After a 3-0 start last year, the Carolina Panthers stumbled the rest of the way to a 5-12 record. With speculation surrounding the future of Matt Rhule as the team’s head coach, the Panthers entered perhaps one of their most pivotal offseasons in their short existence. One of the biggest needs on the roster remained the offensive line, which Carolina attacked heavily with the additions of Austin Corbett and Bradley Bozeman in free agency and used their first-round selection on Ikem Ekwonu. Unfortunately, the quarterback position still needed solving, with question marks abound once again. It seems to be a competition between Sam Darnold and third-round pick Matt Corral for the starting spot entering the 2022 season.
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Christian McCaffrey plays ALL 17 games
Since signing his massive contract in April 2020, McCaffrey has only played in 10 games, including only seven last year. The Panthers selected Chuba Hubbard in the fourth round of the 2021 draft, and while he has shown he can provide a spark, it is nothing compared to McCaffrey. With some time to rehab and maybe less of a workload, McCaffrey hopes he can finally play a full season for the first time since 2019.
Matt Corral starts more games than Sam Darnold
When Carolina sent the New York Jets multiple picks for Darnold during the 2021 offseason, most thought it was a decent move for both sides. Unfortunately, the same issues have arisen again for the former first-round pick, who had to play behind one of the league’s worst offensive lines a year ago. Carolina hasn’t brought back Cam Newton yet, so the only other competition for the starting job is Corral. The front office and coaching staff love the Ole Miss product and even traded back into day two for the signal-caller.
With Rhule on the hot seat, he will have to try almost everything to save his job if the Panthers start cold. That includes thrusting the rookie into action against some top competition in the middle of the season, including the Los Angeles Rams and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It seems as though the Panthers are primed to take one of the top quarterbacks in the 2023 class, so they might as well get a good look at Corral to see if he changes their minds.
Rashard Higgins outperforms Terrace Marshall
Last year’s second-round pick only caught 17 passes for 138 yards during his rookie season. Marshall was losing playing time to Brandon Zylstra last year, who is back again for the 2022 season. The biggest concern for the former LSU star is that the Panthers fired Joe Brady during the 2021 season, who was a massive part in getting Marshall to the Panthers and getting the most out of him during his time at LSU. Without Brady, there seems to be a massive cloud hanging over Marshall’s future.
While Higgins took a backseat last year for the Browns, only catching 24 passes for 275 yards and a touchdown, the Panthers want to add another weapon to the fold. Hollywood Higgins is two years removed from a 600-yard and four-touchdown season in Cleveland during the 2020 season, so it wouldn’t be too surprising to see him outperform the second-year wideout.
Brian Burns wins DPOY
The fourth-year pro is one of the most underrated players in the league. Burns hasn’t necessarily been dominant during his time in the league but had his best season as a pro last year with nine sacks and 13 tackles for loss. With another year in the system and approaching a contract year, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the former first-round pick solidify his name into the top echelon of pass-rushers in the league.