Perhaps the most surprising thing about the 2016 NFL season so far is that the Carolina Panthers, the defending NFC Champions, coming off a 17-2 record, are sitting at 1-5 headed into their bye week. Before the season began, most expected the Panthers to be 5-1 or even 6-0 at this point in the season and again being a strong contender for the NFC title. However things have gone badly array for the Panthers and has left Panthers fans wondering what went wrong.
The answer to what went wrong is the Panthers let key players from their NFC Championship team leave, and didn't do much in the way of addressing some key needs they knew they had, other than believing that the "answer is on the roster". One example is Kony Ealy, who had a very strong second half of the 2015 season, and an even better game in Super Bowl 50. However Ealy's time as a starter was limited and the Panthers had a very small sample size of which they could evaluate just how good Ealy was, and if he truly was the answer to a need a DE. So far this season, Ealy has greatly disappointed and it seems the Panthers decision to take a chance on Ealy being the answer to the need at DE, instead of addressing it, have backfired badly. However Ealy is just one example, there are many others.
Re-signing FB Mike Tolbert and DE Charles Johnson have also proven so far this season to be very bad decisions as both are late in their careers and both have failed to have much impact so far in 2016 other than taking a roster spot.
Unfortunately there is no quick fix for the Panthers to get back to the dominance they had in 2015, there are just too many positions of need for the Panthers, and it will take time to address them all. The Panthers are in desperate need of DEs, CBs, OTs (both left and right) and Safeties. It will take time for the Panthers to fill all the holes they have, and those expecting things to get better before they get worse should strongly reconsider their thinking.
Unfortunately for the Panthers, the timing of this rapid decline is happening at a very bad time, as Cam Newton, Luke Kuechly, Thomas Davis, Greg Olsen among others appear to be in the prime of their careers. By the time the Panthers are able to address their issues, it may be a few years too late for these guys.