Carolina Panthers try to solve offensive problems

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The Carolina Panthers offense was expected to be their strong suit this season and a big reason center Ryan Kalil promised Carolina fans a Super Bowl victory.

Yet it’s the offense that has let the Panthers (1-4) down this year.

Second-year quarterback Cam Newton and the Panthers enter Sunday’s game against the Dallas Cowboys ranked 23rd in the NFL in offense and 25th in points scored through five games – a far cry from 2011 when they finished seventh in total offense and fifth in points scored.

Wide receiver Steve Smith said the struggling Panthers have “a long laundry list of things” they can get better at on offense.

“All we’ve done is kind of been middling around a little bit and been real lethargic and left (the defense) out there on the field longer than they should be,” Smith said.

The Panthers won’t get a break this week.

The Cowboys, despite a 2-3 record, have allowed the second-fewest yards in the league and rank No. 1 against the pass.

SAINTS: Jonathan Vilma is practicing again following months of rehabilitation on his surgically repaired left knee and the suspended linebacker could play this weekend.

Vilma practiced on Wednesday for the first time in 2012. Interim head coach Aaron Kromer says the Saints are eager to get Vilma back on the field as soon as he’s ready, which could be this Sunday at Tampa Bay.

The linebacker is appealing his season-long suspension in connection with the league’s bounty investigation of New Orleans to Commissioner Roger Goodell.

JETS: Fullback John Conner, a Rex Ryan favorite who became a reality-TV sensation during the teams’ appearance in 2010 on HBO’s Hard Knocks, was waived with an injury settlement.

He started last season but struggled to make the team out of training camp this year and missed three games because of knee and hamstring injuries.

BILLS: Shawne Merriman finds himself back in Buffalo eager to resume playing after a two-month break,

Deemed expendable in mid-August, when the Bills cut Merriman, the player nicknamed “Lights Out” is back in a bid to provide a spark and add veteran depth to an injury-depleted defensive line. Starting right defensive end Mark Anderson is out indefinitely after having knee surgery last week, while veteran backup lineman Spencer Johnson is week to week with an ankle injury.

Coach Chan Gailey said he needs to evaluate Merriman in practice first before determining whether he’ll play Sunday against Tennessee.


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