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Carolina Panthers: 2014 NFL season key additions

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 12: Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers is sacked by NaVorro Bowman #53 of the San Francisco 49ers in the third quarter during the NFC Divisional Playoff Game at Bank of America Stadium on January 12, 2014 in Charlotte, North Ca
CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 12: Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers is sacked by NaVorro Bowman #53 of the San Francisco 49ers in the third quarter during the NFC Divisional Playoff Game at Bank of America Stadium on January 12, 2014 in Charlotte, North CaPhoto by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Carolina Panthers won the NFC South division with a balanced offense run by quarterback Cam Newton and a stingy tough defense. Free agency may have robbed them at the chance of repeating. They have pretty much lost their entire receiving group and entire starting secondary. Something i can't recall ever seeing happen except maybe with the Florida Marlins baseball team.

Carolina will be asking a lot from Cam Newton to produce with new receivers. Good news is they don't really face any stud defenses within their NFC South divion, but the flip side of that is with the new look secondary their defense will have to deal with Drew Brees and Matt Ryan twice a piece and also an improved Tampa Bay Buccaneers offense. Repeating as division champs will be tough with so many new faces and lack of chemistry. Cam Newton may very well need that super man cape to pull the repeat. These guys below will be key in the success of the Panthers.

Kelvin Benjamin - wide receiver
Kelvin Benjamin - wide receiver Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Kelvin Benjamin - wide receiver

Kelvin Benjamin comes to Carolina with huge expectations. He was selected as their 1st round draft choice in the 2014 NFL Draft. Carolina has lost their top 3 wide receivers from last year's squad. Mainly due to free agency. Benjamin will be groomed to become Cam Newton's number one target. He has tremendous size at 6'5 240 pounds and is a load to bring down. He has a long wing span which gives him a big catching radius. He doesn't have elite speed, but adequate playing speed mainly using his size to shield defenders from making plays on the ball. Needs to improve route running. Asset in the red zone with his size to win jump ball situations and to shield defenders with his body on fade patterns. Usually takes a rookie wide receiver a while to adjust to the NFL game and Benjamin want be an exception. With the proper coaching and in game experience Benjamin has all of the tools to exceed and be successful in the NFL.

Kony Ealy - defensive end/linebacker
Kony Ealy - defensive end/linebacker Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Kony Ealy - defensive end/linebacker

Kony Ealy has tremendous athleticism and flexibility scheme wise to help the defense in a variety of ways. He mainly played defensive end in college, but has the athleticism to play as a stand up linebacker. He has a quick first step with a good closing burst to turn the corner as a pass rusher. He has an array of pass rush moves. Solid tackler who wraps up ball carrier and gets him down quickly. Probably drafted as insurance in case either defensive end Charles Johnson or Greg Hardy leaves via free agency in 2015. Ealy should excel at pass rushing, but needs work on dropping into coverage. 

Thomas Decoud - safety
Thomas Decoud - safety Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

Thomas Decoud - safety

Thomas Decoud brings veteran stability to the secondary. He was signed as a free agent from the Atlanta Falcons. Both starting safeties from the 2013 team have moved on to other teams. His leadership and experience will be needed to help gel together a new look secondary. He has good speed and range to defend the deep zones, but needs to make more plays on the ball. Last year was the first time in his career he didn't record an interception in his six year career since his rookie year. Very durable player and accountable, has only missed one game in his last 5 seasons. 

Antoine Cason - cornerback
Antoine Cason - cornerback Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Antoine Cason - cornerback

Antoine Cason like Decoud above was a veteran signee brought in to help a depleted secondary because players leaving via free agency and also no available cap space. Cason is a former 1st round draft pick by the San Diego Chargers, but played the 2013 season for the Arizona Cardinals. He has good playing speed and good coverage skills. May not be a shut down corner anymore, but is better than any other cornerback on the roster for now. Carolina will have to address this position in next year's draft or off season. The Panthers will need a solid season from Cason especially in the NFC South division where they will face Drew Brees and Matt Ryan twice a piece. 

Jason Avant - wide receiver
Jason Avant - wide receiver Brian Bahr/Getty Images

Jason Avant - wide receiver

Jason Avant is much needed in Carolina with all of the turnover in the off season. The top 3 receivers Steve Smith, Brandon LaFell, and Ted Ginn are all gone. Avant has always been a 3rd or 4th option thru out his career. He will get plenty attention this year and a chance to prove he is more than a capable backup. Along with Jericho Cotchery, who was signed from Pittsburgh, they will attempt to give Cam Newton two reliable pass catchers.