Top Reasons to Keep Watching the Panthers

This has been a rough season for everyone associated with the Carolina Panthers, players and fans alike. Now that the playoffs seem like a long-shot for the Panthers, many are ready to turn their attention to 2015. However, with the four games left there is still plenty to keep fans interested in this season. These are the top story lines for fans to follow over the final quarter of the season.

How will Mike Remmers play at right tackle?

The Panthers may have found there answer at right tackle, a player that was signed halfway through the year off the Rams practice squad. Mike Remmers got his first career NFL start against the Vikings after Amini Silatolu was forced to sit out due to a knee injury.

This may end up being the best thing to happen to the Panthers offensive line in 2014. It opened the door for Remmers who did not look like a player with little NFL experience but rather a seasoned veteran in Minnesota. He did an excellent job for most of the game but really excelled in pass protection. Pro Football Focus gave him an almost perfect score with no sacks or QB hits but did credit him with one QB hurry.

At 6’5” and 303 pounds, Remmers has good size and the physical tools for the tackle position and now finds himself in a four week tryout for a starting NFL job. If he plays well over this time, he could end up being a great option at right tackle in 2015.


Can Kelvin Benjamin win Offensive Rookie of the Year?

The 2014 rookie wide receiver class is arguably one of the best in NFL history and right now Kelvin Benjamin is playing the best of this group. He currently leads all rookies in receptions (57), touchdowns (8), receptions for first downs (37) and ranks second in receiving yards (824).

He is currently on pace to finish the year with over 75 receptions, 1000 yards and 10 touchdowns. To put up these kind of numbers with really no number two wide receiver and a quarterback in one of the worst slumps of his career, is rather impressive.

The question will be if the fact he is a wide receiver will hurt his chances of winning the award. In the past 10 years only one wide receiver (Percy Harvin, 2009) has won the Associated Press Offensive Rookie of the Year award. This year though there really isn’t too much competition outside of the wide receiver position so the final four games could decide who wins the award.


Will the revamped secondary be better over the final four games?

The Panthers decided to dive head first into the youth movement with the release of Antoine Cason. On Sunday they could have three rookies seeing significant playing time in the secondary. Last week against the Vikings, the Panthers gave rookie Bene Benwikere significant playing time at outside cornerback opposite Josh Norman. He played pretty well and the hope would be he will only get better as he gains more experience.

He wasn’t the only rookie on the field as Thomas Decoud was replaced by Tre Boston at the start of the second quarter. DeCoud got back in the game though when Boston suffered an ankle injury. However, Boston was not on Wednesday’s injury report and should be ready to go for Sunday.

The Panthers may also decide to give undrafted rookie Carrington Byndom playing time against the Saints, who they called up from the practice squad to take Cason’s roster spot. The rookie has been with the team since training camp and been on the practice squad all season. The coaching staff would most likely try to get him on the field as much as possible, so they can better evaluate him during the offseason.

There won’t be a lot of experience on the field Sunday in the secondary, which doesn’t necessarily bode well for this team going up against Drew Brees. However, these players are the future of the Panthers defense and with the playoffs a long shot it is better to find out now exactly what they have.


Will Ron Rivera save his job?

Let me first say I am not saying Rivera’s job is in jeopardy or believe he will be let go. However, the question is a valid one when your team is 3-8-1. The problem really stems more specifically from the way the Panthers have lost those games.

In the eight losses this year the Panthers have lost by an average of 16.63 points per game and have had only two losses where they were within one score. The majority of the games this year have been over by halftime and Carolina was usually on the wrong side of a blowout.

If the Panthers were to win every game from here on out, it would certainly help Ron Rivera’s case because winning can cure a lot. On the flip side of it though, if the Panthers lose every game from here on out, I don’t think it would necessarily be the end of Rivera’s tenure in Carolina.

What will be the deciding factor over the final month of the season is how Carolina plays in these games. Are they competitive? Are they avoiding the simple mistakes? Are they calling the necessary plays to put this team in a position to win?

If the Panthers are able to play four competitive games, win or lose, it would go a long way in helping Ron Rivera’s case.

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