Veteran Subtractions: TE Gary Barnidge, WR Louis Murphy, C Mike Pollak, DT Ron Edwards, DE/OLB Antwan Applewhite, CB Chris Gamble, DT Andre Neblett, OLB James Anderson, OLB Jason Phillips, S Sherrod Martin.
Strengths: Ted Ginn Jr. And now onto weaknesses....
Naw, I'm just kidding. Even though Ginn represents an upgrade in the special teams game, the Panthers have more strengths.
But what's weird about this team is that they don't have a ton - but where they are strong, they are ridiculously strong. Let's start with the obvious.
This is Cam Newton's team through and through. And boy is that guy talented. PFF has him at a 17.1 overall (1.9 passing and 14.5 rushing) after a very inconsistent season. But, when you look at his ANY/A+, which is a fairly good, predictive stat to cite in the course of a brief overview, he was at 110 last season (with 100 representing average). That's quite good, considering he might be the only bright spot on this offense, save Greg Olsen and an aging Steve Smith. So, when Mr. Newton struggled early on, the team struggled. But when he lit it up in the last six games? They went 5-1.
A lot of the credit must go to an incredible front seven that only got better in the draft. Star Lotulelei looks like an adept run-stuffer, and Kawann Short - as I understand it - projects to get decent pressure on the QB. This will compliment Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy - two solid pass rushers whose combined 2012 sack total equals about one Aldon Smith (okay, so they had four more than Aldon; let's not get too snarky here).
The LBs behind them are also strong, particularly "post-move to the middle LB postion" Luke Keuchly.
Weaknesses: Behind the LBs, though? Well, not a ton. The secondary has a lot of work to do. And while Carolina tries to adjust for this in their defensive system (or so I've read - I'm not familiar enough with the ins and the outs of their system to verify), they still play in the NFC South. A weak secondary isn't going to cut it. The retirement of Chris Gamble hurts the CB position, and both S Charles Godfrey and S Haruki Nakamura had negative scores from PFF (with Godfrey being a -9 player, though he ranks just above 0 in pass coverage at 0.3)
The offense, though, is really the Cam Newton show, for better or worse. A great metaphor for this is the running game. It's funny to think that Newton might more effective as a runner than their actual RBs, Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams. And while it's hard to compare running production from different positions, I don't think it's too much of a stretch to argue that Stewart and Williams are weaknesses for this team. If Williams could approach some level of consistency, he could be more than cromulent, however.
These RBs, though, are trying to run behind a pretty bad o-line. The weak spots are at RT and both Guards.