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Monday Morning Optimist: The Panthers are just a few players away from having...

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The more things change Da'Norris Searcy Jersey , the more they stay the same. That’s the theme of too many seasons for the Panthers. They bounce back and forth from winning season to disappointment. They win games despite the best efforts of their coaches. They fire a steady, defensive-minded head coach, only to bring in a slightly younger, steady, and defensive-minded guy. The big change in 2018 was to fire their offensive coordinator and hire freshman Norv Turner, whose job was to take the offense to the next level while keeping it consistent.All of the coordinators changed this off season, for the record. The defense was so competent with new pieces and new coordinator Eric Washington as to almost be boring. Panthers’ fans can all but take for granted that they will have the privilege of watching a competent — and often stifling — defense. Special teams, meanwhile, had some good returns and botched an extra point. In other words, you wouldn’t know there had been coaching changes if somebody hadn’t told you.For the offense, it wasn’t until the 5th play from scrimmage — a 1st and 20 on the opening drive — that the Panthers saw their first positive play of 2018. It went for three yards. Cam Newton then scrambled for 15 yards to set up 3rd and 2. He converted on a QB sneak. I can’t speak to “the next level,” but that is certainly consistent with the last several years of Panthers offense. If you walked away after those first six plays then you would believe that the 2018 Carolina Panthers were going to be a strong defense supporting a fly-by-the-seat-of-Cam’s-teeth offense. A new look offense that was suspiciously familiar.You also would have missed the real story: The Panthers are just a few injuries away from being scary.Newton, while the most potent player on the team Michael Palardy Jersey , is no longer the entire story of the offense. Christian McCaffrey, his one fumble aside, had a strong day and made plays even when he didn’t have room to work. Devin Funchess didn’t break out as a number one receiver, but he did prove that he can be a consistent option in the intermediate passing game in Greg Olsen’s (hopefully brief) absence. Torrey Smith and Jarius Wright both showed up larger and in bigger moments than any depth receivers the Panthers have rostered in years. We’re not even talking about Alex Armah and C.J. Anderson showing that they can be contributors if needed. Remember that we’re often mired in arguments over practice squad wide receivers at this point in the season.The Panthers’ offense has options and weapons and hope for the first time in years. The only thing they are missing is time. The offensive line is hurt. Ryan Kalil apparently had a fever. We hope it doesn’t cause him to sleep poorly on his neck. Daryl Williams injured his right knee again. Amini Silatolu looked like he need ‘OnStar for pass rushers’ in his helmet again. Some of these issues will be resolved with the attention of good doctors and the application of rest over the coming weeks. Some will simply fester in the blind spot of veteran-enamored coaches. This is the way things are.That’s a whole lot of question marks and bad portents for a team that won —for a team whose offensive line played relatively well for most of the game. First year starters Taylor Moton and Greg van Roten had a shaky beginning, but they settled down and proved to be the least of Turner and Newton’s worries. That is huge for the Panthers’ hopes.The offense had a few mistakes throughout the game, but that was only to be expected. Turner doesn’t know these guys but so well and they only know him just as far. There is a balance that they are trying to strike. It will take time to find that. Unlike years past, now you can actually see their goals and their misfires on the field. There is a palpable sense of intention and progress that, when not sidelined by injury, could mean the world for Newton and for the Panthers.That brings us back to time. The difference between the time it takes to run a play and the time it takes for a defensive end to blow a play up is almost imperceptible. Fortunately, it is obvious what needs to change to produce the time that Newton and Turner need to get their offense in rhythm. The right tackle position is a fight between the ghost of Daryl Williams’ knee, Amini Silatolu, and recent trade acquisition Corey Robinson. It is also the biggest question mark casting doubt on the Panthers’ offense being able to operate on the level of their defense. It is where they are currently losing time. The Panthers have long been a team that relied on talent on both sides of the ball to overcome coaching. 2018 looks to field one of their most talented rosters in years. Answer that question at right tackle, give Newton just a little more time Cheap Shaq Thompson Jersey , and the Panthers could become one of the safer bets in the NFC.Panthers 2018 season opener countdown: 68 days to go We are 68 days away from the beginning of the Carolina Panthers 2018 season. That means today we take a closer look at defensive tackle Tracy Sprinkle.Tracy Sprinkle, Defensive tackleBioHeight: 6’2”Weight: 290 lbsAge: 23College: Ohio StateNFL Experience: RookieTracy Sprinkle (if that’s his real name*) was brought in as an undrafted free agent by the Panthers in May. He spent his college career at THE Ohio State University.Here’s a little info about him from his bio on the Panthers’ website:Sprinkle has a long road ahead of him to make the 53-man roster this year. The Panthers have a lot of bodies at defensive tackle, and already have a solid rotation in place on game day with Kawann Short, Kyle Love, Vernon Butler, and newly acquired Dontari Poe joining the fray. Sprinkle could find his way on the practice squad, however, and a solid camp should allow him to do just that.*- Side note: Tracy Sprinkle is totally a made up name, right? Like, that’s the kind of name you make up when you’re in witness protection or something isn’t it?

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