Carolina Panthers' Stock Report Through First Quarter of 2015 Season

The Carolina Panthers are a quarter of the way through the season and sit atop the NFC South with an undefeated record of 4-0. Brandon Croce takes a look at which players have been key to this success and which have struggled over the first quarter of the season.

STOCK UP

Josh Norman

No one on the Carolina Panthers, and potentially in the NFL, is playing at a higher level right now. The fourth year cornerback has made key plays in three of the four Panthers wins that helped them stay undefeated. He has forced five turnovers (four interceptions and one fumble recovery) and has returned two interceptions for touchdowns. He is the only defensive player in the league with two touchdowns and has actually scored more times than notable offensive players like Demaryius ThomasMatt Forte and Eddie Lacy.

Norman will be a free agent after this season and he is certainly earning himself a very big paycheck with the way he has played these first four weeks. Shutdown cornerbacks are hard to find in this league and Norman is proving he is just that. It is hard to imagine these turnover numbers will continue, mainly because quarterbacks are just going to stop throwing his direction. He has been a difference marker for this defense and has been a big reason for their success.

Cam Newton

Another player who has really elevated his game in 2015 is the Panthers' franchise quarterback. The first four games into his major contract extension certainly makes the front office look very smart looking him up.

The biggest difference this year is due in large part to the fact that he is healthy. He suffered through a number of injuries last year that hampered the way he wants to play. Now that he is healthy, he has been a dangerous threat from the pocket as well as on the ground with his feet. He is currently on pace to have career numbers in rushing yards, on pace for 780 rushing yards, and carries, on pace for 172 carries.

The other major difference this year versus years past is the fact that he has done a good job of protecting the ball. He only has three turnovers through the first four games and thrown only two interceptions. If this trend continues, this would be the first year of his career that he throws less than 10 interceptions in a season. Even with the loss of Kelvin Benjamin, Newton has been very effective and played great over the first quarter of the season.

Mike Remmers

One of the reasons Newton has been able to play the way he has is because of the development of right tackle Mike Remmers. After joining the Panthers halfway through 2014, he has become a stabilizing force on the right side of this line. 

Through his 11 career games with the Panthers, Remmers has yet to surrender a sack on Cam Newton. This is a vast improvement over this time last year when Nate Chandler was struggling to make the transition to tackle. The offensive line as a whole has been playing much better but Remmers has been one of those keys to the turnaround.

Kawann Short

Since he was the first round pick, Star Lotulelei gets a majority of the attention. However, the Panthers drafted Short in the same draft and a case could be made that he has been playing at a much higher level. Now Lotulelei has been dealing with a foot injury for the past few months but there is no denying that Short is playing great football right now.

Pro Football Focus has Short rated as the third best defensive tackle in the NFL and ahead of players like Ndamukong Suh. Short has been a force in the middle of this defensive line even though there has been constant change around him at the defensive tackle position, as well as the defensive ends.

He is a well-rounded tackle who doesn't necessarily do anything great, but really doesn't have many flaws. Once Lotulelei gets his strength back and into football shape, the middle of this line is going to be tough to block.

STOCK DOWN

Philly Brown

There may not be a Panther who has struggled more through the first four games than Brown. The second year wide receiver was presented with a great opportunity to shine with Benjamin being lost for the season. This just hasn't been the case as he has become almost non-existent in this offense.

He has started every game, and has played over 200 snaps, but only has six receptions for 73 yards through the first four weeks. Those numbers look even worse over the past two games as he has only been targeted three times, catching one ball for three yards. 

It would not be surprising to see him starting to drop in the depth chart as other wide receivers start to have an impact. Brenton Bersin is coming off a four reception game and even Devin Funchess is starting to see more looks in this offense.

Jonathan Stewart

Another player who entered this season with high expectations is Jonathan Stewart but he has struggled to find any room to run over the first four games. The last six games of 2014, Stewart was averaging 99 yards per game but has seen that total drop 55 rushing yards per game.

The team made it clear this offseason that Stewart was going to be the workhorse of this offense when they released DeAngelo Williams and didn't bring in any other competition other than fifth-round rookie Cameron Artis-Payne

The schedule doesn't get any easier for Stewart to get it rolling as he has to face the Seattle Seahawks coming out of the bye week. If the offense is able to get Stewart going, it would make sense that Newton wouldn't have to run as much which in the long run could be the best thing for the Panthers.

Michael Oher

It has been a revolving door at left tackle for a few seasons now and the Panthers hoped Michael Oher could provide some stability to the position. That hasn't happened in the early going as Oher has played the worst among the Panthers' offensive linemen.

Through the first four games, Pro Football Focus has credited Oher with giving up two sacks and seven QB hurries, which are both team highs. Luckily for Oher, the Panthers don't really have any other options to play left tackle so they are going to give him the season to hopefully improve from this start. 

Twitter @BrandonCroce.

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