The Carolina Panthers played an uneven season in 2007, finishing with a final score of 7-9. Though they had an exciting introduction, as the months passed they suffered defeat at the hands of the Atlanta Falcons, the Jacksonville Jaguars and other teams, though they upset the 49ers and the SeaHawks towards the end of the season. They missed the playoffs and now in their 14th season they hope to capitalize on some changes to play a more competitive game.
Some roster losses have already happened, including the loss of cornerback Patrick Dendy, linebacker Dan Morgan and safety Marquand Manuel, along with eight other losses. One of the biggest news items was the team's signing of offensive tackle Travelle Wharton to a six-year contract extension, which kept him off the free agent list. The team also signed extensions for safety Chris and defensive tackle Damione Lewis. Looking into the new year team management as well as quarterback Jake Delhomme stated that the team was looking for another playmaker capable of helping out wide receiver Steve Smith. Additional needs include a tight end and a power running back. Going into 2008, the Panthers would be left with Dwayne Jarrett and Ryne Robinson, which was big risk, especially with the departures of Dwayne Jarrett and Ryne Robinson.
Everyone's eyes were on the 2008 draft, to see who the Panthers would pick for a playmaker this year. The team started off the draft by choosing running back Jonathan Stewart from Oregon, followed by offensive tackle Jeff Otah from Pittsburgh. The team also signed cornerback Charles Godfrey from Iowa and Penn State linebacker Dan Connor. Louisville's Gary Barnidge was chosen as a tight end, along with defensive tackle Nick Hayden, linebacker Hilee Taylor, offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz and offensive guard Mackenzy Bernadeau.
What was the critical reaction to the team's draft strategy? It was expected that the team would look for a first-round running back, and with Jonathan Stewart, this was the second time in three years the team would do so. Some wondered if Stewart was truly 1st round draft material, especially with other big names available. However, Charles Godfrey was well received, as was Dan Connor. In fact, some believe Connor was good enough to be drafted in the first round. What was most surprising was that the team didn't choose a quarterback this year, which a considerable risk given Jake Delhomme's past injury. The team also neglected to choose another pass rusher, which puts added responsibility on the underachieving Julius Peppers.
While the Carolina Panthers have their fan base and still the respect of a few experts in the game, they are not winning any one's confidence with their draft picks. Experts stated that the team's biggest problem last year was in two key positions: quarterback and pass rush. Since these issues have not been resolved, what will the future hold for the team? Head coach John Fox, the team's choice since 2002, remains confident that the team has addressed the biggest concerns and will play a more competitive season in 2008.
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