The Carolina Panthers enter the 2020 season with the hopes of ending this season with a much better record than the 5-11 record they had in 2019. Carolina started the 2019 season losing the first three games in a row along with losing the last eight consecutive games. The Panthers also had to deal with losing star quarterback, Cam Newton, and long time head coach Ron Rivera during the season and as a result, a plethora of roster changes took place after the season. Under the new leadership of head coach Matt Rhule and his staff, the Panthers should win more than five games this year.
The Carolina Panthers head into the 2020 season with Rhule, who has brought in his team of coaches and made some big moves in the offseason. Most notably, the signing of Teddy Bridgewater and the subsequent release of Newton.
In addition to the new coaching staff, free agency additions, and those who re-signed with the organization, the Panthers added another seven players via the 2020 NFL Draft. Derrick Brown was drafted in the first round, seventh pick overall. The defensive linemen came from Auburn and recorded 170 total tackles, 89 solo, and 81 assists in his four-year career. Brown will add much-needed depth to the Panthers’ defensive line.
Carolina drafted defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft with the number 38 spot pick. Gross-Matos spent three years at Penn State, declaring for the draft after his junior year. Along with Brown, Goss-Matos adds depth to a weak Carolina defensive line.
Jeremy Chinn, the safety from Southern Illinois was acquired by the Panthers via a trade from the Seattle Seahawks in round two, number 64 overall. He brings good size and speed and plays with hustle from the backside. The Panthers chose cornerback, Troy Pride Jr., in the fourth round of the draft with the number 113 pick overall. Pride comes to Carolina from Notre Dame after playing for the Fighting Irish for all four years of college.
Kenny Robinson, the safety from West Virginia University was drafted in the fifth round at no. 152 overall, and in the sixth round of the draft, Carolina drafted Bravvion Roy from Baylor with the 184th pick overall. The Panthers finished out their draft with Stanley Thomas Oliver III in the seventh round.
The Panthers’ offense wasn’t the problem last season, as Christian McCaffrey practically carried the team the entire season, and made history while doing so. On December 29, McCaffrey became the third running back in NFL history to record a 1000-1000 season and he produced for his team week after week. His contribution last year can’t be understated, and this year with the addition of Bridgewater, Robby Anderson, and Seth Roberts to the team, it shouldn’t be on his shoulders to carry the weight of the team.
Bridgewater, the former New Orleans’ Saints backup quarterback will bring the consistency to the field the Panthers were lacking last season under former quarterback Kyle Allen. P.J. Walker will also prove to be an accurate and efficient asset at the signal-caller spot. Walker was signed from the XFL and reunites with Coach Rhule in Carolina. D.J. Moore will continue to bring big moves to the Panthers’ offensive line with fellow wide receiver Cam Phillips. With the additions of a new offensive coordinator and a few more players with offensive strength and experience, Carolina should be in good shape this year.
The defensive line, or lack thereof, is essentially what cost the Panthers many victories last season. It takes work on both sides of the ball to win games, and the Carolina defense just couldn’t get the job done last year.
Veterans Shaq Thompson and Kawaann Short are prepared to take a leadership role in the squad and help the younger players on the team build to their potential. Brown came to training camp ready to play and will undoubtedly find himself in a starting position, as Brian Burns did last year.
Carolina put a plan into motion with this year’s draft class, and bulking up the defense was definitely part of that plan. Safeties, Tre Boston, Justin Burris, and rookies Chinn and Robertson also add bulk to the defensive depth chart.
Predicting the 53 Man Roster
QB (3) – Teddy Bridgewater, P.J. Walker, Will Grier
The Panthers signed Bridgewater to a three-year multi-million dollar contract, so it goes almost without saying Bridgewater will fill the starting slot. Walker will likely fill the backup quarterback slot and will see time on the field, while Grier, will fall back into the third-string slot.
After an extraordinary year, McCaffrey inked a lucrative contract worth $16 million per year for a four-year extension and it is likely all four running backs make the final roster. Bonnafon finished out the 2019 season with 16 rushing attempts for 116 yards and recorded one touchdown. Davis has 247 career rushing attempts for 889 yards and five touchdowns. Cannon brings three years of professional experience playing for the New York Jets to Carolina.
Anderson was signed to the Panthers on a two-year $20 million contract with over half of it guaranteed in the first year and is already familiar with Rhule’s style of coaching, He should mesh well with Moore and Samuel, who have the experience playing with McCaffrey. Cooper and Kirkwood should make the final roster cut since they were brought on during the free-agency period, while Phillips may find himself on the practice squad if necessary.
Manhertz and Bridgewater have been working with each other to further develop Manhertz’s skill set and consistency. Thomas, the former New Orleans tight end, recorded 16 receptions for 136 yards and a touchdown last year and will add further substance to the offensive line. Hemingway is also in his third year of professional football and comes to the Panthers from Denver.
This is a talented offensive line highlighted by the trade of Okung in the offseason. Okung will bring consistency to the game and should fit in well with Paradis, Armah, Little, and Daley, the core of the offensive line. Miller also will bring experience to the field in his fifth year of professional play.
Brown will start next to Short this season and the depth behind them is thin. Both Short and Brown will need to stay healthy this season.
This group is young but had plenty of upside. Burns hopes to build off a solid 2019 season and form an up and coming duo with Gross-Matos.
Following the unexpected retirement of linebacker Luke Kuechly in the offseason, Thompson is prepared to step in and take a leadership position on the team. The depth behind him is limited.
One of the bigger moves of the offseason on the defensive side of the ball was acquiring Eli Apple. Apple recorded 53 total tackles, one forced fumble, and four pass deflections last season. Jackson brings his experience with this squad to the field and recorded 32 total tackles last season with three interceptions and eight pass deflections. Pride and Thomas-Oliver will solidify the cornerback squad and both are expected to join the others on the final roster.
Boston recorded 53 solo tackles last season with three interceptions and 11 pass deflections. He not only brings an incredible skill set to the field, but he will also be a teacher to the rookie safeties. Burris was signed to a two-year eight million dollar contract with the Panthers during the free agency period and posted 28 solo tackles with one forced fumble, two interceptions, and seven pass deflections in the 2019 season. Robinson and Chinn will get their opportunity to grow into their professional playing career and should show tremendous growth under the guidance of Boston and Burris.
Rookie Joseph Charlton joins Jansen and Slye on the Panthers’ special teams unit. Slye had a solid record in 2019, making just under 80 percent of his field-goal attempts. Jansen returns to the Panthers for his 13th season as the long snapper.
With new leadership at the helm and plenty of recruits to strengthen a weak defensive line, this year’s 2020 Carolina Panthers squad has the potential to advance to post-season play this season. Bridgewater will have the opportunity to shine in the division against his former team and their star quarterback, Drew Brees, and he will be put to the test against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who acquired Tom Brady in the offseason. The acquisitions of Anderson and Okung helped to pad a pretty strong offensive line and the team’s new recruits should solidify the defensive line enabling the Panthers to end the season with a much better record than the 5-11 record from 2019.
Season Predictions: 10-6 and make the playoffs.
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