I was thinking about this the other day when I was prepping for my upcoming fantasy drafts. But this is one of the reasons why I think all the Panthers pre-season hype is mostly hype...
Smith started 16 games last year, only the 2nd time he's done that in his career. The last time being 2005. Between 2006-10, Smith missed a total of 8 games. Not a huge amount, but given that Smith has basically been the only asset on the Panthers offense outside the hashmarks in that span, every game he misses is significant.
Smith hurt his foot, and while all the talk suggests he'll be ready to go for Week 1, I do think it's a sign of times to come. You can pretty much say there's an 85% chance that Smith misses at least 1 game this year. And a 50% chance he misses at least 2.
I don't buy any of the LaFell hype either.
And whatever game that Smith ends up missing is a game the Panthers are going to lose. They've revolved their entire offense really around the Newton-Smith connection. Because another reason why I think the Panthers are overrated is because of their coaching staff. They had one of the better rushing attacks in the league last year, yet they hardly ran the ball.
They ran it about 45% of the time last year, which is above average. But nearly a third (29%) of those runs were to Newton. Some were designed, but most weren't. So frankly, from their play-calling you could probably say if half of Newton's runs were improvised, you're really talking about a team that ran the ball perhaps 39-40% of the time.
Now one could say that it was because of their defense that they didn't run the ball as mch. They got down in games early, and thus had to rely on passing. Not relaly. They were 12th in the league last year in 1st quarter scoring margin. Frankly, above average. They threw the football largely because they chose to throw it. They put too much on Newton's plate, and thus unlike the '08 Falcons, had they relied on running the ball more it would potentially led to a few more Ws.
Getting Mike Tolbert IMO is not some recommitment to running the ball. I think at the end of the day they'll be like they were last year, and put too much on Newton's shoulders and ultimately it's going to lead to them losing games. But because Newton will throw for 289 yards, 2 TDs, it'll cause the fantasy sycophants to overlook the fact that his 2 turnovers that game ultimately cost them.
This is one of the reasons why I believe the Bucs will overtake the Panthers this year. Schiano knows they need to commit to running the football. They got players this off-season on offense that help them do that. Nicks up front. Jackson is a great fit in a play-action based offense, and Martin leading the way out of the backfield now gives them the potential to run the ball as much as they want, and take things off Josh Freeman's plate, who like Newton has struggled at times with his decision making. When you operate a play-action based offense, it makes the QB's decision making a lot easier.
I think because of that, the Bucs will be capable of running the ball well and will lead to them winning at least 8 games this year. Meanwhile, the Panthers might win 1 or 2 more games this year, but that's about it.
"Vincere scis, Hannibal, victoria uti nescis" -- Maharbal, 216 B.C.E.