Cam Newton
TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 01: Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers warms up on the sideline during the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium on January 1, 2017 in Tampa, Florida. The Buccaneers defeated the Panthers 17-16. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

The Carolina Panthers are looking to regain the NFC South title and have plenty to do if they hope to overcome the mediocrity that was the 2016 season. Here are the 5 top Panthers to watch this season.

The 5 Top Carolina Panthers to Watch This Season

5. The 2017 defense

Carolina has had a top-10 defense two of the last four seasons. One of those seasons ended in a Super Bowl appearance. Defense wins games at the end of the day and the Panthers have the formula to have a good one this season.

James Bradberry and Daryl Worley accepted the challenge as rookie cornerbacks in a dynamic defense. Even though they had a rocky start, they ended up with three combined interceptions and proved that maturation will only make them better.

There are some new weapons that Cam Newton needs to get comfortable with which means the possibility of misunderstandings and turnovers. Steve Wilks, who was promoted after the departure of Sean McDermott. It is up to Wilks to further develop the secondary and keep the defense intense.

4. Julius Peppers

Pep is back! As one of the most electrifying defensive menaces of the early 2000’s, Peppers is exactly the veteran influence the Panthers’ locker room will need to return back to the machine they were just two seasons ago.

Although the North Carolina native decided to head to Chicago after putting up monster numbers his first seven out of eight seasons with the Panthers, he remained a consistent sack machine and may just have enough left in him to boost his old/new team one last time.

This will be his sixteenth season in the National Football League and might be his last. That is grounds to give it everything he has.

3. Kelvin Benjamin

Fans were devastated back in 2015 when they learned that their potential star receiver would miss the season after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament during training camp that year. They finished the season 15-1 despite the naysayers, but would not have the same success next season.

Benjamin came back in 2016 and tried to be productive, posting second-highest receiving yards for the franchise, but between trying to bounce back from injury and Newton struggling with injury, they just couldn’t get it together.

Two straight training camps are just what he needed to get comfortable with his offense. Otherwise, he might be on the outside next year.

2. Christian McCaffrey

All eyes are on McCaffrey as he debuts as a professional football player. He didn’t record many touchdowns at Stanford, but he contributed tons of speed and yards to their offense. They expect the same from him in the NFL so watch how his talent translates.

The rookie running back could fill a void for the hungry Panthers team, desperate to return to their former glory of two years ago. Could McCaffrey be the answer?

1. Cam Newton

Newton will be starting training camp with a repaired rotator cuff that he tore during the 2016 season. The surgery plus some love from the referees could make or break his season.

An improved offensive line with the addition of Matt Kalil, is just what the young quarterback needs. The franchise confirms that they want the mobile quarterback to get the ball out of his hands quicker this season. This would keep his beatings to a minimum.

How will these players’ performances impact the Panthers in 2017?

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