The Panthers will pin their hopes this season on three critical changes. First of the all, Carolina's new offensive coordinator is Jeff Davidson. He's revitalizing the Panther's stagnant running game with a zone blocking scheme for running back, DeAngelo Williams. Zone blocks require an offensive lineman to block an area rather than a player. The technique was very successful for Davidson in Denver where the Broncos guzzled up huge chunks of yardage. Williams was familiar with the system at the University of Memphis. Besides a new coach, the Panthers want to re-sign dominant defensive end, Julius Peppers, but he wants to become the highest paid defender in the league. It's believed, Peppers wants to exceed the Colts, Dwight Freeny, with a contract neighboring, 72-million over six years. Lastly, the Panthers need another extraordinary season from receiver, Steve Smith. This year, he will have some help from gangly flanker, Dwanye Jarrett, another good Panther draft choice from USC. A healthy Steve Smith makes everybody's job easier, consequently quarterback, Jake Delhome, should rebound from last year's struggles; however, Smith must return to his old form, otherwise the Panthers will labor to improve on last year's 8-8 season. Another concern is the strong safety position. Hard hitting and intelligent, Mike Minter, says he will retire this season, meanwhile Carolina signed former Bear strong saftey, Chris Harris. The defense will need the taciturn, Kris Jenkins, to play like a Tasmanian devil, but the Panthers think his excessive weight, 375 lbs, will doom him to another sub par performance. Jenkins was left off the team's bonding trip: an outing where the players took turns racing NASCAR stock cars. Jenkins was also angry over persistent trade rumors involving him. The Panthers will need to win their opening game in St. Louis to remain in Pro Football Weekly's power rankings: Carolina is seeded 13Th.
With the downfall of Atlanta, the Panthers should secure the wild card by finishing the year 11-5. That would keep coach, John Fox, employed for another season.
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