Skip to main content
Carolina Panthers

Ask Bryan: Most surprising player?

Which player has been the biggest surprise this season? – Matthew in Shelby, N.C.

Surprisingly, there haven't been that many surprises so far this season in my estimation. I'm not saying that I forecasted this team to be 9-0 at this point, but they are still undefeated because most players on the roster have consistently played up to their capabilities.

If I had to pick someone, though, I'd probably go with safety Kurt Coleman. He joined the Panthers as a free agent this past offseason having played in a reserve role the previous two seasons, and the Panthers appeared set at free safety given the emergence of late in his rookie campaign. But Coleman came to Carolina with a lot to prove and won the starting job out of training camp.

He simply continues to make plays, recording 60 tackles so far based on coaches' film review to trail only the 79 tackles apiece for linebackers Thomas Davis and Luke Kuechly (incidentally, Davis was credited with one tackle against Tennessee by the coaches after being shut out in the press box stats).

Against the Titans, Coleman intercepted a pass early in the third quarter – his third of the season - to set the tone for second-half shutout.

"That was a huge play. It created a lot of energy on the sideline, maybe just the momentum we needed," said defensive coordinator Sean McDermott, who coached Coleman as a rookie in Philadelphia in 2010. "In my history with Kurt, I knew what he'd bring to the table would be a guy who plays hard, is tough and is a great team player. When you mix talent and that type of character together, you've got something pretty good."

Can Cam continue to have a high completion percentage? – Jason via Twitter

I'll go out on a limb and say that Newton won't complete 80.8 percent of his passes every week like he did against the Titans, but he's clearly trending in the right direction. Even while enjoying an MVP-type of season, Newton has been below his career completion percentage of 59.5 throughout the year. But just that one game moved him close to his career percentage, from 53.7 percent on the season up to 56.2.

If things go bad for the Panthers on a given Sunday, Newton's numbers will be broken out and dissected, but while things are going well, those numbers truly mean nothing. A much bigger number for the offense is its streak of seven consecutive games scoring 27 or more points, and clearly Newton has a lot to do with that.

Is an undefeated season possible? What do you think? – D.J. in Reading, Penn.

The team has adopted – with great success – the one-game-at-a time mantra, so I'll only take a minute to address this one, just like head coach Ron Rivera after the latest victory.

"It's the elephant in the room. We can't deny that," Rivera said. "But it's really about the next game."

Sure, it's possible that the Panthers go undefeated, with the Atlanta Falcons currently the only team remaining on the schedule with an above-.500 record (the Panthers play them twice).

On the other hand, every team left on the schedule has at least four wins save the Dallas Cowboys, who have played the last seven games without quarterback Tony Romo but are set to get him back. And no victory is a sure thing in this league, as the previously unbeaten Cincinnati Bengals just found out on Monday Night Football. There's a reason only one team (the 2007 Patriots) has gone 16-0.

It looks like we're on pace to do something special this year. With that being said, if we were to make it to the BIG ONE, could Kelvin Benjamin play? – Quinton in Gainsville, Fla.

Benjamin suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in August, and it generally takes nine months at the absolute least for a football player to return from that. Even if the time frame was shorter, Benjamin was placed on injured reserve shortly after the injury, officially putting an end to his season – including the postseason.

Each team is allowed to place one player per season on injured reserve/designated for return for an injury that is considered long-term but not season ending. The Panthers used that this season on defensive end Charles Johnson, who suffered a hamstring injury in Week 3 and is eligible to return to action Thanksgiving Day against Dallas.

View the top photos by team photographer Melissa Melvin-Rodriguez from Carolina's game against Tennessee.

Related Content