The Panthers have been one of the buzziest teams of the offseason.
Even before center Ryan Kalil bought an ad promising a Super Bowl, the Panthers were dealing with the heightened expectations that come with upping your win total by four games in a season. Quarterback Cam Newton and other members of the team have fed that optimism since Kalil’s bold statement, which leaves General Manager Marty Hurney to sound a more cautious note.
“If we stay healthy, we have a chance to compete,” Hurney said to Pat Yasinskas of ESPN.com. “I think the excitement comes from the offensive production we showed last year. We showed we have the ability to score points and you have to score points to win in the league these days. We have that and we feel like our defense and special teams have improved.”
General Managers don’t tend to come off well if they help raise expectations for their team and then fall short, which makes Hurney’s more measured approach a sound one from his perspective. He knows the Panthers won’t be sneaking up on anyone, but he’s also not ready to vault them from six wins to the top of the league.
The quality of the defense is the big unknown for the Panthers this season. Newton’s arrival transformed them into a quality offensive team, but the defense lagged way behind in 2011. The offseason was spent bringing in new players and getting healthy on that side of the ball in hopes of balancing things out a bit more. Those moves will determine whether or not the Panthers can reach those new expectations.