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NFL PREVIEWS: Carolina Panthers

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David Moore

David Moore has been the senior football writer for FOX Sports since Aug. 2005. He appears weekly on the FSN Baseball Report and MLB on FOX. One more line lorem ipsum dolor sit amet e pluribus unum.

 
   
 

Carolina

Champs or chumps: This franchise is 26 games under .500 in the last five seasons. It plays in one of the toughest — you could argue the toughest — division in the NFL. The won¿t end their five-year playoff drought in 2003. But chumps? Not any more. John Fox transformed this team from chumps to respectability in his first year as head coach. It¿s unrealistic to expect championship strides in Year Two. But Carolina is once again on firm footing and moving in the right direction. Reasons for hope: The have one of the best, young defenses in the league. Carolina ranked second in the league in defense last year, a ranking even more remarkable when you consider how ineffective the were on offense. The front seven can be something special. Rookie registered 12 sacks last season even though he was suspended for the final four games for using a banned dietary supplement. If he stays on the field all season in 2003 he goes to the Pro Bowl, where he should be joined by defensive tackle . With picking up 10 or so sacks on the other side of Peppers and a healthy at middle linebacker, this group could dominate. Don¿t get too excited: Question: can there really be a battle at quarterback when the combatants are and ? Isn¿t this just a case of settling on one player and hoping he doesn¿t make the mistakes that contribute to losing?Let¿s face it, Peete is a 37-year-old quarterback no really wants or envisions as a starter while Delhomme has two career starts to his name. His big selling point is that other career backups have come on in recent years to make a niche for themselves.
Meet the 2003
Projected offensive lineup
WR Muhsin Muhammad
LT Todd Steussie
LG Doug Brzezinski
C Jeff Mitchell
RG Kevin Donnalley
RT Melvin Tuten
TE Kris Magnum
WR Steve Smith
QB Rodney Peete
RB Stephen Davis
FB Brad Hoover

Projected defensive lineup
LE Julius Peppers
DT Brenston Buckner
DT Kris Jenkins
RE Mike Rucker
WLB Will Witherspoon
MLB Dan Morgan
SLB Mark Fields
CB Terry Cousin
CB Reggie Howard
SS Mike Minter
FS Deon Grant

Projected special teams lineup
K John Kasay
P Todd Sauerbrun
KR Terrence Wilkins
PR Wilkins
LS Jason Kyle

Scout's take on the Panthers
"This is a dangerous team. Anything could happen with their defense and special teams. They¿ll keep games close and could be the sleeper team of the year if the ball bounces their way."
— Scouting insider Brian DeLucia

More coverage
  • Panthers team page
  • Roster | Depth chart
  • Schedule | NFL on FOX schedule
  • NFL fantasy news
  • The ranked next-to-last in the league in offense last season, and the best they can be expected to do is jump into the middle of the pack. This is not an offense that can go out and win games. Hello, my name is: . He needed no introduction during a three-year run in Washington in which he averaged nearly 1,400 yards a season. But the running back¿s pounding, between-the-tackles style didn¿t fit with Steve Spurrier¿s offense. The ' loss is Carolina¿s gain. Davis is the key to the ' ball-control offense and should challenge for the NFC rushing title. Revolving door: The aren¿t hurt by any of their losses in free agency. did lead the team in rushing with 737 yards, but Davis is an upgrade and won¿t wear down late in games the way Smith did. Tight end Wesely Walls was a key piece of the offensive puzzle for many years, but third-round pick is a better blocker and should have no trouble replacing the 19 catches Walls had last season. First-round pick and free agent will improve what was a poor offensive line. Ones to watch: The open Sept. 7 against Jacksonville and head coach Jack Del Rio, who helped shape Carolina¿s defense as a coordinator last season. The end the season on Dec. 28 against the New York , the team Carolina head coach John Fox used to work for. Sandwiched between these coaching reunions is a game against Washington on Nov. 16 — it will be interesting to see what kind of message Davis is able to send his former team. The forecast: Carolina won¿t be able to duplicate its 3-0 start of last season because it faces Tampa Bay in Week Two and Atlanta after that. Remember, the drilled the by a combined score of 71-0 in two games last season. But the won¿t be forced to endure an eight-game losing streak the way they did last season, either. This team is better, but it won¿t be reflected in the won-loss column because of a tougher schedule. Six or seven wins would appear to be the ceiling for the . Veteran NFL correspondent David Moore is a regular contributor to FOXSports.com.
    Tagged: Falcons, Packers, Redskins, Panthers, Jake Delhomme, Stephen Davis, Kris Jenkins, Julius Peppers

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