• 68°

NFL: Optimistic Panthers report

By Steve Reed
Associated Press
SPARTANBURG, S.C. — The Carolina Panthers reported to Wofford College for training camp Friday with pillows, small refrigerators and a new sense of optimism.
After winning four of their last six games in 2011, the Panthers believe they have what it takes to make some noise this season. Center Ryan Kalil declared as much when he took out a full-page advertisement this week in a Charlotte newspaper predicting the Panthers would win their first Lombardi Trophy.
Wide receiver Steve Smith senses there’s a different feel entering his 12th season with the Panthers. He says “it has to be” different, especially with quarterback Cam Newton a year more experienced.
Much of the optimism surrounding the Panthers focuses on the huge strides they made last season on offense behind Newton, the No. 1 pick in the 2011 draft.
The Panthers went from last in the league in total offense, passing offense and points scored in 2011 to the fifth-highest scoring team in the NFL under Newton, who was selected as the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year.
“We know what we can do,” Smith said. “It’s, ‘Can we build on it? Can we double the numbers?’ I think it’d be great to double the numbers. That’d be good.”
You mean double the yardage and scoring, Steve?
“All of it,” Smith said. “Why not?”
That would be a remarkable achievement considering the Panthers averaged 25 points and 390 yards last season.
Tight end Greg Olsen, who had 45 receptions and five touchdowns in his first season with the Panthers, said “you can’t take anything for granted in this league.”
“Last year we had some success offensively but that doesn’t mean automatically it will happen this year,” he said. “Teams will be ready for a lot of things they hadn’t seen before last year. We’re going to have to be better and evolve a little bit.”
What may be more realistic is hoping for some major improvement on the defensive side of the ball.
There’s certainly plenty of room for it. Carolina was 28th in the league in total yards (377.6) and points (26.8) allowed per game last season after injuries devastated their defense.
This season, all of their defensive stalwarts are healthy and should be ready to go when practice begins tonight.
There’s a belief that if the Panthers can improve on defense — and the offense remains as productive — they should be a playoff contender.
“That’s the truth,” said linebacker Jon Beason, lost to a season-ending injury early in 2011. “We finished 27th in the league and you can’t win with that. The offense sells tickets, but we’re supposed to win games. We win championships (on defense). If our offense is scoring 28 points per game, well, that should be a walk in the park for us on defense.”
Maybe then Kalil’s prediction has a chance of coming true.
He’s received major support from his teammates after his bold prediction promising that fans would be rewarded for their unwavering backing with a Super Bowl win.
“I thought it was fantastic,” Smith said. “I wouldn’t necessarily say he put added pressure on any of us. When you come to training camp everybody believes their team has the right formula and the right guys that will transfer over to the season and you’ll be that team. Why is that wrong to have that standard? I love it. I’m right there next to him.”
Said Olsen: “It really comes down to what Ryan said — we need to have the attitude that we’re going to go out and win every game.”

Comments

Comments closed.

High School

High school football: Playoff time means get ready for ‘big-boy football’

High School

High school football: Hornets overpower South to secure playoff spot

Crime

Jeffrey MacDonald won’t be released despite deteriorating health

Business

Amazon warehouse workers reject union in Alabama

Nation/World

Ex-NFL player’s brain to be probed for trauma-related harm after Rock Hill shootings

Education

Duke University to require COVID vaccinations for fall term

Education

Cooper OKs bill offering K-12 students summer school option

High School

High school football: Record night for Pinckney as East cruises; Carson wins thriller in OT

Nation/World

D-Day survivor, WWII torch bearer Ray Lambert dies at 100

Nation/World

Prince Philip was always defined by role as husband of British queen

China Grove

One dead, several injured after head-on collision in China Grove

Crime

Man, woman charged for selling drugs to undercover deputies

Crime

Blotter: Rowan County man charged with indecent liberties with children

Local

Spencer town board gets look at Park Plaza progress

Business

‘Applicant market’: Unemployment rate improving as businesses hire more workers

Local

National, local business leaders praise Salisbury’s initiative to support Black-owned operations

Nation/World

Tillis has prostate cancer surgery

Coronavirus

Adverse reactions surface from Johnson & Johnson vaccine

Nation/World

Expert: Lack of oxygen killed George Floyd, not drugs

Local

Quotes of the week

Nation/World

Biden seeks crackdown on homemade firearms

Nation/World

Victim of former NFL player’s rampage wrote of faith, life’s fragility

News

Wrongly imprisoned man gets $750,000

High School

West falls to Statesville, finishes second in NPC