Carolina Panthers Team Preview

  • The common narrative coming out of Panthers’ camp this offseason has been how new GM Dan Morgan and new HC Dave Canales can improve the team and specifically help 2023 first-overall draft pick QB Bryce Young succeed despite struggling last season. In a new era of the NFL where many young QBs are being shepherded into the league, setting them up for success has proven paramount. The Panthers finished last year at a lowly 2-15 after starting out 0-6 under former HC Frank Reich, who only lasted 11 games with the team as they finished out the year under interim HC Chris Tabor. This follows the trend in Carolina of constantly revolving coaches in recent years and a lack of continuity and culture. Morgan has deep ties as a player to the team and transitions over from an assistant GM role into the president of football operations and GM. Canales comes over after serving as Todd Bowles offensive coordinator in Tampa last year. He tapped former Tampa WR coach Brad Idzik as OC and retained Ejiro Evero as DC. They also signed Brandt Tilis from the Chiefs as EVP of Operations. The team is also in the process of revamping their scouting department now that the draft has concluded, one in which they had to gift the Bears the first overall pick. Take that for what you will, but it is clear that the coaching in Carolina can only improve from last year and from the looks of it already has.

    After seeing other QBs drafted after Bryce Young (QB23) find more success than him last year, the team clearly has been put on notice that improving around him is imperative to his chance at success. Let’s first dig into the Panthers’ offseason moves. Unable to reach a long-term deal, they started out with a bang by trading outside linebacker Brian Burns, a standout former first-round pick to the Giants for a 2024 second rounder and a 2025 fifth round pick swap. They added at guard, signing Robert Hunt from the Dolphins and Damien Lewis from Seattle in hopes Bryce Young receives better protection in year two after being sacked a whopping 62 times as a rookie. This was only three behind leader Sam Howell (65) and far above number three, Zach Wilson with 46. In an attempt to fill another glaring need on the team, they then traded for established WR Diontae Johnson from the Steelers. While Johnson is coming off a down year, he has previous seasons of 882, 1,161, and 923 yards and is known for his reliable hands. He has no trouble finding the end zone typically as well with eight TDs in 2021 and seven in 2020. Johnson is a clear upgrade over all of last year’s WR core, headlined by the returning Adam Thielen (PPR WR17) and the disappointing 2023 second-round rookie, Jonathan Mingo (PPR WR81). Mingo was a controversial pick last year due to his lack of production in college despite decent measurables. Mingo finished the year with only 43 receptions, 418 yards and no touchdowns.

    The Panthers traded away what became the top pick in this year’s draft in addition to other picks for the top pick last year to draft Young, so their first selection wasn’t until the last pick of round one. Continuing with the plan to upgrade the offense around their young QB, the team dedicated three of their first four picks to skill positions. They chose WR Xavier Legette from South Carolina at 32, RB Jonathan Brooks from Texas in the mid second-round, and his teammate at Texas, TE Ja’Tavion Sanders. The three immediately will challenge for starting spots as their incumbents udnerwhelmed and were generally terrible last season. Brooks in particular, is expected to take the reins from RBs Miles Sanders and Chuba Hubbard as the team liked him enough to make him the first RB off the board. This effectively zaps any fantasy value of both predecessors. Brooks is a strong runner coming off a serious ACL injury, but he also possesses great pass-catching skills. This is notable since Canales worked his magic in Tampa by developing RB Rachaad White into a bonafide RB1. What do him and Brooks have in common? Excellent receiving skills out of the backfield. Legette and Sanders provide physically imposing weapons for Young to utilize as they were both playmakers in college.

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