pick in the 2013 draft on the big man out of Stanford. Not only did he beat out Pro Bowler Eric Norwood for a starting spot in his rookie season last year, he himself became a Pro Bowler and All-Pro in only his 2nd season. Finishing the season with 33 tackles, including 19 tackles for a loss (tied for 15th in the NFL), 11 sacks (tied for 10th), 1 fumble forced, 2 fumbles recovered, and 1 interception which he returned for the first touchdown of his career. In addition to being elected to the Pro Bowl as a starter, Williams won the award for NFC Best Defensive Lineman and finished 9th in voting for NFC DPOY.

    The right side of the Panthers defensive line is home to resident sack artist Charles Johnson. Turning in another stellar season, Johnson had 42 tackles, including 22 tackles for a loss (tied for 10th in the NFL), 14 sacks (6th in the NFL), and 2 fumbles forced. Johnson was again named to the NFC Pro Bowl squad, finished 8th in the voting for NFC DPOY, and finished second to Williams in voting for NFC Best Defensive Lineman.


    LB:

    Team captain Jon Beason continues to be the heart and soul of the Panthers defense from the middle linebacker position. Beason led the team in tackles with 81 (T-11th in the NFL), including 11 tackles for a loss. Beason also had 3 interceptions and forced 5 fumbles on the season (T-9th in the NFL).

    Third year outside linebacker Luke Kuechly, at only 23 years old, has developed into one of the premier young linebackers in the league. Kuechly finished 2nd on the team with 71 tackles, including 23 tackles for a loss (T-9th in the NFL). Kuechly also added 6 sacks and 2 interceptions for the year.

    Second year linebacker Terrell Reese embraced the starting role at right outside linebacker and seemed to improve as the season progressed. Reese finished the season with 31 tackles, 7 tackles for a loss, and 2 sacks.


    DB:

    Panthers cornerback Chris Gamble once again defied mother nature in 2014. Despite starting the season at 31 years old, Gamble played like a man 10 years his junior, showing great speed and once again leading the league in interceptions (9) and also knocked down 14 passes (T-4th in the NFL). Gamble was once again elected as a Pro Bowl starter, won the award for Best NFC Defensive Back, and finished 4th in the voting for DPOY.

    Rookie cornerback Wesley Orange came in and started opposite the ageless Gamble from day 1. Orange held his own and his future looks bright, as he intercepted 4 passes and knocked down 11 more. Orange also finished 4th in the voting for DROY in the NFC.

    Veteran safeties Charles Godfrey and Sherrod Martin were once again as solid a tandem as you can find. Godfrey finished with 65 tackles and 5 interceptions on the season. Martin added 49 tackles of his own and 3 interceptions himself.


    SPECIAL TEAMS:

    The Panthers surprised many of the draft experts when they used their 2014 3rd round draft pick on punter Charlie Trimble out of Purdue. Trimble left the Panthers front office with zero regrets, as he had a Pro Bowl rookie campaign. Trimble averaged 45.3 yards per punt and had 18 punts downed within the 20 yard line (2nd in NFL).


    Pro Bowl:
    The Carolina Panthers had an astounding 11 players named to the Pro Bowl following the 2014 season.​
    OFFENSE
    QB - Cam Newton​
    FB - Mike Tolbert​
    WR - Patrick Wilkerson (S)​
    TE - Greg Olsen​
    LT - Jordan Gross (S)​
    C - Ryan Kalil (S)​
    RT - Russell Okung​
    DEFENSE
    LE - Kahlbuto Williams (S)​
    RE - Charles Johnson​
    CB - Chris Gamble​
    SPECIAL TEAMS
    P - Charlie Trimble​
    YEARLY AWARDS:
    2014 NFC Offensive Rookie of the Year
    WR - Patrick Wilkerson
    2014 NFC Best Wide Receiver
    WR - Patrick Wilkerson
    2014 NFC Best Defensive Lineman
    LE - Kahlbuto Williams
    2014 NFC Best Defensive Back
    CB - Chris Gamble
     
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2013
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  2. CHUNKNESS

    CHUNKNESS Commissioner Quality Simulation Football

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    i like team recaps like these. nicely done Jim.
     
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  3. LtJustice

    LtJustice QSF Commissioner

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    Thanks Doug and for the likes everyone! Glad to know you guys enjoyed it.
     

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