2019 NFL Season Preview- Carolina Panthers
The Panthers started off hot, but finished ice cold.
After a 6-2 start to the season, Carolina lost their next seven games and only beat the Saints in the season finale because New Orleans sat most of their starters.
Quarterback Cam Newton remains a dual threat but dealt with a nagging shoulder injury for much of the year which prevented him to make throws downfield. The team went without a veteran backup which is probably why they took their time to sit Newton. Taylor Heinicke started just one game and threw three interceptions while injuring his elbow. Running back Christian McCaffrey churned out a franchise record 1,965 yards from scrimmage and likely could have had a 1,000 yards receiving if not for a reduced role in the final two weeks. His 107 receptions are the most in a season by a running back in NFL history. CJ Anderson was released after his role was all but diminished. Tight end Greg Olsen played in just nine games due to a foot injury but still scored four touchdowns. Wide receiver Devin Funchess was supposed to be the No. 1 target, but struggled with drops and confidence. Curtis Samuel was okay after being hurt as a rookie, but has to be more consistent. The offensive line took a beating with injuries and didn't fit well at times. Center Ryan Kalil played his 12th and final season and the team has been training Tyler Larsen to be his replacement.
The pass rush that had defined the Carolina defense was almost nonexistent. Defensive end Julius Peppers had just five sacks in his 17th season and retired after the year. Defensive tackle Kyle Love had a solid season in the middle of the line. Dontari Poe was a huge disappointment, averaging just over a tackle a game and had just one sack. Linebacker Shaq Thompson was making some positive strides before an injury cut his season short. Thomas Davis missed the first four games with a suspension and wasn't playing to his Pro Bowl form. Without a consistent pass rush, the secondary was exposed too often. Cornerback James Bradberry continued to emerge as a quality cornerback. Safety Eric Reid was signed a few weeks into the season and while he did have some rust, his big hitting ability was a huge asset.
Kicker Graham Gano had a solid first half before missing three extra points and landing on injured reserve with a left knee injury. Chandler Catanzaro was a suitable replacement. Punter Michael Palardy remains a consistent weapon at controlling field position. The return men didn't offer much, but the coverage units didn't offer many return opportunities.
The team had three Pro Bowlers in guard Trai Turner, defensive tackle Kawann Short, and middle linebacker Luke Kuechly. Turner made his fourth Pro Bowl despite missing three games with a concussion and ankle injury. Short controlled the line and finished with 42 tackles and three sacks. Kuechly turned in another All-Pro season with 130 tackles and continues to be the centerpiece of the defense Since entering the league in 2012, no player has more than his 948 tackles.
The rookie class had some big moments in their first pro seasons. Wide receiver DJ Moore had 55 receptions and was a threat on rushing plays, but fumbled four times on the season. Cornerback Dante Jackson had a great start to the year with four interceptions, but hit the rookie wall in the latter half of the season. Safety Rashaan Gaulden played behind Mike Adams all season, but the team likes his playmaking speed. Tight end Ian Thomas looked comfortable in the passing game and could be Greg Olsen's future successor. Undrafted quarterback Kyle Allen started the season finale and had three total touchdowns against the Saints' reserves.
Opponent Passing YPG
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After the disappointing 7-9 season, head coach Ron Rivera has to make a big push in his ninth season. Since he took over the defensive play calling in late December and fired several assistants, Rivera has to prove he can maintain success as the Panthers have never had consecutive winning seasons.
Notable Additions- WR Chris Hogan, WR Aldrick Robinson, C Matt Paradis, DE Bruce Irvin, DT Gerald McCoy, S Tre Boston
Notable Departures- QB Garrett Gilbert, RB Kenjon Barner, WR Devin Funchess, T Chris Clark, T Marshall Newhouse, T Matt Kalil, C Ryan Kalil, DE Julius Peppers, LB Thomas Davis, CB Captain Munnerlyn, S Mike Adams, K Chandler Catanzaro
Panthers 2018 Highlights
2019 NFL Draft
Holding the 16th overall pick in the draft, the Panthers have to fill voids at key positions if they ever expect to get back in postseason contention. Especially at quarterback, offensive lineman, and defensive end.
Taylor Heinicke was a mess in his lone start and Kyle Allen played against mostly backups in the season finale. The team needs a solid backup quarterback who can carry the offense if and when Cam Newton goes down.
The team lost Ryan Kalil to retirement and tow tackles to free agency. Taylor Moton offers some versatility, but a true left tackle is needed now that Chris Clark is gone.
Bruce Irvin helps with depth, but the defense needs more explosive plays to limit the defensive backs cover time.
When it came rime to pick, Carolina selected Florida State outside linebacker Brian Burns with the 16th overall pick. Burns has great size and length for an edge rusher, but lacks great flexibility get around the edge.
Other Notable Draft Picks:
Greg Little, T, Ole Miss- Top pass blocking tackle, hand placement needs work
Will Grier, QB, West Virginia- Gunslinger mentality, lacks elite arm strength and release
Christian Miller, LB, Alabama- Imposing frame, slow change of direction
Jordan Scarlett, RB, Florida- Good vision and patience, lacks speed
Dennis Daley, T, South Carolina- Great leadership and work ethic, struggles against speed
Terry Godwin, WR, Georgia- Ideal slot receiver, durability concerns due to small frame
Notable Undrafted Free Agents:
Elijah Holyfield, RB, Georgia- Bruising power back, no break away speed
Brian Burns Highlights
What To Expect
The Panthers filled all the key voids they needed to, but that doesn't mean they're back to their postseason form.
Cam Newton is capable of being one of the most dangerous playmakers at quarterback, but he has missed parts of the last two seasons which means it would be wise for him to limit his running and make smarter decisions in the passing game. If and or when he does go down again, Will Grier is a capable starter who should be able to pick up the offense quickly. Christian McCaffrey is one of the league's most versatile weapons and could easily have a 1,000 yards rushing and 1,000 yards receiving in the same season while Elijah Holyfield can be a forceful inside runner. Greg Olsen is now 34 and has missed a total of 16 games the last two seasons. The team will likely give Ian Thomas an increased role in the offense. The offense doesn't look to have a true number one receiver, but Torrey Smith could still a solid deep threat and Curtis Samuel and DJ Moore have added value in the running game. Greg Little will likely be plugged in immediately at left tackle while Matt Paradis and Tyler Larsen will likely battle out for the starting center job.
The defensive line has a lot of depth with the addition of Gerald McCoy and Bruce Irvin. Brian Burns should be a suitable replacement for Julius Peppers but has to develop his lower half. The team will miss Thomas Davis and has to hope Shaq Thompson can take over that role with Christian Miller being the likely starter on the strong side. The secondary didn't need much work, but Rashaan Gaulden has to step up at free safety.
Carolina looks to be in a good place in terms of talent, but when yo look at the talent around the NFC South, they don't matchup well with New Orleans and Atlanta.
Best Record The Can Hope For: 8-8