Twelve years ago, the Carolina Panthers played in their first Super Bowl and lost a thrilling game to the New England. Some have called it the greatest Super Bowl of all time. I don’t know about that but it was a great game. Fast forward to 2016 and the Panthers are back in the bowl. There are a lot of similarities between the 2003 team and the 2015 team. Let’s break it down by position and which team has the edge.
Quarterback: Jake Delhomme or Cam Newton: Come on. Cam Newton all day. He’s a way better quarterback than Delhomme. Delhomme was a gunslinger and he was fun to watch but Newton is a superior talent.
Running Back: Stephen Davis or Jonathan Stewart: I think this is a toss up. Both backs are big and are physical runners who can separate in the open field. Both Davis and Stewart have had injury issues throughout their careers but they are also the centerpiece ofctheircrespective offenses.
Tight End: Kris Mangum or Greg Olson: I think we all know who wins this comparison. Greg Olson is a way better player than Kris Mangum. You probably don’t even remember Mangum.
Wide Receivers: Steve Smith and Mushin Muhammed or Jericho Cotchery and Devin Funchess: I’m going with the 2003 Panthers at wide receiver. Smith and Muhammed were elite receivers who formed one of the most dynamic duos in the league. If Kelvin Benjamin were healthy, then I’d probably take the 2015 Panthers receivers. I think they are a better group than people think but the 03 group at the top was better.
Offensive Line: 2003 Offensive Line or 2015 Offensive Line: Former Panther Jordan Gross would be the best lineman in either group but collectively, I like the 2015 offensive line better. Center Ryan Kalil and guard Trae Turner are two of the best at their position. The 03 Panthers offensive line was more experienced but as a unit, the 2015 group is better. Just look at the numbers Cam Newton has put this season. They are a credit to this offensive line.
Defensive Line: 2003 D-Line or 2015 D-Line: Toss up. Both defensive lines were and are dominant. The 03 Panthers defensive line was one of the best in the NFL. Mike Rucker, Kris Jenkins, Breaston Buckner and Julius Peppers were dominant. Rucker and Peppers were probably the best defensive end tandem in the league. Now you might be saying to yourself, how is this year’s Panthers defensive line better than that? They’re not but they’re just as good. Kawaan Short and Star Lotulelei form the best defensive tackle tandem in the league. Charles Johnson, Jared Allen and Kony Ealy form an effective three headed passing rushing that gets consistent pressure. Either way you look at, both defensive lines are dominant.
Linebackers: 2003 Linebackers or 2015 Linebackers: Toss up again. Both linebacking trios are fast and athletic and they are led by a tremendous middle linebackers in Dan Morgan and Luke Kuechly. Kuechly is better than Morgan but Morgan was a very good player during his time in the league. Will Witherspoon and Thomas Davis are essentially the same player. Witherspoon was a three down player who could support the run and cover. Vinny Ciurcu was a solid SAM backer on the 03 Panthers. Rookie Shaq Thompson has come on in these players and he could be a factor in Sunday’s game.
Secondary: 2003 Panthers Secondary or 2015 Panthers Secondary: Im going to take the 2015 unit in this comp because Josh Norman has been dominate and he’s a much better player than Ricky Manning Jr. Who also wore 24 by the way. Neither secondary is great but they play well behind a ferocious pass rush and they do their job.