NFL PREVIEW: 2020 CAROLINA PANTHERS

BY ADAM GREENE

Key Additions: QB Teddy Bridgewater (free agent), WR Robby Anderson (free agent), S Justin Burris (free agent), WR Pharoh Cooper (free agent), TE Seth DeValve (free agent), DL Zach Kerr (free agent), WR Keith Kirkwood (free agent), OG John Miller (free agent), LT Russell Okung (trade), WR Seth Roberts (free agent), QB P.J. Walker (free agent), DE Stephen Weatherly (free agent), LB Tahir Whitehead (free agent), CB Eli Apple (free agent)

2020 NFL Draft: DT Derrick Brown, Auburn (round 1), DE Yetur Gross-Matos, Penn State (round 2), S Jeremy Chinn, Southern Illinois (round 2), CB Troy Pride Jr., Notre Dame (round 4), S Kenny Robinson, West Virginia (round 5), DT Bravvion Roy, Baylor (round 6), CB Stantley Thomas-Oliver III, FIU (round 7)

Projected Offensive Starters: QB Teddy Bridgewater, RB Christian McCaffrey, WR D.J. Moore, WR Robby Anderson, WR Curtis Samuel, TE Ian Thomas, LT Russell Okung, LG Dennis Daley, C Matt Paradis, RG John Miller, RT Taylor Moton

Projected Defensive Starters: LDE Stephen Weatherly, LDT Derrick Brown, RDT Kawann Short, RDE Brian Burns, WLB Shaq Thompson, MLB Tahir Whitehead, SLB Jermaine Carter, LCB Donte Jackson, RCB Eli Apple, SS Justin Burris, FS Tre Boston

K: Joey Slye

P: Michael Palardy

Head Coach: Matt Rhule

2019 Record: 5-11, 4th place NFC South

A Look Back: There were plenty of reasons for hope as the Carolina Panthers opened their 2019 campaign. They had a franchise quarterback in Cam Newton, something only a handful of NFL teams can boast as well as one of the better coaches in the league in Ron Rivera. They were breaking in a new offense under Norv Turner and had exciting weapons like Christian McCaffrey and D.J. Moore ready to explode on offense. All they needed was for everyone to stay healthy. Newton didn’t even make it out of the preseason.

As good a coach as Rivera is, his playing of starters in the preseason (it’s not like he’s the only guilty party here), has led to disaster so many times you’d think everyone would finally wise up and stop it. Newton injured his foot in a meaningless exhibition game and never got healthy. He ended up playing in just two games last year before getting shut down.

The Panthers season wasn’t over, however, since they had a solid head coach they were able to win five of their next six games with back up Kyle Allen at QB. Then, the meat of their schedule hit and for some reason taking the field without your franchise quarterback makes you lose. Carolina reacted to this in the worst possible way, by firing Rivera, still the dumbest thing that happened in the NFL last year and then, in the offseason, cutting Cam Newton.

2020 Projection: Simply put, every decision Panthers management has made since November, 2019 has been a disaster or a potential disaster. And, yes, I’m talking about McCaffrey’s contract here. If he stays healthy, it’s great. If he doesn’t, like every other big money RB with the exception of Ezekiel Elliott over the last few years, then it’s a cap killer.

Teddy Bridgewater is an upgrade over Kyle Allen at QB, but a severe downgrade from Newton. Cam remains unsigned as the ongoing COVID-19 global pandemic has kept teams from personally working him out, but Carolina should have never cut him to begin with. You don’t toss out a franchise QB until you absolutely have to.

As for new head coach Matt Rhule? The only person excited about this hire is his wife, who’s pumped to finally be able to shop at Trader Joe’s every week.

Projected 2020 Final Record: 5-11 (and that might be generous). Under 5.5 wins for the Panthers pays at -120 and 5-9 pays at -160 so nobody’s fooled here. This is a team with too many holes and too many self-inflicted problems playing in too tough a division.

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