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Jason Caldwell's Monday Morning QB Column: Not Enough Playmakers For Panthers, Auburn's Greene Was A Game Changer

Looking back at the Super Bowl, Kevin Greene's legacy and Auburn basketball teams going in opposite directions.

Cam Newton (above) didn't get enough help from his teammates in the Super Bowl.

Lack Of Playmakers Comes Back To Haunt Panthers

Heading into the 2015-16 season the thought was that the Carolina Panthers were still too shy of talent at the offensive playmaker positions surrounding Cam Newton to make a serious run at the Super Bowl. For the first 19 games of the season that didn’t matter as Newton carried the Panthers to the best record in the NFL, but on the biggest stage in football the Panthers didn’t have the horses to get it done against the best defense in the NFL in a loss on Sunday night.

The loss of receiver Kelvin Benjamin prior to the season didn’t show up all year, but it did in a big way against Denver’s talented secondary as again veteran Jerricho Cotchery dropped key pass after key pass and Carolina’s only running game proved to be on the legs of Newton. Turning the Panthers into a one-man show, the Broncos were able to do something nobody else could do all year long and shut down the MVP and the Carolina offense.

What’s really amazing is that this team accomplished as much as it did this year, which had a lot to do with Newton’s overwhelming talent. This Carolina team has the opportunity to get back several times before the window is closed on this group, but unless the Panther’s brass gets some help on the offensive line in the 2016 draft the end result may just be the same.

I can’t mention the Super Bowl without giving credit to Denver’s defense. They were clearly the class of the league this year and carried the Broncos to a title with perhaps the worst quarterback play in the big game of any of the 49 previous winning teams. Von Miller and Demarcus Ware were the two best players on the field on Sunday and that was the difference in winning and losing.

Changing The Game

Other than quarterback, perhaps the two most important positions in football in this era are offensive tackle plus a defensive end who can rush the passer. One of the reasons why was the emergence of Lawrence Taylor in the 1980’s with the New York Giants and the another was Kevin Greene.

Earning his way onto the roster with the Los Angeles Rams in 1985 after being drafted in the fifth round, Greene broke through in his second year with seven sacks and added six and a half the following year, but it was in his fourth season when he started to dominate the National Football League.

Piling up 16 1/2 sacks each of the next two years, Greene’s ability to rush the passer as an outside linebacker/defensive end was another of the guys who changed the game and made offensive tackles a hot commodity and a necessity for top teams in the NFL.

Congrats to one of the NFL’s best ever and Auburn’s second Pro Football Hall of Famer for his accomplishment and also the part he played in changing the way defense is played.

Tough Season Not Getting Any Easier

This season has has turned into a frustrating one for Coach Bruce Pearl and the Auburn Tigers and it doesn’t look like things will get any easier with the indefinite suspension of leading scorer Kareem Canty. With senior Cinmeon Bowers suspended recently as well, that alone would be enough to disrupt a season when two of your better players act up and get told to sit down.

Throw in injuries to Tahj Shamsid-Deen and T.J. Dunans for much of the year and the still baffling uncertainty surrounding likely the team’s most talented player, Danjel Purifoy, and it’s no wonder the Tigers have hit the skids in the Southeastern Conference after winning back-to-back home games against Kentucky and Alabama.


Making A Run

Moving to 16-8 on the season and 6-5 in SEC play following a win at Alabama on Tuesday, don’t look now but Coach Flo’s Tigers are making a run at the postseason after winning three SEC basketball consecutive games. With the defense leading the way, Auburn’s women are showing some real fight as they get ready to hit the closing stretch of the 2015-16 season.

Facing a 10-13 Ole Miss team on the road this week before having three-straight home games, Auburn has a great opportunity to push the win total up even more before finishing off the regular season, but three of the four games are against ranked opponents with home games against Florida and Texas A&M before a road trip to Gainesville to finish things off.

The good news is that just one win in those three combined with wins over Ole Miss and Missouri would give Auburn nine conference wins in the regular season. A win or two in the SEC Tournament could mean an NCAA Tournament selection for this team, a huge statement for the program and accomplishment for a team that is short on depth this year.

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