Joseph Person grades the Carolina Panthers’ position-by-position performance in the first eight games of the 2016 season, which resulted in a 3-5 start:
B- Quarterback: Cam Newton’s not getting adequate protection from the refs or his offensive line. But some of it has to fall on him, too. At his current pace, Newton is threatening to finish with career lows in TD passes, completion percentage and passer rating.
C+ Running backs: Jonathan Stewart, who missed three games with a hamstring injury, might be the toughest runner in the league when healthy. But there are no other real threats in the run game, something that will need to be addressed this offseason.
B Receivers: Greg Olsen leads all tight ends in receiving and ranks among the top 10 overall. Kelvin Benjamin has looked good in his return from ACL surgery, but needs a couple more targets than the eight he’s getting per game. Ted Ginn Jr. hasn’t caught a pass longer than 18 yards since Week 3.
D Offensive line: The Panthers played with two starters out against Los Angeles, and the blocking suffered without center Ryan Kalil and left tackle Michael Oher. The line will be better if it can get Mike Remmers back to his more natural spot of right tackle.
B- Defensive line: With 12 sacks the past two games, the Panthers vaulted to fourth in the league with 24. Bringing defensive end Kony Ealy in off the bench has helped him relax and given Wes Horton and Mario Addison more chances. Defensive tackle Kawann Short is starting to show glimpses of his 2015 form.
A Linebackers: Thomas Davis is playing some of his best football at 33. Davis has takeaways in each of the past two games, including one he turned into his first career touchdown, vs. Arizona. Luke Kuechly is fifth in the league with 80 tackles.
D Secondary: Second-round pick James Bradberry looked rusty vs. L.A. after missing three games with a turf toe injury. For all the talk about the performance of the young corners, the Panthers need more impact plays from safeties Kurt Coleman, Tre Boston and Michael Griffin.
B- Special teams: You could make a strong argument for punter Andy Lee as the Panthers’ midseason MVP. (Although it should be noted, former punter Brad Nortman is having a strong season in Jacksonville as well.) Lee’s excellence has offset uneven seasons from kicker Graham Gano and returner Ted Ginn Jr.
C Coaching: For as much as Ron Rivera tried to ward off a post-Super Bowl season hangover, the Panthers seemed to lack of sense of urgency early in the year. Offensive coordinator Mike Shula hasn’t done enough of the quick-hitting passes that would help Newton and the offensive line. Sean McDermott’s decision to dial up the pressure two weeks ago has paid off handsomely.