Let’s keep the story short, we all know how disappointing this season has been for the Panthers. The promising start, the terrible losing streak, the final win that many didn’t want to affect draft position, the whole nine yards.
It’s hard to tell where some of these positional units stand, between injuries, aging vets, the young guys, but it’ll be critical for management to fill holes properly where need be.
So, where do each of these units stand? Let’s start with the offensive side of the ball.
Um, I don’t know really? I mean, if Cam Newton is actually able to get healthy over the course of this off-season, I would consider it an “A” at worst.
There is a very, very short list of QB’s that could’ve added as much value to the Panthers as Cam Newton has throughout his career. He has reinvigorated receivers careers, helped make offensive lineman look better than they actually are, and stimulated the Panthers ground game. If he gets back to 100%, especially with the skill positions now up to par with Cam and the potential emergence of Kyle Allen as a backup, there are no worries here.
However, what if that doesn’t happen? What if Cam needs the Andrew Luck treatment, or what if his shoulder is just never the same? That affects him as a passer and runner. If one of these is the case, there could be trouble.
We’ve already seen that it doesn’t take long for non-Cam Newton quarterbacks to get injured behind that line. Kyle Allen showed a lot of promise, but suppose he headed into the season as a starter I don’t believe playoff hopes would be high.
In the end, I really don’t know how to grade this unit on its own, it could be anywhere between an A-F. This position really is TBD.
What more can I say about Christian McCaffrey that hasn’t already been said? He was our best offensive player this season, should have eclipsed 2000 yards from scrimmage, and has proven to not be injury prone like a certain running back that got drafted four picks ahead of him.
McCaffrey finished the season 6th in rushing yards and 10th in yards per attempt, not bad for a supposed “receiver playing running back”.
I do think that this position was better off before C.J. Anderson was cut, though. As much of a workhorse as CMC has proven to be, it’s so easy for backs to wear down quickly from being overworked. Anderson should have been used more, and would have been the perfect guy to take the ease off of McCaffrey. Also, CMC is not very good is pass protection and it became a problem as the season wore on, a guy like Anderson would have been much more useful in those situations, but I do understand that it is hard to take a guy who’s always an emergency option in the air off the field.
Now the Panthers are sitting with Cameron Artis-Payne at second string, not exactly the guy you would want to rely on would McCaffrey need to miss any time in the future. In my opinion, it would be smart to look to for a back on day three of the draft or possibly sign an UDFA. One thing the team may be able to do is utilize Moore and Samuel’s ability as runners like they did at times this season if they cannot pick up another trustworthy back.
Overall, I’d say this unit is sitting at a B+.
Without getting into specifics yet, already night and day better than we were at this point last off-season.
We no longer need to be afraid about the future without Greg Olsen, because regardless of if Olsen comes back next season or not, Ian Thomas should be the starter. After being in the doghouse for helping cause two (nearly) costly interceptions in week 5 against the Giants, Thomas burst back onto the scene in the past five or so weeks of the season to show he has a spot on this team.
He caught 25 of 32 targets for 246 yards and two TD’s over the last 5 games of the season, and is much more athletic at the point of catch and after the catch than Olsen will ever be again. The main flaw in his game is his blocking, which still needs to improve.
Onto the receivers, the future should also be very bright there. DJ Moore has so much talent with the ball in his hands that I still think he could be used as a running back just as much as a receiver. Curtis Samuel has near Tyreek Hill-esque speed and is the most nuanced route runner on the team. Jarius Wright turned out to be a solid third down receiver who was shifty enough to get open on key plays and dependable at the point of catch.
Losing Devin Funchess is all but a done deal and while I had my issues with him, his route running will be missed on the outside as I still believe the young DJ Moore will be more effective as a slot receiver for the next season or two.
Carolina’s cap situation leaves the Panthers hands tied a bit, but it would be nice if someone like Chargers receiver, Tyrell Williams, could fall into our hands this off-season. But if not, something will still need to be done to add someone with a little more height and experience. Despite the need, don’t draft a receiver unless you believe a steal is there late in Day 3, as there are way too many other holes on this roster.
The receiver position is far from my biggest concern about the offense as a whole. It’s still not an elite WR core but I would grade it out around a B-. I expect Curtis Samuel to lead the team in receiving yards next season.
I don’t know where to start with this group. In an attempt to not sound overly negative I will say that the right side seems to be in great shape. Trai Turner is good as always, and Taylor Moton was an incredible find and it’s a shame he (along with Ian Thomas) suffered from the classic Ron Rivera syndrome of only getting to play when a vet gets injured.
The Daryl Williams situation is a big question mark, but if he’s back do not pay him too much money and more importantly do not move Moton from RT. I believe Williams is good but his All-Pro season feels like it’s more of a result of Cam Newton.
Anyways, the left side is a disaster. Chris Clark is worse than Matt Kalil (no, I’m not trolling). Whether it’s Greg Van Roten or Newhouse at LG, neither should ever be the answer as a starter. Then at the center Ryan Kalil is now retiring which leaves a massive hole.
Matt Kalil’s contract situation makes it feel a little impossible to do too much to improve everything outside of the draft which isn’t good considering no starter not named Cam Newton could make it through an entire game with them this season.
Bend but don’t break works for defensive game plans but not for an offensive line. The line tends to bend all the way into the tightest horseshoe possible where the QB might not get sacked, but he also can’t even think about stepping into his throw. Cam throwing deep was an issue pretty much all season but the line contributed just as much to that as his shoulder did.
The best hope is that Daryl Williams can be signed to a team friendly deal and he takes over at LT and just be average at best. I grade this unit at a D that can look like a C with QB1 out there healthy. O-Line should be the highest priority in the draft on the offensive side of the ball.
I hope you enjoyed the review of our offensive positional units and let us know how you feel about potential pickups, or players already on our roster. Defensive side is coming soon.