Steve Smith broke his arm and outside of him, this team has had very little in terms of receiving options of late. Without him, the Panthers will be among the weakest teams in this regard in the NFL -- even with a few rookie pass-catchers added to the equation. It seems as though there is a good chance Smith will be ready for the opener, but even if he is unable to go, the Panthers have a bigger weakness than their pass-catchers.
Even the most casual of fans realize Carolina lost Julius Peppers during free agency, but there is some young talent there in Charles Johnson and Everette Brown. At defensive tackle, Damione Lewis and Maake Kemoeatu are gone, and what remains is frankly very disturbing.
As of today, the foursome that should expect to see playing time at tackle consists of Nick Hayden, Louis Leonard, Tank Tyler and Corvey Irvin. And maybe Ed Johnson or Derek Landri will factor in. Seriously? Let me just go on record to say that this is the worst group of defensive tackles in the league, and I am not even sure that dubious competition is close.
I understand you can sometimes get away with tough guys who play hard and hold their ground at this position to help free up those around them, and I understand that several of these guys battled injury last season, but there isn’t a playmaker in this bunch, nor is there a guy who commands a double-team in the run game. Compounding matters for the long term, there isn't a young pup in the group who has yet to develop and is dripping with upside. I really don’t see a lot of hope here.
The Panthers’ run defense wasn’t very good last season. With this group of defensive tackles and now the loss of LB Thomas Davis (knee injury), expect it to be even worse in 2010. If the defense can’t get off the field, it will certainly make playing a ball-control, run-first style on offense all the more difficult.