I’ve tried not to panic too much in this off-season, and I think I’ve come to a fair conclusion about the Panthers’ prospects for this season: Either we have a 1000-yard back or forget about the playoffs.

Holes in the defense still concern me — the current unit may give up 30 to the Rams on Sunday, a team they shutout in Charlotte last year — but nothing will determine the path of the season so much as an effective running game. Right now, I do not see one. The OL is again the culprit. Both Foster and Williams are RBs who require seams to be effective — no making their own hole a la Stephen Davis. I just have not seen this OL be physical enough at the point of attack to make that happen.

OC Jeff Davidson also worries me both from an experience stand-point and with his evident belief that screens and misdirection can be effective without a power running game. Davidson will be learning on the job, but will have no margin for error given his personnel.

This brings us to Jake. He still only has one proven weapon in Steve Smith. And every NFL defense will take him away on 3rd down. Hence it would be wonderful to be in a 3rd and 3 and be able to pick that up on the ground. Or to have a pass-catching TE who can get deep down the middle. Or a second WR who can get open.

Without those things we are looking at lots of Jake throwing late off his back-foot. And that seldom ends well.

As a result, I just do not see a positive year for Carolina. Maybe a monster ground game will deploy in St. Louis and Dan Morgan and safety-by-waiver wire will stiffen a shaky defense. Could happen. Hope it does. But my head tells me, 6-10.