Saints training camp has been all the focus of WhoDat Nation, but in order to get a good feel on how the season might turn up, we have to take a look at what our divisional foes have been up to, after all, they account for 3/8ths of our regular season games. I've gone behind enemy lines and (though I may have lost a few IQ points) I made it back alive with some intel on our rivals... Up first, the Carolina Panthers.
Kelvin Benjamin WR – He’s been making some great catches and turning heads with his ability to go up and catch the high ball, something we’ll probably be seeing a lot of this year. He’s had a couple of drops, still, he looks poised to build off of his 1000 yard rookie campaign with another strong outing… but do the Panthers have a strong enough line to give Cam time to find him?
Cam Newton QB – Overshadowed by the commotion stemming from the altercation with CB Josh Norman, Newton has been slinging the ball very well, putting it where his receivers need it. He’s fired up (for now) and looking good. He’s been pressured a lot, many of which would have likely ended in a sack in live play, but this is a case where it’s all on the offensive line. Cam is going to have to get the ball out quickly this season, but if he does, it looks like good things will happen for the Panthers.
Fozzy Whittaker RB – The change of pace back behind starter Jonathon Stewart has been making plays and turning heads, so far. He’s busted a few long runs, but has been doing a lot of his damage catching balls out of the backfield. A quick option, Fozzy could be looked on for a lot of dump-offs, when the pressure comes. Judging from how he’s looked in camp, that’s not necessarily a bad thing for Carolina.
The Defense – After giving up a good amount of big plays the first couple days of camp, the defense started to take over. The line has been able to abuse the offense, racking up would-be sacks. The linebackers have shut down the gadget plays, and have done very well against the run, in general. Even their secondary is making positive plays, with Josh Norman putting together some highlight reel efforts.
Devin Funchess WR – He’s had a quiet camp from everything I can gather. The only thing I remember reading is that he had one decent day, and coach Rivera said "He made a couple of nice grabs. One on the sidelines. But he’s got a long ways to go and we were saying that last year about Kelvin. We feel pretty good about the guy we have right now in Funch." From a 2nd round draft pick, you would hope to be hearing at least a few consistently good things out of camp. He's physically capable, but can he put together the finer things necessary to make it at the NFL level?
The Offensive Line – Once the pads came on, the common theme seemed to be the o-line getting beat and allowing pressure on Cam. I’m sure a lot of Panther fans are hoping this is just a sign of how good their defensive pressure is, but it hasn’t been a good showing by the offensive group, so far.
Stephen Hill WR – Hill has yet to live up to his 2nd round draft status, and it looks like that will continue after he went down on the 2nd day of camp. The team waived him, when it was discovered that he tore his ACL. This was coming off of an off-season arrest for drug paraphernalia. This offseason from hell for Stephen Hill could quite possibly be his last.
Bonus Note: The defense has been the clear winners of the red zone battles throughout camp. It’s hard to say if this is because of offensive deficiencies or a testament to their defensive prowess… most likely a bit of both. They also have been running a few sweeps with speedy wide receivers Ted Ginn Jr and Corey Brown, something we might have to look out for come regular season.