OK, here’s my last comparison about the 2003 Panthers and the 2008 Panthers – the subject of my column in Tuesday’s Observer that you can see here. I meant to put this in the last blog but forgot.
Do you know how many Pro Bowlers the 2003 Super Bowl Panthers had? Not that many, actually. Four. Want to guess who they were?
Go ahead, I’ll wait….. (Imagine the theme from “Jeopardy” now playing in the background)….
OK. They were DE Mike Rucker (but not Julius Peppers, who was a second alternate); P Todd Sauerbrun; RB Stephen Davis and DT Kris Jenkins. None of those four Pro Bowlers remain with the team.
Now, in 2008, if you were projecting a “REALLY early, WAY too premature, JUST FOR FUN, no wagering, please” line on Pro Bowlers, I’d project it this way:
Even odds: Julius Peppers. He already has more sacks than he did in all of 2007, and he seems more disruptive at right defensive end than he was on the left.
2-1:Steve Smith (above). I would guess he would make it, and talent-wise he should, as long as the horrible mistake he made by punching Ken Lucas in training camp doesn’t bite him.
5-1: John Kasay. Hasn’t missed a field goal all season.
8-1: Jon Beason, Chris Harris, Chris Gamble OR Thomas Davis. Some other defensive player besides Peppers will make it if the Panthers continue to rank as a Top 5 defense. I would say ONE of these guys would make it – maybe 2 of them at most. If it were me, I'd vote for middle linebacker Beason out of this group at the moment (and again, we're not even a third of the way through).
12-1: Jake Delhomme. Having a nice season so far, but the field at QB is very strong.
15-1: Muhsin Muhammad: Not only having a great season so far for a 35-year-old receiver, but he is also a sentimental choice because of his respect throughout the league. Would be hurt, however, by not being the most dangerous WR on his own team.
20-1: The Field. Some random player – most likely defensive -- who comes up with a big season the rest of the way.
Bottom line: the 2008 Panthers team isn’t filled with all-stars (after all, this is a squad which couldn’t boast a SINGLE Pro Bowler following the 2007 season. Not one).
But if the Panthers win the NFC South, I’d guess they will parallel the 2003 Panthers in one more way, with 3-4 Pro Bowlers. Feel free to post your guesses here if you like.