Last year is last year and for the Carolina Panthers Ron Rivera is wishing it was last year.

The Panthers biggest problem is that they can not protect Cam Newton. Last year the Carolina Offensive line group played in all 17 games. Through 10 games this season, Carolina has played with six different offensive line configurations – five in the past five games. Last Monday night, the Panthers allowed nine sacks. That tied the most in franchise history going back to 1995, the first year of the team’s existence.

READ MORE: Joe And Son's Olive Oils Celebrate 10 Years In South Tampa

So now, Rivera will look at getting his best five healthy players on the starting line this week against the Falcons. It won’t matter and the reason is the only way you get better as a football team is to play guys, and keep playing them until they get better but you can’t do that with and offensive line. They need to play together as much as possible.

Tackles Byron Bell and Nate Chandler, guards Amini Silatolu and Andrew Norwell and center Ryan Kalil played together as a starting line for the first time this season against the Eagles. Silatolu was in his first game back in four weeks after suffering a calf sprain, and Norwell played well enough at guard the previous two weeks to earn a starting spot at right guard as rookie Trai Turner nurses an ankle injury. Bell returned to the starting lineup after missing last week’s game against New Orleans with an elbow injury that he suffered against Seattle. Undrafted rookie David Foucault went from starter against the Saints to inactive against the Eagles after allowing three of the four New Orleans sacks in Week 9.

It’s about consistency and it is something that the Panthers have not had.

The Falcons don’t have the best Pass rush in the NFL, but they won’t need it against this Carolina O-Line of the nine sacks they gave up Monday, two of those came on first down.
Offensive coordinator Mike Shula said they absolutely cannot take losses like that on first down, especially when trailing in a game with an offense known more for ball control and short third-down situations than chunk plays.

The other issue for the Panthers is the Health of Cam Newton.

He has been in a month long slump Panthers coach Ron Rivera began his Tuesday news conference with four words of assurance about Cam Newton, “No He’s not hurt.”

Which means he’s hurt.

READ MORE: Oak Hill Hospital Named Designated Lung Cancer Screening Center

There were reports that Newton is dealing with a right foot injury, along with his surgically repaired left ankle. I believe those reports to be accurate. Rivera said “He’s fine.”. I don’t by it.

Cam’s sack numbers are up because the offensive line can’t protect him true. They are also up because he can’t escape pressure the way he use to be able to this season because he has bad wheels. Poor decision-making by Newton caused some of the sacks, one of which left him stretching on the sideline in an apparent attempt to get loose.

ESPN color analyst Jon Gruden said during the broadcast that the Panthers should take Newton out because of injury.

Rivera said Newton, who has not been listed on an injury report since Week 2, has no new health issues the medical staff is aware of. “Whatever!”

Newton sat out the Week 1 win at Tampa Bay after sustaining cracked ribs during an exhibition against New England in August. It was the first game he missed during his four-year career. Newton said in September that he expected to play all of this season at less than 100 percent after surgery in March to tighten ligaments in his ankle, a procedure he said was more extensive than he was initially told.

What is missing is Newton’s trademark burst and elusiveness that were a big part of his success during his first three seasons when he was The Associated Press Offensive Rookie of the Year and went to two Pro Bowls.

Newton’s rushing numbers, have declined since 2012 while his sack totals have steadily climbed. Some of that can be attributed to an offensive line that has dealt with injuries and inconsistent play after the retirement of left tackle Jordan Gross and three other linemen from last season’s 12-win team.

MORE NEWS: Drug Trafficker Pleads Guilty For Distribution Of Methamphetamine And Fentanyl

Sunday the Falcons should have there way with the Carolina if they Rise Up!